Now, as I’ve often written of my darling Nana in the past, if there were one saying that sums her up in the kitchen, ‘Waste not, want not!’ would have to be it! Into the smallest of tupperwares go each spoonful of gravy. Expiration dates be damned… Once cleaning out her pantry I stumbled on a pot of noodle soup sachet that upon closer inspection of its contents more closely resembled a mummified stock cube!
She’s old school like that.
And I won’t lie, growing up with my grandparents as a teenager and in my early uni days, this all left quite the imprint on me… One that I’m not ashamed at all to admit, ever exploring new and inventive ways to re-purpose leftovers in my kitchen, living as I do alone and as such finding it ever more of an imperative when portions from recipes become a little difficult, dining for one as it were.
Where I perhaps differ a little from my Nana, is that I adore being in the kitchen and simply relish the opportunity to create something new and delicious out of yesterday’s cold dinner scraps in the refrigerator or freezer. And when I visit her and empty her leftovers from the past week into yummy creations, I delight in how this puts her penny-saving ways at ease and brings a smile to her face!
So this last weekend, finally able to visit her retirement village as lockdown regulations eased up a little in South Africa, we made the most of the fine weather with a braai (or barbecue for my foreign readers). The next day, I was itching to get lost in her kitchen a little, being a great deal more posh and spacious than my own…
So out came a tub of leftover rice and a baked orange sweet potato from the week, some leftover potato salad with anchovies and capers and a chicken skewer and two porkies from the braai the day before. For the piece de resistance I simply hauled out a pack of streaky bacon from the freezer and a handful of fresh coriander from the garden. A clove or two of garlic. Half a red onion. And a shallot. There, this will do nicely, I beamed inside.
First order of business, the hash cakes from the potato salad with a little olive oil and capers and diced anchovies. I grated the red onion and added it to the mixture, smushing the potatoes to make a big ol’ goo out of it with an egg yolk and a little flour to help bind them as two burger-sized potato patties were rolled and set on a plate and stored in the refrigerator to stay firm for later. (If you prefer your onions even sweeter, you can always caramelise the red onion in a little balsamic vinegar and brown sugar before adding them to the potato.)
Next I fried up the bacon in a large-ish pan (large enough for my rice dish to follow). Getting all the glorious salty fatty juices from the streaky bacon to line the bottom of the pan, I removed the bacon and laid the cooked slices out onto a foil-lined baking tray to be crisped up under the oven grill, the crispier the better!
Hereafter came the crushed garlic, with half a cup of chicken/veggie stock to lift the bacon juices that had reduced or stuck to the pan to infuse the mixture with salty yumminess. (As a side note, I hardly use much olive oil or butter if I can use the flavour and fat of the meat as a substitute.)
It was time for the diced leftover porkies and chicken skewer bits (diced into smaller chunks) to be added to the pan with the garlic and reducing stock, letting those flavours steep for a bit. Then, I added the leftover rice and diced chunks of leftover orange sweet potato, with a tablespoon of cream from the fridge.
(If you don’t have cream, I often use plain yoghurt as a welcome alternative.)
Finally, from the collection of spices ever at the ready, coriander and cumin, some paprika and some chilli flakes for a mild, restorative kick.
In another pan, I caramelised a small shallot in a smidge of brown sugar and olive oil for serving at the end.
Bacon crisped in the oven and ready to come out, I laid the slices out on a chopping block and replaced them with the potato patties on the foil to go into the oven under the grill. (As a little indulgent trick, when making potato hash cakes or patties, I make a little ‘well’ as it were in the top of the potatoes to place a knob of butter for added decadent crisping.)
With the potato cakes slowly taking on a gorgeous golden brown, I turned down the heat on the rice pan and the pan with the caramelised onion simply to keep warm until plating time.
In the meantime, the bacon cooled and easier to handle, I chopped four of the slices into little crispy bits for garnishing later, the rest of the bacon set aside for another day. The coriander now got a good ol’ going over with my travelling mezzaluna. (My mezzaluna always adds a little spring to my step in the kitchen… I highly recommend them as just about the most exhilarating little piece of equipment in any kitchen!)
Plates warmed on top of my Nana’s little oven, the potato cakes now ready, it was time for plating.
A generous spoonful or two of the rice dish, with a handsome patty on top of that, and finally the caramelised onions, bacon bits, and fresh coriander in turn atop the potato patty, and voila! A rather decadent dining occasion indeed and only with everyday leftovers and a handful of common ingredients from the general larder…
And beyond this still, this meal made for its own leftovers to be enjoyed simply with an added egg or two for a feast of a brunch the next day!
If you would like to make this meal from scratch see below for ingredients, and keep in mind, too, for added reassurance, that with smaller potato patties this dish can heartily serve four for a lazy late lunch on any given Sunday….
2 medium sized sausages, whether porkies or some boerie is really up to you!
1 chicken skewer from the butchers (optional)
1 tablespoon of cream or plain, full fat yoghurt
half a cup of veggie/chicken stock
2 cloves of garlic
1 shallot (or half a red onion or even a leek… entirely up to you.. even some fresh zingy diced spring onion might make a welcome alternative!)
half a red onion
a small bunch of fresh coriander
a tspn of cumin
a tspn of coriander
a tspn of paprika
half a tspn of chilli flakes (or fresh chilli if you have a plant at home and prefer it… Really as spicy or mild or entirely optional!)
A cup and a half of cooked rice of whatever variety you prefer
A pack or half a pack of streaky bacon (I’m a bacon addict and love to save the leftover streaky bacon for a sarmie the next day, but really it’s only for that little added crunch and saltiness to the dish)
1 baked or steamed orange sweet potato (optional)
2 medium potatoes
a tspn of capers
three anchovy fillets diced into bits
Balsamic and brown sugar for caramelising
1 egg yolk and a little flour to help bind the potato patties
two to four knobs of butter depending on the size of your hash cakes and how many you make…
Salt and pepper for seasoning (keeping in mind that many elements in this dish are salty naturally, so taste first!)