We are now firmly in the festive season: they are, as Joni Mitchell sang, cutting down trees, putting up reindeer and singing songs of joy and peace. But you could say it is also the season of leftovers. In a time of feasting (with the big day itself, Christmas parties, and, if you do that sort of thing, Thanksgiving) there will inevitably be dish loads of veg, potatoes, sauces and, most probably, turkey lying around for days. But sometimes the leftovers are the best part: a turkey sandwich with maybe some crispy bacon on thick, white bread. Or how about a cranberry sauce cocktail..? 
But in everyday cooking we should make the most of leftovers, or at least avoid waste (something which Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall has recently been advocating with a BBC documentary and a book.
I love using up stale bread and old bananas in baking, and recently discovering you can make meringues with chickpea water has enhanced a thrifty sense of using up leftovers or things you might not think to cook with.
I actually rarely throw food out, mainly because I tend to buy food little and often, only getting what I need for whatever I feel like eating that day. This has however, led (or actually probably derives from) a sort of food commitment phobia. Though I love the idea of having a cosy pantry stuffed with tins and jars and boxes, and a fridge full of food, I couldn't possibly get a four-pack of tinned tomatoes or a big bag of sugar or flour, or the biggest milk carton or a litre of olive oil. I break out into a cold sweat buying a bag of apples or bucket of yogurt. Nigella (who in Kitchen, after some recipes, has a bit called "Making Leftovers Right") says there is something satisfying about using a whole box of eggs in a recipe - and I feel the same.  Maybe partly it's an atavistic mentality (I think I must be descended from nomads who might have had to leave for somewhere new at any given moment and didn't want to leave things behind). It's also because I pretty much just cook for myself, and partly because I'm worried I won't use things and they'll go off, and I'll feel bad and have wasted money. I have a friend who won't fill her car fully with petrol in case she crashes it and loses the fuel. Maybe we all have our issues with waste. Anyway, I, like most people, had some bagged salad leaves and bits of veg languishing at the bottom of the fridge, and, determined to do something with them (but not boringly just eat them as they are) I transformed them into what turned out to be a pretty delicious soup - peppery from the veg and salad (mine had rocket in it). Funnily enough I stashed it away in the freezer first. One step closer to a four-pack of tomatoes...

Leftover soup
1 tbsp butter
Half an onion, roughly chopped
Approx 1/2 packet green veg (I used mange tout)
Approx 1/3 packet bagged salad leaves
350ml vegetable or chicken stock
2 tbsp sour cream / crème fraîche /double cream
Fry the onion in the butter for about five minutes, then add the stock, followed by the mange tout, or whatever vegetables you're using. Cook for a couple of minutes then add the salad leaves and cook for another minute or two. Take off the heat and blitz using a blender until super smooth (you might more liquid depending o how thick you like your soup). Mix in the sour cream, season to taste, and eat smugly.
Serves two, or one greedily.


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