/ Food & Drink

What do you do with your roast dinner leftovers?

Your Sunday roast dinner often leaves you with plenty of leftovers – so what do you do with them? A few tweaks can transform them into a wide variety of delicious meals.

A Sunday Roast is my favourite meal of the week. It takes a lot more effort to prepare than the midweek meal, but the rewards, I feel, are always worth it. And if you’re anything like me when you make a roast, be it on Sunday or any other day of the week, you’re probably left with a considerable pile of leftovers too. 

But what do you do with yours? Here are four of my own tips for making the most of your leftovers – I’d be interested to hear yours too.

Bubble & Squeak

A classic British dish and a perfect meal for a grim Monday to get you supercharged for the week. 

Get your leftover veggies such as Brussel sprouts and cabbage and slice them up nice and thin. Mix in any cold mashed potato or crushed roasted or boiled potatoes. You can finely cut up a bit of your roast centrepiece too and mix that in. 

Sizzle that mix all together in a frying pan with a bit of melted butter or oil, then serve. 

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Roast dinner toasties

I was sceptical when I first heard about these, but once I’d tried them I understood the hype.

This leftover lunch is a hearty meal that combines gooey cheese with the warm and homely flavour of a roast dinner. To make, prep your toastie maker and butter two pieces of your favourite bread (personally I like to stick with a classic white farmhouse for toasties).

Put a thin slice of your favourite cheese on each slice of bread and then pack the middle of that toastie with shredded roasted pork, beef, chicken, turkey or nut roast. 

My favourite filling is mozzarella, turkey, stuffing, red cabbage and a dribble of cranberry or redcurrant sauce.  

Bone broth and stock

Arguably not as fun as the previous two, but full of nutrients and potential. Though, I’m afraid nut roast fans will have to miss this one out. 

Making a bone broth couldn’t be simpler: you need to put your leftover bones or whole bird carcass into a slow cooker or large pot with around 4 litres of water (or enough to cover it), bring it to a boil and then reduce to simmer for between 12 to 24 hours.

A broth can be eaten or drunk on its own, but it can also be the central ingredient to a risotto, ramen, soup, gravy or stew as a stock.

I’ve even used the stock once to make the richest gravy for a cottage pie you could imagine.

Roast dinner doorstep sandwiches

Possibly the easiest option from my own suggestions, but it still can be a lot of fun to get creative when making a sandwich. 

The premise is simple but it’s all about the execution. Two thick slices of your favourite bread smothered in your favourite spread and then the filling of your choice from your pile of roasted leftovers. 

My personal choice would be cold roast beef slices with wholegrain mustard between thick slices of walnut and honey sourdough lavishly coated with a fine layer of real butter with sea salt crystals.

Tell us your best tips and recipes

Those are my four recommendations, but what are yours?

I always love trying new things, so I would be interested to hear how you like to use your roast dinner leftovers. Let me know in the comments!

What do you do with your roast dinner leftovers?
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Some leftover roast meat is eaten cold for lunch and I always make extra gravy and slice and freeze it in the gravy for a quick and easy meal another day. Béarnaise sauce is a good accompaniment.

I hate wasting food and know how much the two of us eat, so usually only cook the exact veg we will finish in one meal unless I have plans for further meals.

But for a reverse roast, I get a whole leg of lamb, cut off most of the meat but leave enough on the bone for a roast dinner.

The cut-off meat is diced then cooked in the slow cooker to make lamb and spinach curry with a few portions destined for the freezer. No waste, much better quality meat than buying it ready diced and a lot cheaper than buying takeaways.

I put surplus meat in the freezer shortly after the meal and freeze surplus gravy too. Catering for one or two it is easy to prepare the right amount of vegetables.

This year the surplus Goose enabled a re-enactment of the Christmas meal on another day. Afterwards I discovered two varieties of stuffing still in the freezer but they will not be wasted.

What are “leftovers”?

Unlike some, I actually enjoy the same meal twice or more on consecutive days, so if I cook enough for more than one dinner I have the remainder the next day. I like to batch cook anyway and prepare ready meals for the freezer that are just heat and eat when required. The only waste that goes out in the food bin is peelings and skin from fruit and dead teabags. I get cross when a piece of fruit goes bad , especially when it has only just been bought. I do make a conscious effort to eat what I buy and take a shopping list to the supermarket with a planned menu for the next few days.
The ubiquitous tea bag is useful and I haven’t got as far and making tea for one in a pot from leaves. I read of the way tea bags are made and should change habits here, but convenience makes me a sinner.
I am surprised at the amount of recycled packaging I throw out each week. This, again is convenience and what is available in store. Eating alone, I buy smaller -one helping items of things like baked beans and custard -each with its plastic pot. Fish comes in a tray or a plastic wrap, empty milk cartons and butter tubs accumulate, though the tubs are used for freezing things. Each soup packet and vegetable steam pack has a wrapper to discard. Yogurt cartons add to the waste, as do things like sardine tins and soup tins. There are fruit juice cartons or bottles and the recycle bag is full by the end of the week. A second then accepts items from the shredder, cardboard packaging, newspaper, mail junk and magazines.
Perhaps I should also go shopping with the intention of buying as many loose items as I can and do a positive package inspection for everything I put in the trolley. I’m afraid I prefer to spend more time at home and less in the store if it can be avoided. I am not a big sinner, but nor am I any kind of saint.

It is high time plastic packaging was better controlled. Tesco’s Danish pastries and the like come in a clear plastic tray and lid. M&S are either in a cellophane bag on a tray, but also available loose to put in a paper bag.

I think we should change our shopping habits so we can buy unpackaged fresh food that may not have the shelf life that prepacks give; just shop more often.

Ready meals could come in aluminium foil containers that can be fully recycled; decant into your own dish if they are microwaved.

You mention tinned sardines. If I am home late I often open a tin, strip out the backbones, mash with a little vinegar, spread on toast and stick under the grill. When we were young and had picnics and parties, sardine sandwiches (still with a little vinegar) were often on the menu.

M&S do better than Tesco in some ways but worse in others: https://www.which.co.uk/reviews/shopping-sustainably/article/what-are-supermarkets-doing-about-plastic-ahzAC2s22tXv

Perhaps the differences between supermarkets could be used to establish best operating practices. In the case of eggs it might be best to take your own box. If packaging is essential there are three common options – a traditional cardboard carton, a foam plastic box or a transparent plastic box. My guess is cardboard but that may ignore some important consideration. If cardboard is best then perhaps supermarkets should be told to use this option. In packaging other products there may be two good options and others to be avoided. As I see it, we need to share good practice to move forward.

As consumers we are at the mercy of the supermarkets and our only choice is to be selective in the packaging that is presented to us. The initiative must be with the shops and not the customers. The shops have to provide food and provide it in a convenient and useful way. The balancing act is to make sure that various foods are able to go on the shelves for the customer to take while packing them in an environmentally friendly manner. There is a limit to ways in which liquids can be presented. and other perishables need specific packing in order to present them to the customer and for the customer to be able to store them at home. I am not sure how much of a draw it would be to potential shoppers to be told that one supermarket was better than the others at packaging their food, especially if it was found that their produce was more expensive because of this. It would not be seen as good if produce was then difficult to place in cupboards or in the fridge or it broke more easily, spilling the contents. I expect shops are being encouraged by environmental groups to improve packaging and I hope this is an ongoing trend leading to improvements and new designs in the things we see in the aisles.

But we got by in “the old days”, even without a fridge. Tea was in paper packets, potatoes and other fruit and veg sold loose or in paper bags, milk in reusable glass bottles, fish and meet wrapped in greaseproof paper, sweets and biscuits weighed loose, cooked meats sliced to order………. We just shopped a little more often when we needed food.

Even fish and chips, once wrapped in newspaper, now come in cardboard boxes and a paper carrier bag.

I used to collect the fish & chips on my bicycle and put it in the saddlebag. Now people use their leather-upholstered fully-carpeted motor cars to get their takeaways so a cardboard box and a carrier bag are necessary to protect the interior from whatever fluids might emerge from their meals.

Carefully wrap up any leftovers and place them in the fridge. A few days later they are discovered, then thrown in the bin.

phil says:
9 February 2022

Make a wrap ..using a yorkshire pudding as the wrapping

David Barker says:
11 February 2022

Do a little more stuffing than you need, once cooked mix in blender with left over turkey in particular at a ratio of about one third stuffing two thirds turkey. Not too fine , not too coarse. Add a little cream or other fat. Perfect for croquettes. ( or rissoles)

Edwin Crossingham says:
11 February 2022

Microwave the same meal the next day. Add onion and carrot and make a curry with spices added to the chopped up left overs.

Hugh Bowman says:
11 February 2022

Living on my own, I often enough have much left over. For roast chicken: day 1, Leg and thigh roast dinner; day 2, repeat; day 3, remaining chopped up meat turned into a large 5-portion chicken & mushroom pie; day 4, 3 chicken carcasses simmered with veg to give chicken stock; day 4, the remains from the stock mashed & added to the compost bin. For roast leg of lamb: day 1, roast lamb dinner; day 2, remaining meat shredded, divided into portions and used to make many, many shepherds pies; day 3, any bones used to make stock. Of course, my freezer plays a major role.

I make soups with anything left over from roast dinners, and other meals. My husband loves soups.

Bob Sage says:
12 February 2022

Leftover beef or lamb is finely diced and mixed with mashed potatoes, shaped into patties and fried. Delicious with baked beans / tinned spaghetti and a good slosh of Worcestershire Sauce. Leftover poultry (we always get a large chicken between the two of us) makes a cold platter with bubble & squeak with pickles, some sandwiches and a fricassee made with red peppers, mushrooms etc (great with long grain and wild rice).

I often buy more meat and cook more than we need so we have a set of leftovers that then feed 4 people again, but not generally the same meal; roast beef/lamb can become cottage/shepherd’s pie or lamb biriani – chicken for stir fries etc is easy with a bit pf imagination…

I agree. There is nothing wrong with eating the same thing two days running but I would not do it out of choice.

I bought some calves liver for dinner last night, with bubble and squeak cakes, courgettes and tomatoes. It is a rare treat with enough liver for two, so there will be a repeat performance tonight (with another nice glass of red). Two treats in a row.

Finella MacKinnon says:
12 February 2022

After making the ‘broth’ or stock from bones, add grain eg lentils, rice or barley together with onion, carrots, turnip, leeks etc plus salt & pepper and simmer for 1 hour and you have nourishing soup. When cooled, can be frozen in portions for future use.

A Ham joint can last 4 days. Day 1 roasted. Day 2 cold with baked potato/chips, salad or baked beans. Day 3 layer up cooked pasta, chopped cold ham, left over cauliflower and pour over cheese sauce (some left over). Cook in moderate oven for 20 mins. Day 4 make a quiche with what’s left.

Chicken – Day 1 roasted. Day 2 cold with jacket potato, salad or baked beans. Day 3 chicken and mushroom pie. Any left overs can go in the freezer to be revived in a chicken and mushroom risotto.

Graham says:
14 February 2022

I agree Food is too often packed for convenience. I remember when you used to go down to the green grocers and get your veg in your shopping bag separated by a sheet of newspaper. We need to bring back some of the old ways in order to save the planet. 🙂

Nigel says:
15 February 2022

Always make a huge cauli/brocoli cheese. The leftovers make a wicked soup with a chicken stock cube, all whizzed up. A couple of potatos can go in as well (if any left).

There are no leftovers if you have two Jack Russels who are eager to help save the environment and reduce waste.