/ Food & Drink

Jamie: create super-tasty meals by embracing leftover food

Food waste bin

As the cost of food has rocketed in recent years many of us are doing our best to use leftovers in an effort to cut back. In this guest post, Jamie Oliver explores the potential of your leftover food…

Embracing leftovers is a brilliant way of creating super-tasty meals for very little effort, so my tip would be to go slightly bigger on your Sunday roast, so you purposefully end up with outrageous leftovers to use up in future meals.

Having leftover roasted meat, even if it’s just a handful (remember, a little goes a long way!), is great – it means that you can recreate dishes that would normally take hours in a relatively short time, but with equally delicious results. I often use leftover pork, chicken or brisket to make curries, tagines, tacos, incredible salads, dim sum buns, gorgeous rice dishes… the sky’s the limit!

Frozen flavour bombs 

I try not to throw anything away, if I can help it. In fact, some of the most common things people chuck in the bin can be easily saved, or transformed into truly delicious things.

Take herbs, for example – the bunches you buy from the supermarket don’t keep very long, but instead of chucking them out when they’re starting to look a bit sleepy, dry them, preserve them in oil or butter, or even freeze and save them as little flavour bombs for another time. The same’s true with chillies – don’t let them shrivel up – freeze, pickle, dry or make some delicious chilli oil out of them.

These are all easy things to do – pop that thrifty hat on, think outside of the box and you’ll save money and waste far less.

Managing food waste at any restaurant is also crucial. The majority of our menus are seasonal, and available for a fixed period of time, so we’re able to keep an eye on the popularity of each dish and work out what to buy and how much. Inevitably, we sometimes end up with produce leftover, but that’s where the expertise of our amazing team of chefs comes in – they’re able to create fantastic daily specials, using a great variety of ingredients. Happy days!

A generation of convenience foods

When I think about it, our grandparent’s generation dealt with leftovers better than we do. The introduction of lots of convenience products has meant that our generation has not needed to learn some of the basic cooking skills that our grandparents would have been taught.

Take homemade stock for example, it’s super delicious, costs practically nothing to make and means you waste less, yet a huge percentage of people would still opt for the shop-bought cubes, or the more expensive ready-to-go tubs of stock. Now, I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with these – by all means use them – I’m just pointing out that a little food knowledge is key to being clever about your cooking in order to waste less.

Which? Conversation provides guest spots to external contributors. This is by Jamie Oliver from www.jamieoliver.com/savewithjamie.  All opinions expressed here are Jamie’s own, not necessarily those of Which?

Are you economical with your food?

Yes, I use all my leftovers (57%, 695 Votes)

I don’t have leftovers; I only cook what I need (30%, 369 Votes)

No, I’m wasteful with my food (13%, 153 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,217

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While I do agree with Jamie and if i bought food in the “normal” way I would agree with him as we do need to cut down on food waste.

But, I don’t buy food in the “normal” way. I bulk buy to the extreme.

Every morning I have Oats So Simple with milk. I buy catering boxes of Oats So Simple just past the Best Before Date as its very cheap and I use UHT Milk that I buy via the case when its on offer.

I always end my day with a packet of Pasta N Sauce. Again, I buy this out of date and it’s still fine. The ones I am eating now went out of date May 2013 & Managed to pick them up for 10p each: https://twitter.com/NewtBeaumont/status/363259053557813248

A few times a month I will also have a “juice week”, I follow a juice diet plan and buy only what I need from Ocado.

So all in all I have 0 food waste & my food bills has gone down massively since I started eating this way last year.

brian j says:
28 September 2013

I hate to be a bit of a kill-joy here but I am qualified in food hygiene/safety and would like to see Jamies ” tips” on these pages accompanied by some basic food hygiene advice. Sell- by & use -by dates apart, reheating & reusing left-overs can be a minefield for some….just a thought.One small piece of advice, invest in a basic temperature probe.

And another word of warning … I was thinking of using surplus chillies to make chilli oil, but found numerous posts on the web saying it was a sure-fire route to botulism and not to even think about it.


If you freeze, pickle or dry chillies, as Jamie has suggested, there should be no problem.

Clostridium botulinum, the organism that causes botulism, can only grow in the absence of oxygen. Putting undried chillies in oil could provide suitable environment for growth of this bacterium, but it would not be a problem if you stored your chilli oil in the freezer.

We must follow established procedures for safe storage and adequate cooking, but we can be creative about how we combine and present foods.

I don’t use chillies that often. They are something that has been known to sit and moulder in the fridge. I’ve found that stirring some chilli oil into the cooked noodles works very well when I am adding a pack of coriander and chilli prawns to stir-fried whatever’s in the fridge veg when making a quick meal. Storecupboard chilli flakes are also good to jazz something up.

Can’t you hang chillies so that they dry? Wouldn’t have to chuck out your old ones then

I normally often have leftovers because it is easy to judge when cooking for one.

I will be roasting a leg of lamb this evening and I’m sure there will be enough for two or three meals, so I would welcome suggestions for something interesting to do with the leftovers. 🙂

Suzy Bowler says:
28 September 2013

I agree with what Jamie says above and then some! I went into more detail on my blog a few weeks ago here http://suddenlunch.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/jamie-oliver-and-free-pdf-cookbook.html but quite understand if this comment is not posted due to self promotion. In which case, sorry!

Sophie Gilbert says:
3 October 2013

I’d cut the meat in smallish bits and make a moussaka or a shepherd’s pie. I made coq au vin (poulet au vin really) on Sunday with roast chicken leftovers.

Jamie, I love you, but I won’t buy Uncle Ben’s ;0)

Debbie Murphy says:
30 September 2013

I like how Jamie comes up with lots of tips to prevent food waste.


If you’ve got any potatoes, leftover or otherwise, then you can’t go wrong with shepherds pie.

Thanks Lisa and Argonaut. I’ll take the lamb out of the freezer and have shepherds pie one day and a stir-fry the next – or vice versa. It’s good to have decisions made for me. 🙂

…. Or for residual stir-fry or making a curry with
very little addition.

Grizelda says:
30 September 2013

I get a little irritated by the references to “our grandparents’ generation.

Their methods worked when oen person ran the home and could spend some “quality time” during the day to think about and prepare meals and utilise the leftovers. Both of us get home at 7 or 8pm after a full day at work, lengthy commute and delayed trains

We’re not thinking “creative ways with leftovers” – more like, “What can I microwave quickly before falling asleep”.

Our grandparents dealt with leftovers in a simple way not the way our chefs do today. Because of rationing they had no other choice. They simply used whatever was leftover, and what else they could add from a very sparse store cupboard. They added salt and maybe pepper. or sugar for a dessert, to add flavour. Not the half page of ingredients that recipes for leftovers include today. Such recipes are nothing but a turnoff to me and I’m sure to many others. Simple dishes must have a simple list of ingredients not a long list that shows how clever and different our chef is.

Are you listening Jamie.

I love Jamie’s tips. There are never enough tips as only some of them will relate to the things that you eat.

As Jamie knows herbs can make a meal and growing your own means that you don’t have the problem of half dead pots or bags of them. Many people wouldn’t recognise a bay tree, rosemary bush or mint plant if they bumped into one. Some herbs are really easy to grow and others less so. It would be good to see more herbs in front gardens or outside windows/back doors so that you can easily pick them and share them. If you get those ones growing well you’ll only have to concentrate on looking after the more fussy and delicate ones. Any suggestions for a robust basil? There’s nothing like a fresh pesto and I never have enough of that or parsley.

Making stock is really easy with a slow cooker. I used to constantly boil it dry before I started using one. Just pick the meat off after dinner and shove the carcase in the slow cooker with a little water and a couple of bay leaves and maybe a halved onion. I’m happy to leave mine on overnight on a piece of marble in the kitchen with the lid firmly on. Freeze stock made in summer for winter soup (if you haven’t already used it up in fried rice), There’s nothing like it and there is a very big difference between fresh and the stock cube. Stock cubes are full of SALT.

I don’t believe in buying bigger packets of everything or in great bulk as I think that that encourages you to eat more than you need/increase your portion size. I also remember it being a nightmare with children who suddenly won’t touch what was last week’s wonderful breakfast cereal. I don’t want to eat whatever everybody else doesn’t want. I only buy very flexible basic things like tinned tomatoes in a larger quantity. I like the idea of sharing BOGOFs but in reality it is hard to find the time.

I don’t like the way it is being suggested that we should refrigerate everything. It means that those things like fresh meat, fish and dairy which I would consider important to refrigerate for safety reasons become the same as apples or carrots. Surely it would be better to say “keep cool for a longer life” or something similar. It seems as if there is a deal with the refrigeration companies and supermarkets to keep on pushing the selling of more more more than we need.

It is up to Jamie and others like him to show how easy it is to make meals out of leftovers (and indeed simple things like omelettes and things on toast which are perfectly good meals. It doesn’t have to have a fancy name to be a good wholesome meal.

If you have some long-lasting staples in your store cupboard then there are a lot of things you can make quickly.

Jamie does a simple omelette too, cheap tasty and nutritious
that everyone can do it, he insists. I do not always espouse
what he does, however.

Thankfully cookery is coming back to the classroom – hopefully for girls AND boys. Within this should come some hygiene information.

There should be more teaching of hand washing at school. We used to wash our hands more often. We washed them before we ate and after we went to the loo, Eating now seems to be constant and it is very obvious when you see what happens in hospitals that simple hygiene seems to have gone by the board. It needs to be inbuilt.

brian j says:
2 October 2013

I couldn’t agree with you more……..Television cooks could do a bit more to assist. I have lost count of the number of times food presenters touch their faces, hair, wear jewellery, including wrist watches, wearing all manner of outdoor clothing and this is not an exhaustive list. Things that would get you thrown out of a well run professional kitchen.Why should it be any different on TV which reaches a wide audience and is an example to many

I am pleased someone else is thinking hygiene. My Mother -in -law ran a seaside B `& B,from the late forties to the early 70’s. Her food once cooked was “untouched by hand”, everything was presented beautifully.Her visitors came back year after year! I am afraid I cringe at the handling of food on TV.
For me variety is essential, so we have an overflowing herb/ spice tin. also a small variety of veg /salads/fruit to choose to add to a meal. Meat, fish, prawns and cheese are frozen into daily portions so planning doesnt come into it. Hardly anything is manufactured or thrown out thank goodness, our family always know where they can get a good meal, and we get a visit, it works out well.