Food Opinion

How to adapt rich recipes for reuse and reinvention

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Adapting elements within recipes is a smart way to reuse them (Image supplied)

Planning and adapting meals after using the same ingredients is an excellent way to ensure variety and lessen waste. And it flows that less food ends up in the bin, writes Megan Jane de Paulo.

IN PERIODS when we are both time and money poor, it’s often suggested we cook a dish in a batch and eat it over several days.

I feel, though, that this is a nutritionally and joyfully deficient way to live, and a survey of my friends has revealed that much of the batch is condemned to long-term compost in the freezer or left to lurk in the fridge while takeaway is delivered. And if not properly stored or consumed in time, perhaps a nice little bout of food poisoning?

If you can handle it... great. And please don’t consider this a condemnation of your lifestyle — it’s just that many of us can’t do it.

I prefer to plan a meal and adapt meals after using the same ingredients for variety and to lessen waste. Does it cost more in ingredients and time? Slightly, but it’s much less likely to end up in the bin.

Take these two example dishes:

  1. Duck Breast | Carrot Top | Basil | Pistachio Pesto | Dauphinoise Potatoes | Dutch Carrots | Green Beans | Zucchini Purée
  2. Crispy Skin Barramundi | Green Beans | Potato | Thai Green Curry | Zucchini Purée | Coriander

While they look very different, essentially, the only difference is in the main protein and a couple of flavour elements. For the second meal, only the Barramundi needed to be cooked fresh; the rest was reheated.

With the exception of the proteins, the ingredients involved a bag of green beans, four large potatoes, two large zucchini, a small bunch of Dutch carrots, cream, butter, curry paste, herbs and pistachio nuts.

The vegetables came from a fortnightly delivery of a veggie and fruit box from Farmer’s Pick — a company which saves imperfect produce from landfill and then delivers it to you. (Currently, this company only operates in NSW and Victoria, but you can check locally for similar services.)

The herbs came from my sad attempt at a herb garden. The rest — all pantry staples.

While duck and Barramundi sound exotic, they are proteins which are often to be found on sale. Barramundi can be found whole at a fishmonger's for a very reasonable cost if you fillet it yourself. Similarly, you can often find a whole frozen duck at a supermarket for around $14.

For recipes that lend themselves to batch cooking, such as a bolognese sauce or curry, consider these can also be made into pies, bakes or fillings for tacos or rolls with different spices added.

Duck breast, carrot top, basil, pistachio pesto, Dauphinoise potatoes, Dutch carrots, green beans, zucchini purée (Image supplied)


Two of the elements in the pictured dishes are very adaptable to reuse and reinvention: the Dauphinoise potatoes and zucchini purée.

Dauphinoise potatoes

If you plan to reuse these, omit the cheese until the end of the portion you wish to serve. These can also be mashed and rebaked for smashed potatoes or a rough mash to top a shepherd’s pie.

  • 4 large potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 150ml heavy cream
  • 200ml whole milk
  • 80g grated Parmesan cheese
  • onion powder (optional)
  • salt
  • pepper

Parboil the potato slices in salted water and drain.

Mix together cream and milk.

Place a layer of potato slices in an oven-proof dish; season and coat with cream/milk mix.

Repeat until all potatoes are used up.

Bake at 180ºC until the top is golden and the potatoes are soft.

Zucchini purée

This is a good base recipe — you can use it as a purée or add stock to make a soup. Add chilli powder to increase the heat or curry paste to alter the flavour profile.

  • 1 zucchini, roughly diced
  • 40-50g unsalted butter (depends on the size of the zucchini)
  • salt
  • pepper
  • water

In a saucepan over low-medium heat, add chopped zucchini and enough water to cover the bottom of the pan.

After a couple of minutes, add in butter.

Stir occasionally so the zucchini doesn’t stick to the pan.

You want to cook the zucchini until it is mushy and quite a lot of the liquid has evaporated.

Blitz with a stick blender, or in a blender, until smooth.

Add salt and pepper to taste.


I don’t usually pass this through a sieve — I like the texture as is. For a smoother purée, you can do this.

Adding lime or lemon juice will add some zing to this purée.

It balances well with more acidic elements in a dish, such as pickled vegetables.

Megan Jane de Paulo is a Melbourne-based, inner-city latte sipper and social media provocateur. You can follow Megan on Twitter @gomichild.

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