Leftovers have a bit of an image problem. They’re often seen as the sad bits of lettuce or remnants of a meal at the back of your fridge that you know you should use up, but they don’t really seem all that appealing.

Back in wartime, it was the “financially proper” thing to use up leftovers, explains food writer and author of new cookbook Second Helpings, Sue Quinn, but that later changed.

“There was a period in the Sixties where leftovers fell out of fashion a bit – not using leftovers for dinner was almost a sign that you were comfortably middle class,” she says.

But things are shifting again, now that there’s a “perfect storm of environmental problems and financial crises”, Quinn adds, putting the spotlight back on leftovers.

“It’s focused all our minds on really valuing the food we have and eating all of it. It just makes sense, doesn’t it? It makes sense on every level not to throw money into the bin,” Bournemouth-based Quinn explains.

“And people are starting to have a greater appreciation that food waste goes into landfill, which rots and methane gas goes into the atmosphere, and that causes environmental issues.”

If those reasons aren’t compelling enough for you, Quinn adds: “They’re low effort, because you’ve already done the bulk of the hardcore cooking.”

Looking to make the most out of your leftovers? Here are some recipes to get started with…

Roast dinner enchiladas


(Serves 4-6)

500–600g leftover cooked meat and/or vegetables, chopped

200g grated hard cheese, such as Cheddar, Parmesan, Gruyère, Lancashire or a mix

4 large tortilla wraps

For the tomato sauce:

2tbsp olive oil, plus extra for brushing

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2tbsp chilli powder

2tbsp smoked paprika

1tbsp ground cumin

1tsp dried oregano

2tsp brown sugar

1tsp fine sea salt

2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes


1. For the sauce, warm the oil in a large frying pan and fry the onion until soft and golden, about eight minutes. Add the garlic and cook for one minute. Add the spices, oregano, sugar and salt and cook gently, stirring, for a further minute.

2. Add the tomatoes and simmer gently for 15 minutes, stirring now and again, until you have a rich, thick, deep-red sauce. Taste, add more salt if needed, then take the pan off the heat.

3. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/350°F/Gas mark 4 and brush a baking dish measuring about 20-centimetre square with olive oil.

4. Distribute the leftovers and half the cheese equally between the wraps and roll them up. Arrange in the prepared baking dish – they should fit snugly. Spoon the tomato sauce between and over the wraps. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. Bake for 20–25 minutes until golden and bubbling. Serve hot with salad on the side.

Credits: PA; Author: PA;

Crispy chilli rice with fried egg and greens


(Serves 2)

260g cold cooked rice

3-4tbsp sriracha sauce or chilli crisp oil (depending on how spicy you want your rice)

1½tbsp soy sauce

2tbsp tomato purée

2tsp sesame oil, plus extra for drizzling

2tbsp vegetable oil, for frying

1 spring onion, finely sliced

Fried eggs, to serve

Steamed greens, such as pak choi, to serve


1. Mix together in a bowl all the rice ingredients except the vegetable oil and spring onion. Make sure all the rice grains are well coated.

2. Heat a large heavy frying pan, non-stick ideally, until very hot. Add the vegetable oil and swirl to cover the base.

3. Add the rice, spread it out over the base of the pan in a thin layer and flatten with a spatula. Fry over a medium-high heat for two minutes without disturbing. Drizzle a little sesame oil over the rice and flip chunks of it over – it should be burnished and crisp in parts. Fry for another two minutes, pressing down again with the spatula.

4. Flip the rice again. It should be a mixture of crisp and not so crisp grains. If this hasn’t happened yet, keep frying, flipping and pressing but be careful not to overcook the rice – you don’t want it dry and hard. Serve the rice hot, with a fried egg, greens and spring onion sprinkled on top.

Credits: PA; Author: PA;

Sticky ginger cake


(Serves 2)

Vegetable oil, for brushing

175g plain (all-purpose) flour

½tsp ground cinnamon

1½tsp ground ginger

¾tsp bicarbonate of soda

A pinch of fine sea salt

80g unsalted butter

130g golden syrup

130g black treacle

140g cold porridge

1 large egg

25g chopped crystallised ginger, roughly chopped


1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/350°F/Gas mark 4. Line a 20-centimetre square baking dish with baking paper so it comes up and over the sides: lightly brushing the dish with oil first keeps the paper in place.

2. Put the flour, spices, bicarbonate of soda and salt in a mixing bowl and combine with a fork.

3. Melt the butter in a medium pan then remove from the heat. Stir in the syrup and treacle. Loosen the porridge (oatmeal) by stirring it well, then add to the buttery syrup along with the egg. Beat with a wooden spoon to thoroughly combine and break up larger bits of porridge.

4. Stir the mixture into the flour and spices, until everything is fully combined. Pour into the prepared dish, making sure the batter fills the corners. Smooth the top and stud with chopped ginger.

5. Bake for 30 minutes, or until firm to touch and an inserted skewer comes out clean. Leave in the dish for 10 minutes, then lift out onto a wire rack to cool using the overhanging baking paper as handles.

Credits: PA; Author: PA;

Second Helpings by Sue Quinn is published by Quadrille.