Christmas Leftovers


Just four days to go until the big Christmas Dinner. Stop – allow yourself to slow down for a few minutes….Ask yourself, on a scale of 1 – 10 how vital is it to dash to the shops once again to buy those last few things?

I am challenging myself to ‘do’ presents rather than buy presents. It can be so fun, economically and frankly much more meaningful. Think of ‘a gift of a time’ – a pressie of a couple of babysitting sessions, an afternoon sowing seeds and gardening after Christmas, a-mid January pressie of a lamb or chicken casserole, a couple of litres of chunky winter warming soups.

Well, despite all my good advice to you on how to achieve as hassle free Christmas, I’ve still got several items on my own ‘to do’ lists that I haven’t had the satisfaction of crossing out as yet. Wrapping last minute presents often catches me out but this year many of the family and our lovely team here at Ballymaloe Cookery School are going to get a copy of my latest book One Pot Feeds All, which I hope will make their busy lives a little easier. I’ve already signed and wrapped them in brightly coloured tissue but still lots more to be done but I’m getting lots of help from my older grandchildren.

Then only five sleeps away from St Stephen’s or Boxing Day, when we can all relax and breathe a sigh of relief till next year but for me there’s still much fun to be had dreaming up delicious away to use some odds and ends and bits and bobs lurking in my fridge and pantry.

Even when you are super organised, Christmas dinner is still quite a mission, but whipping up some recycled leftovers is a more chilled affair entirely. I love the improvisation and creative challenge of incorporating dollops of this and that into something entirely different. Think Asian, Moroccan, Middle Eastern and Mexican as well as traditional favourites.

So let’s think what you might have left over apart from the usual morsels of turkey, ham or goose, maybe plum pudding, stale bread, cranberries, sprouts….

Cranberries, you don’t have to fuss about, pop them into the freezer, they’ll keep for months but better still, remember them and throw a fistful into scones, a muffin  mix or soda bread. Cranberry sauce keeps for weeks, maybe longer and will add oomph to a roast chicken or an apple tart.

Brussel sprout soup is absolutely delicious, quite the revelation actually.

Strip away every last morsel of turkey off the carcas, including the skin, there are so many delicious ways to enjoy any of those precious bits left over after the family have descended on the remains to make turkey and stuffing sandwiches. Make sure to make a batch or two of mayo for over Christmas, I love to add some chopped watercress to slather over those turkey sandwiches.

I’ve included two recipes, Mexican Chilaquiles and Laksa.

There’s also a million ways to use up the remains of the ham, chop up little morsels and add to mac and cheese or cauliflower cheese  – one of the most comforting of all dishes to tuck into in early January. Smoked fish also adds oomph to these two favourites.

I also love to have some plum pudding left over to slice and cook gently in a little butter on a pan. If you have Mrs Hanrahan’s sauce, well, have that with it otherwise slake some sweetened whipped cream with Irish whiskey and put a generous dollop on top.

By the way there’s no rush to use up the plum pudding it will keep perfectly well wrapped for several weeks at least.

How about all those miscellaneous root vegetables, I’ve got the perfect solution, why not make one of my favourite things in the whole world  – Picallilli. This recipe was given to me by Gary Masterson one of the senior lecturers at the Ballymaloe Cookery School – it’ll keep for months and will enhance so many meals and serve as a coveted present for your friends.

Perhaps you have some croissants left over, why not try this Ham and Cheese Croissant Pudding – Serve it with a salad of green leaves and the last of the soft herbs lurking in the corner for your fridge.

Little ends of cheese can be grated, rind and all, and added to sauces, into gratins, biscuits and scones…..scraps of blue are best added to soft butter to melt over steaks or burgers.

So enjoy the satisfaction of emptying your fridge and pantry in a delicious way so there’s zero waste – one of our big new year resolutions!

Chilaquiles Verdes o Rojos

A delicious way to use up stale tortillas.

Serves 4

6 –8 corn tortillas (stale is fine)

12fl oz (350ml) Tomato and Chilli Sauce (see recipe)

8fl oz (225ml) chicken broth approx.

1 large chicken breast, freshly cooked and shredded with fingers

salt and freshly ground pepper


4 tablespoons sour cream

8 tablespoons crumbled Queso fresco or grated Mozzarella and Cheddar mixed

1 onion, thinly sliced (optional), rinsed under cold water and drained

fresh coriander leaves

Ovenproof dish 8 x 5 inches (20 x 10 cm)

Cut the tortillas into eights.  Dry them out in a moderate oven if they are moist, they are best stale and leathery for this dish.

Heat oil in a deep fry and cook the tortilla chips in batches until crisp and light golden.  Drain on paper towels.

Just before serving, spread half the tortillas over the base of a deep sided serving dish.  Cover with finely shredded chicken, season with salt and freshly ground pepper. 

Thin out the sauce with a little chicken broth if it is too thick.  Put another layer of tortillas on top. Cover with the hot sauce and a sprinkling of cheese.

Heat through in a preheated oven, 230°C/450°F/Gas Mark 8 for 5-10 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

Serve immediately with sour cream, more grated cheese for sprinkling and fresh coriander leaves.

Tomato and Chilli Sauce

1 1/2lbs (700g) very ripe tomatoes, peeled OR

2 x 14oz (400g) can good quality tomatoes, drained

hot green chillies to taste (2 – 4 Serrano chillies or 2 – 3 Jalapeño chillies)

2oz (50g) onion, finely chopped

1 large clove garlic, peeled and crushed

1 tablespoon sunflower or peanut oil

salt and sugar to taste

Roughly chop the tomatoes and whizz in a blender or food processor.

Seed the chillies if you wish. Chop and add to the blender or processor along with the onion and garlic.  Heat the oil in a medium sauté pan.  When hot, add all the pureé at once and stir constantly for about 5 minutes.  The pureé will cook into a thick, more orange-coloured sauce.  Season with salt and if necessary add a little sugar.  Taste and correct the seasoning if necessary.

Turkey and Coconut Laksa

Serves 6-8 as a starter

2 red chillies, chopped with seeds

4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

2,5cm (1 inch) piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped

150g (5oz) fresh coriander, leaves and stalks coarsely chopped

juice of 1-2 limes

50ml (2fl ozs) toasted sesame oil

250g (8oz) leftover turkey (cut into thin shreds)

2 x 400ml (2 x 14ozs) tins coconut milk

generous 700ml homemade chicken stock

1 tablespoon Nam Pla, fish sauce

150g (5oz) fine rice noodles

8 spring onions, finely sliced at an angle

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pour boiling water over the bowl of rice noodles and allow to soak until soft – 10 minutes approximately. Drain and cut into 5cm (2 inch) lengths. Put the chilli, garlic, ginger, coriander and juice of one lime into a food processor and pulse to a coarse paste.

Thinly slice the cooked turkey meat at an angle (1/8 inch wide) and set aside.

Heat the sesame oil in a large saucepan and fry the chilli paste for 3 minutes. Add the whisked coconut milk and turkey or chicken stock. Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the thinly shredded turkey, bring back to the boil and barely simmer for a further 3-4 minutes or until the turkey is warmed through. Add the fish sauce and taste and add more lime juice, salt and pepper if necessary.

Divide the noodles into serving bowls, ladle in the hot soup and garnish with spring onion and coriander leaves.


Do not allow the soup to boil once the chicken is added, otherwise the meat will be tough. 

Gary’s Piccalilli

Good with Cheddar cheese, ham, oily fish, terrines, Paté, pork pies, cold meats etc.

Works well with different vegetables and vinegars, find your best combination

1 cauliflower (700g/1 1/2lbs)
3 large onions (600g/1 1/4lbs)
8 shallots (300g/10oz)
25g (1oz) salt
1 cucumber
300ml (10fl oz) malt vinegar
600ml (1 pint) white wine vinegar
1/2 – 1 teaspoon dried chili flakes
350g (12oz) castor sugar
50g (2oz) English mustard powder
25g (1oz) turmeric
3-4 tablespoons corn flour (70g)

Break or dice the cauliflower into small florets about 1 cm, chop the onions and shallots into small 1cm (1/2 inch) dice. Place all in colander over bowl and sprinkle with salt and leave 24 hours or minimum overnight. Rinse in cold water and dry.

Peel (optional) and deseed the cucumber and sprinkle with a little salt and leave to stand in sieve for 10-15 minutes, rinse, dry and add the cauliflower onion mix.
Put the 2 vinegars and chili flakes and bring to a boil to infuse and leave to cool. Strain if required to remove chili flakes.

Combine the sugar, mustard powder, turmeric and cornflour in a bowl and make a paste with 100ml (3 1/2fl oz) of cooled vinegar mix, bring the remaining vinegar back to the boil and pour in the mustard paste and whisk till blended, bring back to boil and cook for 3 minutes then pour over the vegetables and mix well and pour into hots jars. Best left to mature for a few days but is good eaten straight away.

Will keep for at least a month refrigerated.

Turkey, Watercress, Pomegranate and Pecan Nut Salad

Use up leftover morsels or turkey in a delicious way, it’s your call but I prefer not to refrigerate leftover turkey. Just wrap in a tea towel and keep in a cool place to use as required.

Serves 8

1 1/2-2 lbs(700-900g) unrefrigerated leftover turkey

Watercress or a selection of salad leave, frisée and rocket leaves


6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or walnut oil

2 tablespoons best quality wine vinegar

1-2 teaspoons honey

1/2 teaspoon grainy mustard

salt and freshly ground pepper

1-2 pomegranates depending on size

3-4oz (75/110g) fresh pecans or walnuts

If the turkey has been refrigerated, bring back to room temperature.  Whisk all the ingredients for the dressing together. Cut the pomegranate in half and flick the seeds into a bowl – careful not to include any of the astringent pith.

Roast or toast the walnuts or pecans briefly, chop coarsely.  Just before serving, sprinkle a little of the dressing over the salad leaves in a deep bowl.  Toss gently.  There should be just enough dressing to make the leaves glisten.  Taste.  Add a little dressing to the pomegranate seeds, toss and taste, correct seasoning if necessary.  Slice the turkey into chunky pieces.  Sprinkle a little dressing over and toss gently.  Combine the three ingredients.  Divide pleasingly between 8 large white plates.  Sprinkle with roughly chopped pecans or walnuts and serve immediately with crusty bread.

Cheese and Ham Croissant Pudding

Serves 6 People

6 croissants

125g cooked ham or bacon

250g  gruyère and cheddar mixed, thinly sliced or grated

2 -3 teaspoons of Dijon mustard


5 eggs

100ml whole milk

50g grated parmesan

30g gruyere

Freshly chopped parsley

Cut the croissants crossways. Fill each one with a slice of ham, a slick of mustard and a generous layer of grated cheese, reserving half the cheese for adding to the ‘custard’ mix.

Butter an ovenproof gratin dish, arrange the croissant sandwiches in the base in a single layer. Whisk the eggs well with the milk. Fold in half the grated cheese, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Pour evenly over the croissants. Allow to sit for 30 mins or longer if you have time.

Preheat the oven to 180°C, sprinkle the remainder of the cheese on top. Bake for 25 – 30 mins or until the ‘custard’ is set and the cheese is melted and golden on top. Flash under the grill if necessary.

Serve with a salad of organic leaves with lots of sprigs of flat leave parsley.

Macaroni with Cheddar Cheese

Serves 6

Macaroni cheese is one of my children’s favourite supper dishes. We often add some cubes of cooked bacon or ham to the sauce with the cooked macaroni.

8ozs (225g) macaroni

6 pints (3.4 litres) water

2 teaspoons salt

2ozs (50g) butter

2ozs (50g) white flour, preferably unbleached

1 1/2 pints (850ml) boiling milk

1/4 teaspoon Dijon or English mustard

1 tablespoon freshly chopped parsley, (optional)

salt and freshly ground pepper

5 ozs (150g) grated mature Cheddar cheese (We use our local Cheddar which is made at Mitchelstown and matured at Imokilly Creamery)

1 oz (25g) grated Cheddar cheese for sprinkling on top

1 x 2 pint (1.1 litre) capacity pie dish

Bring a large pot of water to the boil, add the salt. Sprinkle in the macaroni and stir to make sure it doesn’t stick together. Cook until just soft, 10-15 minutes approx. drain well.

Meanwhile melt the butter, add in the flour and cook on a medium heat, stirring occasionally for 1-2 minutes.  Remove from the heat. Whisk in the milk gradually; bring back to the boil, stirring all the time. Add the mustard, parsley if using and cheese, season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Add the cooked macaroni, bring back to the boil, taste, correct seasoning and serve immediately.

Macaroni cheese reheats very successfully provided the pasta is not overcooked in the first place.  Turn into a pie dish, sprinkle grated cheese over the top.  Reheat in a preheated moderate oven – 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 for 15-20 minutes. It is very good served with cold meat particularly ham.

Top Tip: Macaroni soaks up an enormous amount of sauce.  Add more sauce if making ahead to reheat later.

Macaroni Cheese with Christmas Ham Leftovers

Add 8oz (225g) diced ham and lots of chopped parsley to the macaroni cheese as you put it into the dish.

Macaroni Cheese with Smoked Salmon or Smoked Mackerel

Add 8ozs (225 g) of smoked salmon or smoked mackerel dice to the macaroni cheese.

Ballymaloe Mincemeat Ruggelach

Makes 16


110g (4oz) cream cheese

110g (4oz) softened butter

150g (5oz) flour


1/4 – 1/2 lbs Ballymaloe Mincemeat


1 egg, beaten

castor sugar

Beat the cream cheese vigorously with the butter until well mixed and softened.  Stir in the flour gradually.  Gather into a ball and wrap in cling film or parchment paper.  Chill for 30 minutes.

On a lightly floured board, roll the pastry out into a 33cm (12 inch) circle.  Brush with the beaten egg and sprinkle the mincemeat evenly over the pastry.  Cover with a sheet of greaseproof paper and run the rolling pin over it a couple of times to fix the filling firmly into the pastry.  Lift off the paper.

Divide the circle up like a cake into 16 triangles.  Roll up each one, starting with the wider end, as if you were making a croissant.   Arrange on a baking sheet, brush with egg, and sprinkle with castor sugar.  Bake at 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6 for 12-15 minutes until golden brown.

About the author

Darina Allen
By Darina Allen


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