Eat your leftovers: making the most of yesterday’s meal

Herb and flower salad

Herb and flower salad - Credit: Archant

Frances Bissell looks at making tonight’s dinner last until lunch tomorrow

Vitello tonnato: Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Vitello tonnato: Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Last month I wrote about making the most of expensive sourdough bread, using it in a variety of dishes once it is too old for sandwiches. I stay with this theme because I notice from my kitchen diaries – which I have kept since 1974 – that some of our favourite dishes are made with yesterday’s roast, as it were.

On Fridays I often roast a whole brill or I might cook a large piece of cod loin on a bed of peeled red peppers, shallots and tomatoes, Basque style. Next day I make a grand aioli, with the fish as the centrepiece, surrounded by cooked and raw vegetables; olives, radishes, griddled courgettes, salad onions and aubergine, green beans, what you will, and serve it with a pot of very garlicky home-made mayonnaise, flavoured also with saffron, pimenton or cayenne, depending on the mood.

Sunday lunch is always a good starting point for second-time-around meals. Chickens I usually spatch-cock, using the back and wing tips to make stock for gravy, and then I sit the opened out chicken on a pile of flavoursome stuffing – made with left-over sourdough – and roast it in a fierce oven. There is invariably chicken left over, usually the white meat. This goes into what we still refer to as Momma’s Chicken Salad, in homage to the eponymous Nob Hill restaurant in San Francisco where we first tasted it.

As I remember it, the salad was rich and sumptuous, rather too filling for a first course, so a perfect dish for late summer lunch. As well as the chicken, dice some ripe avocado into a bowl, and perhaps some cooked potato. Add more crunch with apple, fennel and celery. It is, of course, more an idea than a strict recipe, and one you can adapt to suit your tastes and what you have available. I make the dressing with equal quantities of mayonnaise and yoghurt, snip in some chives, garlic chives or lovage and carefully fold in the ingredients. Depending on the time of year I decorate the salad with a selection of multi-hued cherry tomatoes, mandarin segments, cherries, grapes or pomegranate seeds.

Roast English rose veal from the farmers’ market is excellent meat and my favourite cut at the moment is rolled brisket, which I cook long and slow, about 3 hours or so, in a lidded casserole on a bed of shallots, carrots and celery, with a splash of wine; red or white works equally well, depending on any wine you plan to serve with the veal. Any veal left over can be thinly sliced and served as vitello tonnato with a tuna sauce; it sounds improbable but is an absolutely delicious combination. I have also substituted cold cooked salmon for the tuna to make a derivative vitello salmonato, less interesting than the original.

Friends in northern Italy claim Piedmonte as the home of this summery dish. There we were once served something similar, this time cold rabbit with tuna sauce. For the tuna I like to use the Spanish or Italian one packed in jars of olive oil. It is not a particularly pretty dish, somewhat beige and pallid, says the photographer in our house, so, instead, avocadoes and a lively bowl of green salad.

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Vitello tonnato

(Serves 2)

200-300g cooked veal brisket, in a piece

125g albacore tuna in olive oil

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 egg yolk

Grated zest of ½ lemon

2-3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon capers

NB This dish uses raw egg yolk. The usual precautions should be taken. If you prefer, you can leave out the egg yolk and substitute a tablespoon of cream or Greek yoghurt.

Slice the veal thinly, and lay on a long platter in overlapping slices. Combine the rest of the ingredients, except the capers, and blend or process until as smooth and shiny as mayonnaise. Pour the sauce over the veal, dot with capers and grate on the lemon zest. Leave in a cool place for a couple of hours for the flavours to blend. Serve with a rocket or lamb’s lettuce salad, or a mixture of herbs, leaves and edible flowers.

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