© Patricia Niven
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“The most remarkable thing about my mother is that for 30 years she served the family nothing but leftovers,” the American writer Calvin Trillin once said. “The original meal has never been found.” 

We love this quote — and we envy him slightly. You can see how it works: when charring peppers in the oven on Saturday, save the roasting liquid and add it to a tray of potatoes come Sunday lunch to make the most delicious roasties. Any potatoes you have left will be even tastier on Monday, in a salad with some poached fish and homemade mayonnaise. Save the poaching liquid and sauce for Tuesday’s fish soup, and so on, ad infinitum, like a delicious daisy chain.

Leftover meals are not only the tastiest, they are also a testament to true kitchen smarts, making the most of your ingredients and the time spent cooking. It’s the little tricks you learn over the years that make your cooking and kitchen unique. 

This recipe started with leftovers — some bread that was ageing without grace on the counter, a bit of leftover pilpelchuma spice paste from the weekend, mixed with some chicken and cauliflower for a glorious roast dinner. The roasting with the spice brings out an incredible sweetness from the cauliflower; the shallots echo that sweet note, while slices of lemon bring a sour counter. The chicken oozes savoury goodness, which is readily soaked up by the slightly stale bread. 

Make this recipe with an eye on tomorrow’s meals: you can double up on the entire thing, as it’ll be even better the next day served as a salad with a simple dressing of lemon and sea salt to revive it. Any leftover pilpelchuma marinade will keep in the fridge and can in turn be a base for another meal altogether: start your daisy chain here. 


Spatchcock chicken in pilpelchuma spice 

Makes dinner for two, with leftovers for the next day’s lunch

For the chicken

medium-sized chicken, spatchcocked
lemon, thickly sliced 
  1. You can either ask your butcher to spatchcock the chicken or prep it yourself. It’s easier than it sounds: use a strong pair of scissors to cut down the backbone on either side from top to bottom. Using a sharp knife, remove the wishbone and the rib cage and press to flatten.

For the pilpelchuma

This North African marinade is somewhere between a spice mix and a paste. You can add it to stews and tomato sauces, or rub it on meat before roasting to give it an extra kick. Store the paste in a jar in the fridge for up to two weeks and use it whenever you want to add some spice to your dinner.

cloves garlic, peeled and crushed 
1 tsp salt 
2 tsp smoky paprika
2 tsp sweet paprika
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground pimento
½ tsp chilli flakes
Pinch of cayenne pepper
4 tbs olive oil
© Patricia Niven

For the roasting tray 

small head of cauliflower (400g ) broken into florets
green chillies, cut into 2cm slices 
shallots, peeled and cut into 2cm rounds
tbs olive oil 
tsp sea salt
thick slices of slightly stale sourdough, diced into large cubes 
Parsley, leaves picked from a bunch 
  1. To marinate the chicken, mix all the spice ingredients together, apart from the olive oil, then slowly stir in the oil to create a paste. Rub the entire amount of spice all over the chicken on both sides. You can leave it to marinate for a couple of hours but it will work well even if you roast it straight away.
  2. Heat your oven to 220C with fan assist. Place the lemon slices flat on a large roasting tray and top with the chicken, skin side up. Place in the centre of the oven and roast for 15 minutes. 
  3. Carefully remove the tray from the oven and add the cauliflower, chillies and shallot slices. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Reduce the oven to 200C and return the tray for another 10 minutes. Remove again, mix around to coat all the vegetables with the chicken juices, and add the bread cubes to the mix. Reduce the oven again, this time to 180C, and return the tray for a final 15 minutes. 
  4. Once it’s ready, sprinkle with the parsley leaves and either serve straight away or, for a great chicken salad, pull the meat off the bone in big chunks and mix everything together. Even better, eat some now, then shred the remainder for lunch tomorrow.

Photographs: Patricia Niven

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