Leftovers imply something that is superfluous, redundant and unneeded, but frankly my cooking and food presentation would not be the same without them.
It does not mean that I never cook something entirely with fresh ingredients – of course I do – but I welcome using up something from a previous meal to convert into something new. It allows me to be creative and I feel saintly about not wasting food.
The duck breasts were cooked very simply and quickly and I used some dried sour cherries (Middle Eastern produce) that I steeped in some red wine and a dash of vin cotto (slightly sweet) for the sauce. If I did not have cherries I may have used some green or black olives or slices of orange with perhaps a little marsala or white wine.
Pan fried duck
Score the skin of the duck and sprinkle with salt; leave them for about 20 minutes.
Pan fry the duck breasts over gentle-medium heat with some spring onions and bay leaves. Turn the breasts over a couple of times to help the fat to melt and raise the heat when you are ready to brown the duck. This whole process should take no longer than about 12-15 minutes.
Remove the duck breasts from the pan, cover with foil or a plate so that they can keep on cooking and remain warm . Drain the fat off but try to keep the brown meat juices that will stick to the bottom and sides of the pan.
Add the cherries and liquid to de-glaze the pan. Heat and evaporate the liquid slightly. Return the duck and any juices to the pan and heat through.
I cooked three duck breasts and the one that was leftover I carefully stored in my fridge. This became a duck salad the night after. The sliced breast went on a bed of thinly cut fennel, spring onions and batavia lettuce, some shaved kohlrabi, leftover roasted pumpkin which I had cooked to go with the duck and some pumpkin seeds.
I had braised some artichokes with small whole potatoes and peas during the week. These potatoes were sliced and added to the duck salad and contributed an extra layer of flavour (of artichokes). In the fridge I also had some ready made parsley oil. The parsley oil was drizzled over some yogurt that I had drained (labna/labneh) – it made the labna look spectacular and contributed to the taste. To the leftover parsley oil I added lemon juice and salt and pepper and this became the dressing for the duck salad.
The duck fat that I had drained off the duck was used to sauté the vegetables that went into the soup (rather than olive oil) and the leftover sauce from the duck went into the making of a minestrone (which by the way means ‘big soup’ because it usually contains pulses and therefore makes it a thick soup). I had some cooked borlotti beans – I usually cook extra and store containers of them in the freezer. The vegetables were onion, celery, carrots and kohlrabi, both the bulb and the green tops.
With the very flavourful artichoke braising liquid, some artichoke stalks and the peas I will make some eggs taste very special.
Poached eggs with peas
Bring the liquid and peas to the boil and clear little spaces in the peas – just large enough enough to gently slide in some eggs to poach. In order to keep the yolk soft and nicely shaped, turn off the heat, cover the pan with a lid and rest until the eggs are set just right.
Not much is wasted in my kitchen.
You will find that most recipes for making parsley oil suggest that you cut the parsley (stems and all) into smaller bits, and plunge them them into some boiling water for about 10 seconds to soften. Then you drain the parsley and cool them by plunging into cold water. (And there go most of the vitamins?)
When I make parsley oil I don’t blanch my parsley. My parsley oil does not taste particularly grassy – this happens sometimes when parsley is chopped in a food processor rather than cut by hand. Perhaps the blades of my food processor are sharp – this always help.
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil and a pinch of salt.
Place everything in a food processor (with sharp blades) and blend completely.
Pour the paste into a clean glass jar, cover and store it in the fridge overnight. The parsley paste will settle to the bottom of the jar.
Line some muslin in a funnel to act as a filter and place the funnel into a clean jar.
Carefully pour the parsley oil through the filter into the jar and keep it in the fridge.
I also used some of the parsley oil to flavour some thick yogurt- it makes a change from using mayonnaise and I used it to dress some boiled new potatoes. Ground pink peppercorns looked good too.
I did make use of those leftovers!