Follow-on Dishes

Follow-on dishes are rooted in the frugal habits of peasant cookery and frequently use less meat than the original dish. They should be part of the natural rhythm of cooking.


In the past, I might have entitled this blog Leftovers, but Follow-on Dishes seems to be the modern term, and there are some subtle differences.  Follow-on dishes are usually planned, whereas leftovers conjures up a picture of opening the fridge and wondering what to do with the bits and pieces you find there.  There is, of course, a place for both, but it is noticeable that more writers are including deliberately planned follow-on dishes as a way of saving time, and its certainly a sensible way of managing your kitchen, part of the natural rhythm of cooking that I have talked about previously.

In French Provincial Cooking, Elizabeth David wrote about Les Restes (leftovers) and noted the different ways in which leftovers might legitimately arise. Concerning their use she opined:

“They should be cheap, quick and easy to cook, and the result should be as attractive as if all the ingredients had been chosen especially for that dish.”

These conditions, she believed, precluded the buying of a lot of extra ingredients, the opening of jars of this and that, which in their turn would then become leftovers.  This, she said, was not only a false economy, but also led to “messy concoctions, full of ingredients without point or purpose”.

A master of the art of follow-on dishes was George Perry-Smith, proprietor of The Hole in the Wall in Bath from 1951 to 1972. He was an early pioneer in British restaurants, and self-trained which led to him running the restaurant much like a home kitchen.  The Hole in the Wall was famous for its Cold Table, which greeted guests upon entering with a fantastic array of dishes: pâtés and terrines, jambon persillé, chicken croquettes, vegetables à la Greque, salmon tart; to name just a few.  Many of the dishes on the menu for the main courses were in fact chosen precisely because the leftovers were so useful for turning into a follow-on dish for the Cold Table.  In the same way, some of the UK’s best loved dishes, such as Shepherd’s Pie, originally made with leftover cooked meat from the Sunday roast, came to be made with fresh minced meat when leftovers weren’t available.  If you have only ever eaten the minced meat version, I think you will be pleasantly surprised at how much better it tastes when made with cooked meat.

Of Elizabeth David’s conditions for using leftovers, I don’t think George Perry-Smith would have agreed that they should be quick and easy to cook.  His Cold Table came from an era when staff time was relatively cheap, they worked long hours and took tremendous care over transforming leftovers. However, they certainly met the condition that “the results were as attractive as if all the ingredients had been chosen especially for that dish”.  Two of my favourite George Perry-Smith recipes are Provenҫal Fish Soup and Pheasant Rissoles; neither are quick nor particularly easy to make but both are completely worth the effort and, more importantly, worth making the primary dish just to ensure you have the required leftovers!

You might wonder about the relevance of restaurant dishes to the home cook and certainly both roles have changed over the 75 years since The Hole in the Wall opened.  At that time restaurants were mostly based in hotels.  Apart from the necessity when away from home, eating out was for special occasions, so in the provinces it was hard for restaurants to achieve sufficient through-put to make them viable.  Chefs were usually trained in classical French cuisine.  George was unusual in both these regards. In the home, few women went out to work, at least after having children, unlike today where both parents are usually working full-time and so the emphasis on “quick and easy” becomes more important.  I suspect that the addition of something from a jar might now feature more often when transforming leftovers.

I used to run a cookery course called Family Suppers, which had been requested by people who found they lacked inspiration when faced with the usual suspects of chops, chicken joints and sausages at the butchers.  Single portion joints are exactly how food is now cooked in restaurants, so that each dish may be carefully costed.   In addition to destroying the compulsion to use an animal nose-to-tail, this approach also limits the style of cooking, placing a heavy emphasis on the meat, and means you are back at square one again for the next meal.  Follow-on dishes are designed to avoid this pattern of eating and are rooted in the frugal habits of peasant cookery, they frequently use less meat than the original dish.  Despite our relative increase in wealth over time and the lower proportion of income spent on food, the desire to avoid waste is again increasing with more consciousness of the environmental cost of food production.

Another change over time is in the equipment available.  Freezing is one of the options for leftovers, so it is not essential that they be incorporated into the next meal.  My freezer provides homemade stock from various meat bones, an essential base for soups, risottos, casseroles and so on.  Breadcrumbs are also readily to hand for coatings and toppings. 

The latest piece of kitchen equipment is an air fryer, which can apparently be found in half of homes today. Until recently, I might have hesitated to give recipes that required deep-frying as few households cook this way now but air friers reopen this possibility enabling “rissoles” in all their forms, including variations like Italian arancini, to form my left-over go-to recipe for this blog.


French Rissoles are somewhat different from British Rissoles.  The word comes from “rissoler” meaning “To Redden” in French, and both versions retain this element in that they are usually reddened, i.e. browned, by frying.  The French version is usually deep-fried- whilst the British is more often shallow-fried, but now of course we have the air-fry option.

Croquettes are another term for a specific type of French Rissole, where finely chopped meat or fish is mixed with a thick Béchamel Sauce before being coated in breadcrumbs and fried. The centre will remain soft and creamy when cooked.  French Rissoles are more usually minced meat encased in pastry, like a miniature pasty, before being deep-fried, although the pastry casing means that baking in the oven is another option.  George Perry-Smith made a wonderful version of these using pheasant, which were served with an accompanying “shot” of consommé and a glass of Madeira. Arancini are deep-fried balls of leftover risotto, usually containing a melting centre of mozzarella.

An English rissole is more of a patty – the minced meat is mixed with onion and can be made to go further by the inclusion of breadcrumbs.  The addition of herbs or spices, plus a relevant accompaniment, transports them to entirely different cuisines.  The recipe I have given uses lamb, oregano and cinnamon and is served with Tzatziki, making them more Greek than British.

Rissoles are a perfect solution when you haven’t enough meat left over to make a Shepherd’s Pie.  Do make sure you chill them for at least half an hour between shaping and cooking- it helps keep the mixture together.

8 oz cooked lamb

1 small onion

1½ oz fresh breadcrumbs

¼ tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp of dried oregano

1 level tbsp chopped fresh parsley

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 small egg, beaten

salt and pepper

Either mince both the onion and the meat through the finest blade of a mincer or chop them finely in a food processor.   Then add the rest of the ingredients and combine thoroughly.

Divide the mixture into six portions and shape each into a round cake shape with your hands.  Coat each rissole with seasoned flour, cover and chill for at least half an hour.

Shallow fry for 5 minutes a side.

Variations: you can make rissoles with any meat you choose.  For spicy rissoles add half a red or green pepper and use chilli powder in place of the cinnamon – serve with chilli sauce.  For a Middle Eastern flavour try adding ½ a teaspoon each of ground cumin and coriander.


The following sauce will bind 1lb of minced meat or any solid ingredients you wish to use.  I think ham and cheese are particularly good.  Form into croquettes, which are then deep fried, or use as a filling for pancakes.

2 level tbsps butter

4 level tbsps flour

7 fl oz warmed milk

1 level tsp finely chopped onion

1 level tsp finely chopped parsley

salt and pepper

Melt the butter and gently cook the chopped onion in it.  Add the flour and stir to make a roux adding the warmed milk as you stir continuously until the sauce is thick.  Now add the chopped parsley, pepper and salt (if you are adding salty ingredients, such as ham, go lightly on salt at this stage).

Combine the sauce with the minced meat and pour onto a greased baking tray.   Chill for at least half an hour or until required.  Shape the mixture into sausages or balls and then dip into an egg beaten with 2-3 tablespoons of water then roll in breadcrumbs that have been lightly dried in the oven.  A second coating is advisable to prevent the filling from oozing out during the cooking.

Deep fry the croquettes until evenly brown all over.

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