Christmas Leftovers


Does it seem a little early to talk about using up leftovers deliciously? Well, I don’t think so. This day next week, it’ll be St. Stephen’s Day. Probably, the most tumultuous Christmas any of us have ever experienced will be over.

Despite the challenges we’ve been determined to keep cooking and carry on!

Meanwhile, you may be beginning to get a little peckish again so let’s head back in the kitchen, have a root through your fridge or pantry – There are bound to be some delicious morsels left over from the Christmas feast and maybe some forgotten ingredients hidden in there.

How about getting the family involved in a competition to think of new and creative ways to use up a variety of miscellaneous ingredients. How about you go for an exhilarating walk or put your feet up and let the others into the kitchen to have fun cooking your supper for a change.

So many options… Of course, one could just make a tasty turkey and ham pie with the nibbles left on the carcass. I’d start by sautéing off some sliced onions and mushrooms, then adding a mixture of turkey stock and cream, a generous fistful of chopped parsley and some thyme leaves or better still a little chopped tarragon. Thicken the boiling mixture with a little roux. Season well and add the coarsely chopped turkey and ham. A gorgeous Goose Pie can be made in a similar way but I’d re-crisp the skin in the oven for a few minutes to scatter over the top which could be covered with a ruff of fluffy mash, a flaky pastry lid or just a layer of cheesy buttered crumbs.

For many transforming, leftovers into another equally delicious meal is a ‘forgotten skill’, perhaps it was my 50s and 60s upbringing but for me it’s a way of life. It may be difficult to understand that back then ’food waste’ was simply unthinkable, shameful, absolutely not an option. It doesn’t make any sense any time, it’s like tearing up pound notes and floating them down the river and most people don’t even have a few hens to eat up the scraps and convert them into eggs a few days later…..

Nowadays, there are so many exciting new ingredients and flavour options on the shelves of virtually every shop and supermarket in the country. It’s an opportunity to be creative and to add the flavours of the East, Far East, Mexico, the Caribbean… to what might otherwise be boring leftovers.

So here are a few suggestions… Communal activities are the most fun and are a brilliant way to use up leftovers. All kinds of fillings can be enclosed in samosas, pasties, empanadas or filo triangles.

Chinese Turkey with Spicy Glaze and Toasted Peanuts

Serves 4

900g (2lb) leftover turkey or chicken

1 tablespoon sunflower oil but I prefer to use extra virgin olive oil

flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


50g (2oz) pale soft brown sugar

35ml (scant 1 1/2fl oz) soy sauce

1 teaspoons Hoisin sauce

1 dessertspoon sweet chili sauce

1/2cm (1/4 inch) fresh ginger, peeled and grated

pinch of chilli flakes

juice of 1/2 lime


2 tablespoons  sesame seeds

25g (1oz) peanuts, peeled and roasted (optional)

2 spring onions, sliced at an angle

If the chicken breasts are large, divide in half at an angle.

Heat the oil in a sauté or frying pan.

Season the turkey or chicken meat with flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Toss over a medium heat until golden for 3-4 minutes on each side.

Meanwhile put all the ingredients for the glaze in a small stainless steel saucepan, stir well, bring to the boil over a medium heat for 2-3 minutes.

Pour over the turkey or chicken in the sauté or frying pan, allow to bubble for a minute or two.

Spoon into a warm serving dish. Sprinkle with sesame seeds, coarsely chopped peanuts and sliced spring onions.

Serve immediately with some boiled rice and a salad of organic leaves.

How to Roast Peanuts

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas 6.

Spread the peanuts over a roasting tray, roast for about 15 minutes, shaking once or twice.  Take the tray out doors and blow off the loose skins, sounds very odd but it’s exactly what everyone does in Asia.  Return to the oven if they are not already golden brown all over.  Chop coarsely.

Roasted Carrot Salad with Chamoy

Inspired by a Ottolenghi recipe from Flavour

This recipe is a great way to use up the extra carrots you may have in your fridge from your Christmas grocery shop.

Serves 4 -6

The Chamoy recipe keeps well in the fridge for up to a week. Use this Mexican sauce as a marinade or condiment for roasted vegetables, chicken or pork. Serve as a starter or as an accompaniment with pork belly or duck breasts.

1 kg carrots cut into quarters, lengthwise

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus 1 ½ tablespoons to serve

1 ½ tablespoons of maple syrup or runny honey

70g (approx. 8) dried apricots, finely sliced

30g roast salted almonds, split lengthwise

Salt and freshly ground black pepper


50g apricots

1 teaspoon maple syrup

2 teaspoon sumac

45ml lime juice, plus 2 teaspoons to serve

1 ½ teaspoons Aleppo chilli flakes (or ¾ teaspoon of regular chilli flakes)

1 small garlic clove

2 tablespoons olive oil

10g mint leaves

5g dill, roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 240°C/450°F/Mark 8.

Toss the carrots in a large bowl with the olive oil, maple syrup/ honey, 1 teaspoon of salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Spread out in a single layer on two large parchment-lined baking trays. Roast for 15 – 18 minutes, tossing the carrots every now and then and continue to cook until nicely browned but still retain bite.

Meanwhile, whizz all the ingredients for the Chamoy with ¼ teaspoon of salt in a food processor until smooth. Add 1 – 2 tablespoons of water to the Chamoy if too thick.

When the carrots are cooked, transfer them to a large bowl. Pour over the Chamoy, toss to coat the roast carrots. Leave for 15 – 20 minutes to meld the flavours together.

Lay a bed of rocket leaves on a serving platter. Top with the roasted carrots, sprinkle with the sliced apricots and dill sprigs. Finish with some shredded mint leaves and the toasted almonds.

Serve at room temperature.

A Cheesy Gratin of Leeks and Brussel Sprouts

Serves 8

Everyone in our house loves a hot bubbly gratin, a yummy comforting supper dish, I sometimes wrap each leek in a slice of ham before coating in the cheesy Mornay Sauce. Use up the little ends of cheese – a mixture can be delicious but taste carefully.

8 medium sized leeks or 1 ½ lbs plus ½ lbs quartered, blanched and refreshed sprouts

600mls whole milk

A few slices of carrot and onion

3 or 4 peppercorns

A sprig of thyme or parsley

175g grated Cheddar cheese or a mixture of grated Cheddar,  Parmesan and Gruyère

¼ teaspoon Dijon mustard

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Buttered crumbs (see recipe below)

Trim most of the green part off the leeks (use to make soup or pop into the stock pot).  Leave the white parts whole, slit the top and wash well under cold running water.  Cook in a little boiling salted water in a covered saucepan until just tender, 15 minutes approx.

Meanwhile put the cold milk into a saucepan with a few slices of carrot and onion, 3 or 4 peppercorns and a sprig of thyme or parsley.  Bring to the boil, simmer for 5 minutes, remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 10 minutes.  Strain out the vegetables, bring the milk back to the boil and thicken with roux to a light coating consistency.  Add the mustard and two-thirds of the grated cheese, keep the remainder of the cheese for grating over the top.  Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, taste and correct the seasoning if necessary.

Drain the leeks well, slice into chunks, mix with the blanched Brussel sprouts. Arrange in an ovenproof serving dish, season well, coat with the sauce and sprinkle with grated cheese mixed with a few buttered crumbs. Reheat in a moderate oven 180˚C (gas mark 4), until golden and bubbly – about 15 minutes.

Buttered Crumbs

A great way to use up stale bread. Whizz into crumbs and store in the freezer for stuffings or crumbles.

2 ozs (50g) butter

4 ozs (110g) soft white breadcrumbs

Melt the butter in a pan and stir in the breadcrumbs. Remove from the heat immediately and allow to cool. Use what you need and store the remainder in a box in the fridge to scatter over gratins or fish pies.

Cheddar Cheese and Ham Strata

A Strata is a savoury bread and butter pudding. Try this one, even just with cheese, but if you have a little cooked leftover ham or bacon it’s even better. A few morsels of cooked turkey wouldn’t go astray either or a little dice of chorizo which everyone seems to have in their fridge these days – careful not to add too much, it can be overpowering.

Serves 6

50g (2oz) very soft butter (for buttering the bread and greasing the dish)

6 slices of good white bread (1-2cm/½-¾ inch thick approx), crusts removed – about 100g (3½oz) prepared weight

110g (4oz) mature Cheddar, (or a mixture of Cheddar, Gruyère and Parmesan) coarsely grated

175- 225g (6-8oz) cooked ham or bacon, diced in 7mm (â…“ inch) cubes approx..

3 medium free-range eggs

450ml (16fl oz) milk (or 8floz of milk and 8floz of cream)

3-4 teaspoons thyme leaves, chopped

A generous pinch of mace

1½ teaspoons Dijon mustard

salt and freshly ground black pepper

A little extra grated cheese for sprinkling

1 litre (1¾ pint) ovenproof soufflé dish.

Grease the soufflé dish with soft or melted butter.

Then butter slices of bread and cut into roughly 2.5cm (1inch) squares.  Put into the dish, add the grated cheese and ham and toss to combine.

Whisk the eggs well.  Add the milk, thyme leaves, mace and Dijon mustard, continue to whisk for a minute or two.  Season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Pour over the bread, cheese and ham mixture.  Cover and pop in the refrigerator for a couple of hours or even overnight.

The next day, preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4. Sprinkle a little grated cheese over the top and bake the Strata for 40 minutes or until puffed up and golden like a soufflé.

Serve with a salad of organic leaves.

Chocolate Panettone Bread and Butter Pudding

Serves 8-12 approx.

Panettone is now readily available, it is a rich fruit bread traditionally eaten at Christmas in Italy. If you have some leftover this is a brilliant way to use up the leftovers – use a yeast barm brack for a similarly delicious result.

1 panettone, sliced 2 inch (1cm) thick

220g (7 ozs) good quality plain chocolate, grated

1 litre (1 ¾ pints) cream

5 egg yolks, preferably free-range

100g (3 ½ ozs) sugar

110g (4oz) best quality chocolate chips or chopped dark chocolate

brown demerara sugar, Moscavado (to sprinkle over at the end)

Softly whipped cream to serve.

8 inch x 2 inch deep oval or rectangular oven-proof dish

Melt the chocolate in the cream in a basin over boiling water.  In a separate bowl beat together the egg yolks and sugar until the mixture pales slightly.   Pour the chocolate into the egg mixture and put it back over the pan of boiling water.  Lower the heat and stir continuously, until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon.  If the mixture is cooked for too long or at too high a temperature, it will curdle, it is ready as soon as steam starts to rise from the surface.

Pour a little of the mixture into the oven dish, then add a layer of sliced panettone.  Scatter in a few chocolate chips. Continue doing this until the dish is full, ensuring that the top layer absorbs enough of the custard to remain moist.  Allow to sit for 1 hour or longer if you have time.

Place the dish in a roasting tin and add boiling water until the dish is half submerged.  Bake at 150°C/300°F/Regulo 2. for approx. 20 minutes or until hot throughout.  (It took 30-35 minutes in my oven.)

Cover the pudding with a generous layer of brown sugar and put under a hot grill until the sugar starts to bubble.  Leave for a few minutes before serving to allow the sugar to set.  Serve with clotted cream or softly whipped cream.

Crêpes with Plum Pudding and Brandy Butter


Makes 12 approximately

Pancake Batter

175g (6ozs) white flour, preferably unbleached

a good pinch of salt

1 dessertspoon castor sugar

2 large eggs and 1 or 2 egg yolks, preferably free range

scant 450ml (15fl oz) milk, or for very crisp, light delicate pancakes, milk and water mixed

3-4 dessertspoons melted butter

6 – 8oz Leftover plum pudding

Brandy Butter

Softly whipped cream to serve

Mrs Hanrahan’s Sauce (optional) (date this was featured need to insert)

8 inch (20.5cm) non-stick crêpe pan

First make the batter.

Sieve the flour, salt, and sugar into a bowl, make a well in the centre and drop in the lightly beaten eggs. With a whisk or wooden spoon, starting in the centre, mix the egg and gradually bring in the flour. Add the liquid slowly and beat until the batter is covered with bubbles. (If they are to be served with sugar and lemon juice, stir in an extra tablespoon of castor sugar and the finely grated rind of half a lemon).

Let the batter stand in a cold place for an hour or so Рlonger will do no harm. Just before you cook the cr̻pes stir in 3-4 dessertspoons (6-8 American tablespoons) melted butter. This will make all the difference to the flavour and texture of the cr̻pes and will make it possible to cook them without greasing the pan each time.

To cook the crêpes or pancakes.

Heat the pan to very hot, pour in just enough batter to cover the base of the pan thinly.

A small ladle can also be very useful for this.  Loosen the crêpes around the edge, flip over with a spatula or thin egg slice, cook for a second or two on the other side, and slide off the pan onto a plate. The crêpes may be stacked on top of each other and peeled apart later.

They will keep in the fridge for several days and also freeze perfectly. If they are to be frozen it’s probably a good idea to put a disc of silicone paper between each for extra safety.

To Serve: Melt a couple of tablespoon of brandy butter in a pan over a medium heat. Crumble in the plum pudding, toss gently until heated through.

Put a crepe onto a hot pan, spoon a couple of tablespoons of the buttery plum pudding over half the crepe. Fold the other half over, add a little more plum pudding mixture, fold the crepe into a fan shape, repeat with another. Serve on hot plates.

Add a dollop of softly whipped cream and a drizzle of Mrs Hanrahan’s sauce if available.

About the author

Darina Allen
By Darina Allen


Past Letters

  • Recipes