Many years ago there was a special culinary name given to the use of leftover foods – such cooking was called ‘Rechauffe’ – meaning simply reheated foods. In today’s economic climate using leftovers is an excellent way to save money and avoid waste; however at the same time those leftovers need to taste and look as good, if not better, and certainly be as safe, as the original food itself.
Meatloaf is one dish that really does lend itself to a useful food that can be used again the next day in different and interesting ways. Making a large meatloaf for a smaller family can result in leftovers that are too good to be thrown away, but eating the same dish day after day does become boring so the leftover meatloaf can be adapted to new dishes very easily. The good old family favourite is a tasty meal in itself, but no matter how much your family loves your best meatloaf recipe they don’t want to be eating it over and over again in the same format. So take advantage of the versatility of that leftover slab of meatloaf and reform it into something interesting, tasty and different.
It is important though to remember that food safety is especially important when using leftover meatloaf – or any leftover food; the meatloaf should never be left out where the temperatures encourage the growth of bacteria.In fact the sooner the leftovers are stored safely and correctly the better. The meatloaf should be kept both safe and tasting good by refrigerating or freezing it as soon as it is cool enough, official food safety advice is that any leftovers should be either refrigerated or frozen within two hours of when the food was originally served. As with any meat product, refrigerated meatloaf should be used within three or four days; and frozen meatloaf should be used within four months.
So just how can those leftovers in the refrigerator be turned into something appetizing?
Naturally cold meatloaf can be sliced and used as a sandwich ingredient, but another way of utilizing it in a little more appetizing way is to transform the leftover meatloaf into more interesting doner kebabs rather than simply leftover meatloaf between two slices of bread.
Simply cut the leftover meatloaf into as thinly sliced pieces as possible – a job that is so much easier the next day after the meatloaf has set in the refrigerator; place the sliced meat on a plate, cover and microwave until thoroughly heated through. Meanwhile grill a pitta bread, split and fill with shredded lettuce, sliced tomatoes, onions and cucumber, top with the hot meat and then add a good amount of hot chilli sauce – the resulting kebab tastes nothing like leftovers but more like a delicious fast food treat.
Alternatively cut the leftover meatloaf into thicker slices, fry or grill until thoroughly heated through, and place on a bread roll topped with cheese and tomato ketchup or mustard for a quick and tasty alternative to a cheese burger.
As a meatloaf has had most of the fat cooked out of it during the original cooking, the leftover meatloaf, when crumbled, makes a fantastic, lower fat alternative to minced beef in such dishes as cottage pie, a bolognaise sauce, chilli, Sloppy Joe mixture etc. Be inventive, a small piece of leftover meatloaf that may not seem worth saving can be added with a little grated cheese or creamy ricotta to make enough filling for a delicious ravioli dish that would feed a family of four, or mixed with refried beans, seasoning and grated cheese to make quick and tasty burritos.
Likewise a piece of leftover meatloaf can be diced, forming square ‘meatballs’ and, with the addition of a few vegetables to bulk out the meal and a jar of pasta sauce, can be transformed into a great and inexpensive meatball dish to serve over spaghetti topped with grated cheese.
Whip up an interesting, inexpensive and nutritious pizza in minutes by using a pre-baked pizza base, spread it with tomato puree or passata then add diced leftover meat loaf, sliced onions, olives, mushrooms, jalapeños etc and top with slices of low fat mozzarella – bake for a few minutes in the oven until the filling is piping hot and the cheese melted and enjoy a really good pizza – there is no need to tell the family that they are eating the remains of last night’s dinner – they will never know the difference!
By using a little imagination meals using leftover meatloaf will quickly become more popular with the family than the original meatloaf itself.