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5 Yummy Dishes Made With Leftovers

Last updated on: May 02, 2024 18:57 IST
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All photographs: Zelda Pande

Open your fridge and what confronts you?

Loads of leftovers, perhaps.

What do you do with that pile of spare rotis? Or the loaf of bread withering away? Maybe there is some way to make use of the extra pot of dal. Or the surplus laawaris coconut chutney.

Yup, we have a number of really quick fixes, as we kick off a Rediff Food leftover series.

1. Extra Coconut Chutney

Every time you order idlis, or other dishes from an Udupi restaurant, you are inundated with dabbas of chutney. There is only so much chutney one can eat and it seems a shame to throw the rest away.

I have discovered that extra chutney is a windfall. I pop it into the freezer and use it the next time I would like to make a Mor Kootan or pulissery or a kuzhambu -- yoghurt coconut curry or a tamarind coconut stew.

The best vegetable/fruit choices for such a curry are any of these: Mooli (radish) or white pumpkin or raw orange pumpkin (lal bhopla), mangoes, baingan (eggplant) bhindi (okra).

I decided to make a very simple, but not very traditional take (apologies) on the summer sweet-sour Kerala curry, Mambazha Pulissery, that uses a Kerala variety of mango, naatu manga. I had to make do with lumpy pieces of Totapuri and some kairi and added tiny sambar onions.

Mango coconut curry

Mango Pulissery

Servings: 2


  • 1 cup ready coconut chutney
  • Water
  • 10 sambar onions, split in half
  • ½ of a semi-ripe totapuri mango, no peel
  • A few pieces of chopped kairi or green mango, no peel
  • ½- inch piece ginger, grated
  • Salt, if required
  • 2 tsp coconut oil
  • 1 tsp rai or mustard seeds
  • Pinch hing or asafoetida
  • 10 curry pattas or curry leaves
  • 2 bedgi chillies, split open or 1 green chilly cut lengthwise
  • 3-4 tbsp yoghurt


  • Heat the oil over medium heat in a kadhai or saucepan and add the mustard seeds and the hing.
    Let them crackle and then add the red chilly and the curry pattas and fry 10 seconds more.
    Then add the sambar onions and fry 4-5 minutes.
    Add the coconut chutney, the mango pieces, the green chilly (if using), ginger and enough water to have curry consistency.
    Bring to a boil and add salt, if required, and simmer over medium heat till all the mango pieces have softened.
    Add yoghurt and take off heat
  • Serve hot over steamed rice, with a dash of ghee, appalam (rice papad) and pickle.

2. Rotis

My grandmother had an easy solution for lingering rotis. No matter how crackly or old they had become, she would grind them up and make what she called prasad (a dry powdery sweet dish) or laddus out of them. The ingredients are rather variable in quantity and you can choose to add them or not. The black pepper powder contributes an interesting flavour.

Roti Prasad

Ammaji's Roti Prasad

Serves: 4


  • 12 large rotis
  • 3-4 tbsp ghee
  • ½ to 1 tsp black pepper powder
  • ½ to 1 tsp green elaichi or cardamom powder
  • 1 tsp saunth or ginger powder
  • 50 gm or ¼ cup raisins
  • Dash salt, if the rotis don't already have salt in them
  • 50 gm icing sugar or jaggery powder


  • Grind the rotis to a fine powder in the mixer.
    Empty into a large, thick-bottomed kadhai and warm over low heat.
    Add the ghee, black pepper powder, cardamom powder, saunth, raisins, salt (if needed).
    Roast over low heat for about half an hour, till all the dampness in the rotis evaporates and you have a dry powder.
    Mix every few minutes, so it doesn't stick to the bottom or burn.
    Take off heat.
    Now add the icing sugar/jaggery powder and mix well and cool.
  • Serve and store in an airtight dabba or container.

Zelda's Note: Alternately, especially for children, make laddus. Instead of icing sugar, melt about 75 gm jaggery with 2 tbsp water in a thick-bottomed saucepan or kadhai till thick and viscous and add in the roasted roti mixture. When it cools a little, make into 1-inch diameter laddus and store in an air-tight container.

3. Dal

Cooked dal is a slippery commodity to store in your fridge. In hardly a day-and-a-half it can go bad.

A simple way to reuse it and extend its life is to quickly convert it to a sambar packed with vegetables and spiked with imli (tamarind).

Or else, better, make into a vegetable khichdi.


Spinach and Eggplant Rice and Matta Khichdi

Serves: 4


  • 2 cups any leftover cooked dal
  • ½ cup raw white rice
  • 1 cup matta or broken red rice
  • 1 cup water or more
  • 2 pieces green elaichi or cardamom
  • 2 1-inch pieces dalcheeni or cinnamon
  • 5-6 lavang or cloves
  • 2 tej patta or bay leaves
  • 1 tsp haldi or turmeric powder
  • 10-12 curry pattas or curry leaves + 10 extra for the tempering
  • 8-10 peppercorns
  • Salt to taste, about 2 tsp or more
  • 2-inch piece ginger, grated
  • 3-4 small baingans or brinjals or eggplant
  • 1 tbsp imli or tamarind paste 
  • 2 loosely-packed cups baby spinach, chopped, or 1 loosely-packed cup regular spinach, chopped
  • 2 large onions, sliced
  • 3 tsp crumbled kasuri methi or dried fenugreek leaves
  • 1 tbsp oil for the takda/tempering + 1-2 tbsp to fry the eggplant
  • 1 tsp jeera or cumin seeds
  • ½ tsp hing or asafoetida
  • 2 tsp rai or mustard seeds
  • 2 tbsp ghee or cashew butter


  • In a large saucepan, over medium-low heat, boil the leftover, already-cooked dal with the rice, matta, whole spices (cardamom, cinnamon, peppercorns, bay leaves, cloves), haldi, salt, water, ginger and 10-12 of the curry leaves, till the rice is cooked.
    Add additional water and mash the mixture a bit, with a masher, and turn the heat down and simmer for 15 minutes or more till the mixture gains a mashed khichdi or porridge-like consistency.
  • Meanwhile, cut the baingans in half and slice.
    In a small frying with 1-2 tbsp oil, fry up the baingans till soft and cooked.
    Keep aside.
  • Heat the remaining 1 tbsp oil in a medium-sized frying pan, over medium heat and add in the jeera, rai, hing and allow it to crackle for a minute.
  • Then add the remaining curry pattas and fry for half a minute more and then add in the onions and fry for 5 to 8 minutes.
  • Add this takda into the simmering, nearly-ready khichdi.
  • Also fold in, or carefully stir in, the fried baingan, chopped spinach, imli paste, ghee or cashew butter, kasuri methi into the khichdi and allow the khichdi to simmer for a few more minutes so the baby spinach is mildly cooked.
  • Serve hot with an additional ghee per serving, if preferred, along with dahi or yoghurt or raita, slices of onion and tomatoes, papad, pickle.

Zelda's Note: If you prefer a more spicy khichdi, add in a few slit green chillies while boiling the rice and matta with the dal or add a few broken red chillies to the tadka.

4. Bread

A very common leftover is bread. But a very versatile one too.

Never discard excess bread.

There are umpteen zillion ways to use extra or even stale bread, right from making upma, or bakes with a top layer of bread crumbs, to soups (especially the hearty Tuscany bread zuppa, called Pappa al Pomodoro), bread alu cutlets, bread salad, bread dosa, Shahi Tukda, Bread And Butter Pudding and so on.

I offer you a recipe for crunchy, cheesy, piquant Caesar Salad, which is made with half croutons and half salad greens, and is a chilled gourmet salad.

In spite of the sound of its name, that hints at a Roman origin, Caesar Salad was first prepared all the way across the Atlantic in Mexico, at Caesar's restaurant, Tijuana, an eatery owned by a US-based Italian immigrant named Caesar Cardini.

Zelda's Caesar Salad

Zelda’s Caesar Salad


  • ½ of a large head iceberg lettuce, washed, dried, torn into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 small cucumber, chopped
  • 2 stalks spring onions, greens only, finely chopped
  • Salt, only if required (cheese and the dressing have salt)

For the croutons

  • 4-6 slices bread, any type
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp garlic powder

For the dressing

  • 2 tbsp mayonnaise
  • ½ tsp black pepper powder or freshly crushed black pepper
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar, preferably white wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp mustard
  • 2 pods garlic, crushed or minced

For serving

  • 3-4 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese


For the croutons

  • Cut the slices of bread into 1-cm cubes.
    Place in a glass bowl and the drizzle olive oil on top and lightly toss.
    Microwave for 2 minutes, take out and toss the bread.
    Microwave further for another 2 minutes till the cubes are crisp and have reddened, and then sprinkle garlic powder on top.
    Croutons burn very easily and quickly in the microwave as the glass bowl gets hot, so monitor carefully.
    Keep aside.

For the dressing

  • In a blender or mixer, whip up all the ingredients to create the dressing.

For the salad

  • In a large bowl, toss the lettuce with the cucumber and the spring onion greens.
    Pour in the dressing and toss again.
    Before serving, add the croutons and the cheese and toss again lightly.
    Add salt only if required.
    Croutons to salad proportions is 1:1 ie roughly equal.
    Serve immediately or the croutons will soften.

Zelda's Note: A classic Caesar Salad, as per Cardini's recipe, uses coddled egg yolks (yolks beaten in a bowl over a hot water bath) in the dressing. I prefer to substitute the eggs with mayonnaise.

A Caesar Salad can also be garnished with fried bacon bits or finely-chopped fried anchovies or Worcestershire sauce with anchovies in it.

The preferred green is romaine lettuce, which not easily available in India. Hence use iceberg.

Instead of white vinegar, opt for 2 tsp freshly-squeezed lime juice.

Parmesan cheese is preferred and generally not negotiable, but a basic grated cheese can do some of the job.

5. Rice

On an average day, we all have some rice tucked away in the refrigerator, that lacks a purpose. Like bread, there are a hundred uses for it.

My mom's favourite breakfast was 2 handfuls cold rice in a bowl of cold milk with cinnamon powder and sugar, probably a throwback to her childhood in Sweden. I prefer to do a simple tadka/baghar, with onions and three spices and come up with a bowl of comfort food.

Baghara Rice

Baghara Rice

Serves: 2

  • 2 cups cooked rice
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 3 tsp oil
  • 1½ tsp rai or mustard seeds
  • Generous pinch hing or asafoetida
  • ½ tsp haldi or turmeric powder
  • Salt to taste, about 1½ tsp


  • Heat the oil in a kadhai or frying pan over medium heat.
    Add in the hing and the rai and allow to go crackle for a minute.
    Then add in the haldi and the chopped onions and fry 4 to 5 minutes.
    Add the rice and salt and mix.
    Mix well and fry about 5 to 8 minutes till the rice gets mildly crispy.
  • Serve hot by itself or with a little pickle.

We ask you, Dear Readers, do you have any recipes for leftovers?

Do share your recipes with us and we'll publish them here.

Mail your recipe, recipe photo and your own photo to (subject: Recipes For Leftovers) along with your NAME and the place where you LIVE.

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