9 ways to use up Christmas leftovers

Baked turkey or chicken. The Christmas table is served with a turkey, decorated with bright tinsel a

Don't waste your Christmas leftovers this year - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

It’s not just us that’ll be groaning on Christmas Day afternoon – our tummies fit to burst, having consumed what’s reported to be an average of 6,000 calories. YIkes. 

But our fridges are likely to be brimming too. There’ll be the turkey, draped in a tea towel, squashed (somehow) under a shelf. A tray of leftover roasties and veg, looking rather wrinkled and sad. The dregs of the custard. A lump or two of Christmas pudding. 

That. My friends. Is the beginning of a feast. However not everyone can be bothered to transform their leftover goodies into new, often more delectable, dishes. Apparently in the UK we chuck out some 300,000 tonnes of food waste each Christmas. Three hundred thousand. That is incredible. And it’s also incredibly sad – especially when you stop to consider the amount of families who can’t afford to put food on the table, let alone indulge in a bit of festive feasting. 

This year in a bid to save money, and in the spirit of being less wasteful, I want to encourage you to give a bit of love to your yuletide leftovers. Show them some respect.  

And that begins right after Christmas lunch itself – and by stowing away all the remains of the day properly. 

1. Once the turkey is cool, remove any remaining meat from the bones. Cut the breast away in large chunks (don’t slice, it will dry out) and rip meat from the legs and underneath. Place in a lidded container for up to three days in the fridge. 

2. Christmas pudding can be wrapped and popped in the fridge or freezer. 

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3. Wrap cheeses well in waxed paper to prevent mould growing on the outside, and to stop it drying out. 

4. Vegetables, stuffing and potatoes can be stored together, in the fridge, in a sealed container for a few days. 

And there you have the wherewithal for several meals and snacks. Try some of my suggestions. 

Turkey croquetas 

I love a good Spanish-style croqueta - all crispy on the outside, bursting into molten goodness when you sink your teeth. Be careful though, these are very hot! 

They’re a great Boxing Day snack to share around the kitchen – and go perfectly with a dab of cranberry sauce. You could also make them with leftover shredded gammon. 

To make them simply saute a finely diced onion in a little oil in a saucepan until soft, but not coloured. Add 60g unsalted butter. Melt. Add 2tbps (heaped) of plain flour and stir constantly until it smells biscuitty. Turn down the heat, and gradually beat in 250ml milk and 250ml chicken stock. Whisk constantly until thick – almost like mashed potato. Add a pinch of nutmeg and taste for seasoning.  

plate full of home-made croquettes of ham, typical Spanish dish

Make croquetas with your leftover turkey - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Stir in 150g finely shredded cooked turkey. Spread the mix over a plate. Cover. Pop in the fridge to cool and set.  

Prepare 250g fine white breadcrumbs on a plate, and beat two eggs in a dish. Take tablespoons of the chilled turkey mix and roll into small sausage shapes. Dip in the egg, then breadcrumbs and place on a plate back in the fridge. Take out of the fridge 30 minutes before cooking. Heat a deep pan of oil to 170C and fry a few at a time, turning until lovely and golden. Drain on kitchen paper and eat straight away. 

Devilled turkey 

A blast from the past – but one well worth trying, rendering the meat sticky, spicy and moreish. I recommend making this with the thigh meat and serving in a sandwich with a few slices of cheese – melted preferably! It makes enough for two people. 

Shred about two handfuls of cooked turkey meat in a bowl. Add 2tsps tomato puree, 2tsps white wine vinegar, a large pinch of cayenne, a splash of Worcestershire sauce, 1tsp of mustard powder and 1tsp runny honey. 

Stir together and cook under the grill until piping hot. 

We also make a kind of Indian spiced version of this. Thinly slice and fry an onion until golden. Add 1tbsp curry powder and a dash of soy sauce. Stir this into the cooked turkey and pop under the grill. Magnificent with garlicky mayo in crusty bread. 

Vegetable kuku 

If the idea of bubble and squeak sends schooldays shivers down your spine, try this Persian take on a frittata instead.

Heat the oven to 180C and generously oil a 23cm stove top casserole or frying pan that can go in the oven. Finely chop and fry an onion until golden. In a bowl mix six large eggs, 1tbsp plain flour, 1tsp ground cumin, 1/2tsp ground cinnamon, a handful of chopped nuts (optional), and maybe a handful of dried cranberries. Add 150g to 200g chopped leftover veg and potatoes, and 50g finely chopped fresh herbs (parsley, dill and coriander all work well) and stir together. Season. 

Pour into the prepared pan and set the oven to 180C. Fry the mix without stirring for a couple of minutes. Place the dish in the oven and cook for a further 20-25 minutes until set. If you’re brave, turn it out onto a plate (allow it to cool slightly first), or cut it directly from the dish.  

Leftovers French dip 

There's a kind of French dip sandwich that's basically hollowed out bread filled with stew – served up with fries to dunk. Yum. And you can make a pretty darn good version with Christmas leftovers. All you need is some crusty rolls – ideally a day old. Cut the top off each roll and hollow them out, saving the bread inside to make breadcrumbs (or eat it like I do). Pop them under the grill to toast lightly. 

Now, mix together shredded turkey, leftover chopped pigs in blankets, leftover stuffing and maybe leftover veg with gravy. Pour into the centre of the rolls and serve with reheated leftover roasties. That’s Boxing Day lunch sorted! 

Boxing Day breakfast muffins 

For some, this is a step too far. But we love these in our house and I’m not ashamed to admit we have them with gravy. Yes. For breakfast. Don’t judge us! 

So, heat your oven to 200C and line a muffin or cupcake tin with cases – it makes 8-10. In a jug beat two large eggs, 90ml vegetable oil or melted butter, and 100ml of milk. In a bowl weigh out 225g self-raising flour and add a couple of tablespoons of chopped cooked stuffing and a handful of chopped, cooked, pigs in blankets. Season with salt and pepper. Add 100g grated cheese. Mix and then spoon evenly into your cases. Bake for 25 minutes. 

Cosmopolitan cocktail prepared at the bar.

Make a cranberry Cosmo cocktail - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Cranberry Cosmo 

Shake up a Christmassy cocktail using, you’ve guessed it, good old cranberry sauce. But make sure it’s the sort that’s just sugar and cranberry. You really don’t want onions in your drink. 

To make it combine 45ml vodka, 15ml triple sec or Cointreau, 1tbsp cranberry sauce and 10ml lime juice in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake for 30 seconds and strain into a martini glass. The recipe serves one. 

Fried Christmas pudding 

Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. Chill down your pudding, slice, fry in butter...and serve with cheese. 

Baileys panettone bread and butter pudding 

Are you guilty of buying an enormous panettone at Christmas (lured obviously by the pretty box it’s sold in) only to find after a slice each, you’re left with a bready behemoth? 

Don’t worry, this pud is a cracking way to use it all up. 

Butter a 1litre pie dish. Thinly slice eight to 10 pieces of panettone and lightly butter each, cutting every slice into quarters. Place, butter side up, in the dish, overlapping each piece. Sprinkle with a little dusting of sugar. 

In a pan warm 250ml milk, 100ml Baileys and 50ml double cream – don't let it boil. Whisk two large eggs with 1tbsp caster sugar in a bowl. Add the liquid mix and stir well to combine. Strain, and pour over the panettone. Leave to soak for 30 minutes – heating the oven to 180C. Add 100g chopped chocolate after 30 minutes is up if you like. Then pop in the oven. 

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until set, with a golden brown top.  


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