This notion is so on-trend, a fashionable person's head could explode. Stick rigidly to the plan set out in Rosie Sykes, Polly Russell and Zoe Heron's new book, The Kitchen Revolution, and you will save money by using up all the food you buy; your food miles will go down because you're not wasting any and because the recipes are all seasonal; and energy consumption - yours and the cooker's - goes down because of all the recycling.
The idea is that you do one weekly shop and cook a big meal from scratch on Night One (perhaps it's Sunday dinner). The next two evenings, you have leftovers, but excitingly done - not just bubble and squeak; the fourth night, there is a seasonal recipe that is generally pretty quick; on night five you prepare a feast using stuff from your larder; and on the sixth night, you make double quantities of something and freeze half of it. On the seventh night you eat something you made from the week before - the book provides 52 weeks' worth of dinners.
This regime worries me a little - though not nearly as much as it would if I was a vegetarian - because I never have leftovers of anything. I am a greedy woman and can strip a chicken carcass merely by looking at it. When you say leftovers, other people fear cottage pie and rissoles. I fear not being properly full. These hunger worries persist once I've done my shopping. It's supposed to feed four people, for seven dinners. That's 28 meals but, tipping it all on to the kitchen table, I just can't see it. But I'll give it a go, instead of bellyaching about it.
Big meal from scratch
Roast leg of lamb with new season's garlic, braised lentils and glazed baby carrots
My boyfriend, C, says, "This is delicious. This doesn't taste like leftovers at all." "It's not leftovers, you numbnut," I say, "this is the stuff that's going to be left over later." "Well, it just tastes like a lovely meal you've made," he says. Later, I see there is loads of meat left on his plate, and say, "Didn't you like it?" and he says, "I thought I was meant to leave leftovers." "No, the leftovers are in the pan. The stuff on your plate was all for you to eat." "Oh. Right."
I should warn you that due to stock restrictions and my aversion to going to more than one shop, I used orange lentils instead of brown ones, fresh horseradish instead of mustard, and, idiosyncratically, marjoram instead of parsley. And even with my loony substitutions, this was delicious.
Something for nothing 1
Spiced lentil salad with hummus and lamb
Here, the colour of the lentils comes home to roost a bit - it might have looked more Moorish if they weren't orange. Don't get me wrong, though, this was wonderful to eat - fresh herbs can really spruce things up a bit and it is unbelievable how much difference a half teaspoon of cinnamon can make - the lamb still tastes like lamb, but it's an entirely different dish. I present it to C. "Lentils," he says. "Lentils again." Apparently, in the world of the leftover, you can recycle meat endlessly but recycle a pulse and you fill your diner with fatigue.
Some things occur to me. You do save money this way. If I cooked in my regular, profligate way, I could pretty much use up a similar size weekly shop to feed four people two proper meals. Also, with leftover cooking you can't skimp on ingredients, or miss stuff out. I often look at a recipe and think, "I can take or leave pine nuts," but small touches take on a greater importance when the centrepiece ingredients are the same as they were last night. And when you're making your own hummus, it has to be better than shop-bought, which means decent olive oil. Otherwise it all feels a bit punitive. If you were to come to my house and eat this, there is no way you would think I was giving you the remains of what I had last night; you would think "What a tasty and modish meal".
The fridge seems to be getting fuller every time we eat. This morning, we just had lamb and carrots and lentils over. Now we've still got a load of that, plus a great vat of hummus. C says, "Yes, it's fuller, but I don't know what I'm allowed to eat. So from my point of view, it's the same as it being empty". I want to say, "It's liberty hall, you can eat whatever you like," but that would be a lie. The only way to resolve this is to put a sticker on everything in the fridge, saying "Yes", or "No".
Something for nothing 2
Braised summer vegetables with pancetta and sherry
The leftover ingredients for this were the carrots from two days ago, plus roasted garlic, and I wasn't hopeful. Veg with twice-cooked carrots; I thought it was going to be the kind of thing Gillian McKeith might try and make you eat. Totally wrong! It was the hit of the week so far. C loved it. It stopped him in his facetious, lentil-decrying tracks.
Salmon and cucumber tagliatelle
They always say that anxiety is pointless because whatever direction you think trouble's coming from, you will be broadsided by something totally different. On that theme, it wasn't C, in the end, who ate something he wasn't allowed and screwed my menu plan. I idly opened the fridge, popped something into my mouth while I tried to remember what I'd been looking for (it was my mobile phone, in fact. It wasn't in there), and it turned out I'd eaten 150g of hot smoked salmon, without which the seasonal supper was just pasta with cucumber. I consulted my schedule. Would tuna do? As luck would have it, I was due in the pub. C was happy foraging for frozen food from our former culinary life together. Perhaps he had a kipper. Or a takeaway.
Pearl barley salad with feta and agresto dressing
Are you familiar with agresto? I don't think I've ever made it in my life. Multi-nutted, with verjuice (a very acidic juice made with unripe grapes), which of course I don't have (you can use lemon, sugar and white wine), it is a stunning dressing. This is really successful, and satisfying, and delivers what it promises; you could honestly picture yourself having all the ingredients in the larder or fridge. We have quite a bit of this left over (even though I've halved the measurements to cater for two), and for about the sixth time in the week, which makes it the sixth time in my entire life, I find myself thinking how much I'd like some quality Tupperware.
Two for one
Rolled chicken breasts filled with asparagus and herby cheese
I dutifully made these, but don't know how they turned out, since we were both out. I think it's probably the straightest ready-meal recipe of the week, but I only know what it looks like raw, then frozen. I'm sure it will make a lovely weekend lunch or day-seven dinner next week.
In conclusion: I will definitely do this again next week and beyond because it is novel, fun, time-saving and money-saving - and July week four looks particularly delicious. When the novelty wears off a bit, I will drop it, like I drop everything else I've ever been excited about, but I can see, in the long run, that it would be perfect if you had people staying, had just had a baby, broken your leg, or your mother was coming over four times in a row and has a tendency to be critical. In any circumstances, beyond my slothful, business-as-usual normality, it is brilliant. In defiance of the laws of physics, the fridge is fuller today than it was a week ago. And so is the freezer. I do not understand this, but it means I am no longer afeard of the leftover. To quote Scarlett in Gone With the Wind: as God is my witness, I'll never be hungry again.
Recycled carrots ...
a sample recipe
Braised summer vegetables with pancetta and sherry
200g sliced pancetta
1 medium (approx 120g) onion
400g new potatoes
250g shelled or frozen peas or 800g peas in their pods
450g shelled or frozen broad beans or 1.5kg broad beans in their pods
Two heads of roast garlic left over from this week's Big Meal from Scratch (Roast Leg of Lamb with new season's garlic) or six peeled garlic cloves simmered in water and olive oil until they are soft and lightly browned
2tbsp sherry vinegar
300g baby carrots left over from the Big Meal or 300g scraped and cleaned baby carrots
400ml vegetable stock (made from a stock cube or bouillon powder) or leftover gravy made up to 400 ml with water
150ml dry sherry or white vermouth
2 sprigs fresh mint
Small handful of fresh parsley
Salt and pepper
Crusty brown bread
Thirty-five minutes before you want to eat, heat a generous splash of oil in a heavy based frying pan over a medium heat. Using scissors, snip the pancetta into the hot oil, cook for a few minutes until crisp, then lift it out. While the pancetta is cooking, peel and finely chop the onion.
Put the onion into the frying pan, lower the heat and let it soften for seven minutes. Meanwhile, scrub or scrape the potatoes and slice to the thickness of a pound coin. Once the onion is soft, squeeze the roast garlic from its skin and add to the softened onion. Stir for a couple of minutes, adding a little more oil if necessary. Turn the heat up, splash in the sherry vinegar and let it boil away to nothing.
Add the potatoes and carrots and stir for a couple of minutes so they start to brown. Add the stock and bring to a simmer, then season and simmer for 15 minutes.
Shell the peas and beans if necessary. After 15 minutes, add the sherry or vermouth, and the peas and beans. Cook for a further five to seven minutes. In the meantime, strip the mint leaves from their stalks and roughly chop the leaves along with the parsley. Add the herbs and return the pancetta to the pan. Stir and serve immediately with lots of bread to mop up the juices.
· For more recipes go to: thekitchenrevolution.co.uk
· The Kitchen Revolution by Rosie Sykes, Polly Russell and Zoe Heron is published by Ebury Press tomorrow, priced £25. To order a copy for £23 with free UK p&p go to guardian.co.uk/bookshop or call 0870 836 0875.