Sunday Black Box Challenge: Using up the week’s leftovers

I’d love to say I’m one of those Instagrammable ladies who strolls through farmer’s markets every couple of days buying only what I need, carrying it home in a woven bag with brown leather straps and using every last scrap to prepare a slew of virtuous and nutritious meals. Alas I’m not attractive enough to make money off being Instagrammable and so I don’t have anywhere near the time for this. Sundays, by virtue of having access to a car, are my shopping days. A once a week shop means loading up on a whole bunch of fruit and veg with grand plans (or vague ideas). Thus, by the following Sunday I typically have a ton of wrinkled and wilting produce lying about the fridge. It makes me sick to just toss this stuff in the bin, so I’ve turned my Sundays into a sort of “disappointing black box” challenge. The results are anything but disappointing though, and often inform what we eat for the remainder of the week.

This week’s black box contained:

  • 3/4 bunch wilted continental parsley
  • A few basil leaves
  • A container of leftover steamed broccoli
  • A cup of cubed and roasted butternut squash
  • 2 wrinkled peaches (about 2 weeks old)
  • 1 wrinkled fig
  • 1/2 a red onion
  • Some near sprouting garlic
  • 1 nectarine
  • A sad old apple
  • 1/2 a head of wilted celery
  • A forgotten leek
  • A bunch of kale that wouldn’t last much longer
  • A few still good carrots
  • A leftover peeled piece of ginger from the tea I made my sick husband this morning
  • The dregs of a bag of spinach leaves
  • A lemon that had seen better days

A rather larger collection than usual, but no fear!

Out of this box I made:

Chicken soup with Kale, Carrots and Brown Rice
My favourite chicken soup recipe of all time is adapted from Gwyneth Paltrow’s It’s All Good which really is all good, in spite of the GOOPiness. It’s the best because you start with a whole chicken which leaves you with an incredibly rich stock plus a whole poached bird. Some of the meat can go in the soup, some can be reserved for sandwiches (poached chicken is mayo’s best friend), and the bones can be used to make yet more stock and so on and so on.


  • 1 whole chicken (what do you know, Gwyneth prefers organic)
  • 3 stalks celery, leaves and all – use leaves and one stalk to make stock, and dice remaining stalks.
  • 3 carrots, one roughly chopped for the stock, 2 diced for soup
  • 1 leek – greens for stock, sliced white for soup
  • 2 sprigs thyme (Currently thyme is the only plant flourishing in my garden, smug smug me)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 bunch of kale stripped off stems and chopped into ribbons
  • Handful of brown rice (or quinoa, or noodles, or nothing)
  1. Put the chicken in the bottom of a soup pot. Add One stalk celery and leaves, one carrot, leek greens and thyme.
  2. Cover with cold water (about 10 cups)
  3. Bring to a boil then reduce to simmer and cook about 2 hours.
  4. Remove chicken from pot and put on plate to cool.
  5. Strain stock, discard vegetables and wipe out pot.
  6. Return stock to pot and add carrots, celery, sliced leeks, kale and rice.
  7. While the soup gets to cooking, shred some of the chicken and add to the soup. Reserve the rest for later.
  8. Cook until rice and veg are tender.
  9. Season with salt and pepper and serve on its own or with toasted sourdough bread.

Stock Pack for Later
Ok I’ll admit, even my leftover soup didn’t use up everything. So I took the bones from the chicken, the rest of the celery (seriously, there is always too much celery), carrot trimmings and leek trimmings, whacked them into a container and froze as a stock pack. When I need a fresh stock, I just add it to a pot of cold water with whatever herbs I have floating around the fridge, bring to a boil and simmer for an hour or so, strain and voila!

img_0689Parsley Walnut Pesto
It’s not all that inventive, but I’m a pesto fan and what better use for almost off herbs and spinach. I put my few basil leaves, 4 peeled and deveined cloves of garlic, bunch of parsley (stalks and all), the rest of the spinach, some pan toasted walnuts, a pinch of salt and a decent slug of olive oil into the food processor and processed until smooth. I tend to make something of this ilk every week as there is always leftover green matter to use up.

img_0690Broccoli and Squash Biscuits
These are basically from Sarah Wilson’s book Simplicious which is like a bible for using up leftovers and preventing food waste. I tweaked the recipe to suit my own leftovers and the result was amazing. Also I only ended up with 10 biscuits, whereas Sarah says it makes twenty, so as per usual I am a glutton. You can freeze some of these for later.


  • 2 cups steamed broccoli chopped
  • 1 cup roasted butternut squash cubes
  • 1 cup grated cheddar
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tbsp pesto (see above)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • pinch salt
  1. Preheat the oven to 190 C / 375 F.
  2. Grease two baking trays or line with paper or silicon mats.
  3. Mix up all the ingredients in a big bowl.
  4. Roll mixture into balls and place on the trays.
  5. Bake for about 25 minutes until golden.
  6. Cool and store in an airtight container in the fridge, or freeze for later.

Stone Fruit Chutney
A chutney can be brilliant on a sandwich (maybe we can have chicken chutney sandwiches this week?) or alongside a roasted meat or a curry. This one was improvised with what came out of the fridge, but any mix of stone fruit would do nicely.


  • 2 peaches, peeled and diced
  • 1 nectarine, peeled and diced
  • 1 apple, peeled and diced
  • 1 fig for good measure, chopped
  • Minced ginger, about 2 tbsp
  • Minced garlic, four cloves
  • Minced red chili (another smug pick from the garden)
  • Minced red onion, 1/2
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 cup water

Combine all ingredients in a heavy pot. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the fruit has started to disintegrate and the whole thing has thickened nicely, about 40 minutes.

Bon Appetit and Happy Week!


2 Comments Add yours

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s