What to do with leftover cheese

What to do with leftover cheese

It doesn’t happen very often in the Queen Brie house, but sometimes I’ll end up with a few cheeses that have gone past their best. It’s usually when I’ve gone a little overboard for special occasions, like birthdays or at Christmas. 

This week (7-13 March 2022) is Food Waste Action Week, so I wanted to suggest a few different ways to use up leftover cheese and other ingredients too. 

Around eight meals are thrown away by the average UK household each week.  That’s 6.5 million tonnes of wasted food a year and a staggering 4.5 million of it is still good to eat. This also has a knock-on effect on our wallets. The average family of four could save themselves more than £60 a month if they used up all food they purchased. Wasting food also has an impact on the climate, creating almost 25 tonnes of CO2 annually. 

Food Waste Action Week was set up last year by Love Food Hate Waste to get people to reduce the amount of food they waste.  The website also has many tips and tricks to save food as well as a great recipe finder. Type in the ingredient you need to use up and it will suggest a variety of different dishes to try. 

“Reducing food waste is good for the planet, as it helps slow down global warming. If global food waste were a country, it would be third largest emitter of greenhouse gases after China and the US. By using up every edible bit of your food, you’re doing your bit to look after the environment…”

 Sarah Clayton
Love Food Hate Waste

Ways to reduce your cheese waste

When buying cheese, it’s better to go for bigger pieces (about 250g) as smaller ones tend to dry out quicker. If I’m selecting cheese for a drinks pairing session, I’ll make sure I buy enough for me and my guests to enjoy in one go. However, if I do have any leftover cheese, I’ll have it for lunch the next day or I’ll think up a couple of standby recipes. 

You can also use up cheese rinds to add an extra depth of flavour to risottos, stews and pasta dishes. I like to add the end of hard Italian cheese (like Parmesan, Pecorino, or Grana Padano) into dishes to give them an extra kick.

Recipe ideas

If you have a few different cheeses that need using up, a simple dish like a cheese toastie or an omelette is a good option. These are also good dishes for using up other ingredients before they go out of date, like bread, meat and vegetables. 

Another classic recipe is macaroni and cheese as a combination of different types of cheese work well in this comforting pasta dish. It’s also great to portion up and freeze so it’s ready for when you want a quick and simple supper.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/Gas mark 6. 

Cook your macaroni in a large saucepan of boiling salted water for about 8-10 minutes. While it’s cooking, heat another saucepan over a medium heat. Make a roux by combining 30g butter and 30g plain flour. Cook for a few minutes so you cook out the floury taste, stirring regularly. Gradually add 500ml of warm milk to the pan and stir until everything is combined and the sauce has thickened. 

Remove the pan from the heat and add the rest of your ingredients. I like a teaspoon of mustard or I’ll sometimes add a few dashes of hot sauce to give it a bit of an extra kick. Worcestershire sauce also works well. It’s also a great dish for using up vegetables – greens, mushrooms, peppers, sweetcorn, tomatoes – the list is endless. Meat is another great addition. My favourite is sliced chorizo but you could even incorporate some mince into the mix, browned first in a pan with some olive oil. 

Add in your chosen leftover cheeses, you want about 300g. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Combine the cheese sauce with the cooked macaroni and place into an overproof dish. I like to cover with breadcrumbs (a great way to use up slightly stale bread) and some more grated cheese. 

Bake in the oven for about 20-25 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and bubbling.  

Another simple but delicious recipe is this layered potato and onion dish which is a bit like the French Tartiflette.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/Gas mark 6. Thinly slice an onion and add to the bottom of a baking dish in an even layer. Sprinkle 1/2 tsp salt over the top.

Then add two or three large thinly sliced potatoes, layering these evenly on top of the onions. Drizzle with 1 tbsp olive oil, more salt and black pepper. Then dot 30g butter over the top. Bake in the oven for 40 minutes – 1 hour, or until the potatoes are soft and crisp on top. Remove from the oven and lay your sliced cheese of choice on top of the potatoes – a bloomy rind cheese, like Brie or Camembert, would work well here.

Place back in the oven for the last 10 minutes, so the cheese melts. Remove from the oven and top with chopped gherkins. Serve on its own, with a crisp side salad or pan-roasted sausages.

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