Upon unveiling some kind of mystical rice pilaf or chickpea stew in the office kitchen, colleagues will mumble “I’m just having leftovers” and then root around for a clean fork. Please! Speak up! Drop the just! What you have there is basically free food, made to your own specifications. Meanwhile, some of us will walk to Pret and stare at the cabinet for eighteen straight minutes before picking out our usual egg mayo. You could be a little more sensitive to the plights of others.
When I am lucky and organised enough to have leftovers, I always have the compulsion to zhuzh them, whether they need a zhuzhing or not. A fried egg, a pitta bread, a dollop of lemony yoghurt – something to make them a new, better thing. But whatever I end up doing, I always think the food tastes better than it did on opening night.
For the most part, food tastes better the next day because it’s seasoned with our prior struggles
Food science isn’t so sure. People talk about an intensifying of flavour that happens within soups, stews, curries and chillis when they’re left in the fridge, but there aren’t a lot of solid facts to back this up.
What the fridge does well is cling on to flavour, says Professor Costas Stathopoulas, Head of Food & Drink at Abertay University. “So, when you come to eat the refrigerated food one or two days later, you’ll find it’s held on to most of its components.” Additionally, Costas says “some flavours are more available to us at higher temperatures, so if you’re reheating the food, some reactions might continue taking place, which might release new flavours.”
This is especially true when food contains “aromatics”(onions, garlic, ginger, celery, carrots): “Most aromatics are fat soluble, and most fats at refrigerated temperature are solid, which means things cannot fly out of them.”
For the most part, though, food tastes better the next day because it’s seasoned with our prior struggles – the fact we worked to make Tuesday Laura’s life easier and tastier. The fact that – blessedly – there’s no cabinet to stare at. Just this once, there’s nothing to think about.
ROAST CHICKEN (AND OTHER STORIES)
Nothing good can really come of chicken in the fridge (it gets drier) and yet roasting a too-large chook on a Sunday is still the best thing you can do for your week – particularly if you do it in Diana Henry style. See the recipe below for her golden, gorgeous roast citrus, ginger and honey chicken from her new book, Simple, Effortless Food, Big Flavours by Diana Henry.
The next day, you might stick in a bap with some mayonnaise, and that would be fine. But you could break it up and stir it through some giant couscous and pea shoots, with extra olive oil and orange juice. Or, improvise your own rice bowl, with whatever colourful trimmings you've got.
THE CHEESE AND TOMATO EFFECT
Our love affair with cold pizza slices seems almost 100 per cent psychological. It’s the sheer joy of having saved that slice, teamed with – maybe – a personal preference for cold pizza over hot. Having said that, there’s something that goes on between tomato and cheese – the continued mingling – that really does it for us. That’s why lasagnes and aubergine parms make great candidates for lunchboxes. Plus, once they’ve cooled, you can cut them into neat squares.
Here’s the ultimate parmigiana di melanzane. Or, scoop up vast spoonfuls of this ideal orzo number. And embrace the pasta bake: Rachel Roddy’s pasta al forno and 11 more baked pasta recipes. I’m very keen on the way cold macaroni cheese forms a slab – you? Do @ me?
ROAST ANY VEG
The Kitchn’s "How To Roast Any Vegetable” is a real eye-opener. Once you have a tray of roasted vegetables to play with, you can turn them into soup, stir them through some spaghetti, put them on a bit of oil-drizzled toast, add some grains to make a salad, top them with a fried egg, or use them as a base for a frittata. Leftover ratatouille is madly versatile too.
THE GREAT SPICE DEBATE
Some swear that curries improve when the spices have time to get to know each other, while others say the spices become “muted”. Costas says both are sort of true: “As a rule of thumb, spice intensity depletes over time. For some people, the dissipation of spice might be associated with a more rounded flavour – because the spice component is less prominent”. Either way, give Meera Sodha's Lincolnshire sausage and potato curry a whirl – it's a work of genius whatever way you look at it. The same rule applies to chilli of course; this veggie Jamie Oliver one is quick, delicious and best revived with lots of lime-y avocado.
CAKE (CAKE CAKE CAKE)
Costas says the less flour a cake has, the more time it takes to find its structure as it cools. That’s why Trish Deseine’s Ultimate Chocolate Cake (which only contains one scant spoonful of flour) settles into such a dream after 24 hours. Nigella’s iconic clementine cake won’t turn on you either.
DianA Henry’s roast citrus, ginger and honey chicken
- Serves 6
For the chicken:
- 1.8kg (4lb) chicken
- 250ml (9fl oz) orange juice
- 4 tbsp honey
- 1 ½ tbsp hot sauce
- 3 garlic cloves, grated
- 2.5cm (1in) root ginger, peeled and grated
- finely grated zest of 2 oranges
- salt and pepper
- 200ml (7fl oz) chicken stock or water, if needed
For the roast oranges:
- 4 thin-skinned oranges
- olive oil
- a little ground ginger
- a little soft light brown sugar
- Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/gas mark 5. Put the chicken into a roasting tin in which it can lie snugly; if it’s too big, the cooking juices round the bird will burn. Whisk the rest of the ingredients for the chicken (except the stock or water) in a jug. Pour some of this inside the bird, then pour two-thirds of the rest over it, reserving the remainder. Roast for 45 minutes.
- Cut the thin-skinned oranges into wedges and put them into an ovenproof dish where they can lie in a single layer. Sprinkle with olive oil, ground ginger and seasoning and turn them over in this, then sprinkle the sugar on top. Roast alongside the chicken for one hour.
- When the chicken has cooked for 45 minutes, take it out of the oven, scoop up the sticky juices around it with a spoon and spread them over the skin. Add the rest of the orange juice mixture to the juices in the tin, stirring well to help them blend, then roast for another 45 minutes.
- Remove from the oven, put on a warm platter and let the chicken rest for 15 minutes. If the juices seem too thick or intense, add the stock or water to the tin, set it over a high heat and bring to the boil, stirring to dislodge the sticky bits. Serve in a jug. Add the orange wedges to the chicken platter and take it to the table.