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Well, what a year. And to top it all off, most of us had to change our Christmas plans last-minute thanks to the new Tier 4 lockdown. And that meant lots of us are lumbered with a LOT of Christmas leftovers when the feast we’d prepared for never happened!
Our food writer Sarah Lockett explains how to “win, not waste” the supplies you bought to feed the guests… who then weren’t allowed to visit
- Christmas Was Cancelled
- Turkey Leftover Ideas
- How to Handle Your Ham Leftovers
- What to Do with Sausage Christmas Leftovers
- Vegetable Leftover Tips
- How to Keep Leftovers for Longer
Most of us bought a turkey, maybe a ham (me), definitely lots of veg (potatoes, sprouts, carrots, celeriac for remoulade, white cabbage for coleslaw, red cabbage, swede etc); plus fruit (satsumas – which are now being called “easy-peelers”, apples, mangoes, kiwi, cranberries for sauce etc); lots of nuts – in the shell for cracking, or roasted and salted for nibbles with drinks…the list goes on.
But, at quite short notice, Christmas was cancelled at least for large gatherings – or anything more than your household. Coupled with the fact that supermarket delivery slots are rarer than hen’s teeth and you have to take what you can get, many of us were saddled with a load of food, which we had no hope of eating on the day. So here are my tips for using, reusing, freezing, preserving and making the most of every last scrap – without having to waste anything (one of my pet hates – wasting food!). You do need a freezer, and some jars with lids.
Roast as normal and eat what you want on the day. Then let the bird cool until it’s cold enough to handle and strip the meat off in large chunks, and smaller shards from the hard-to-reach areas. Don’t forget the wings and the “oysters” next to the backbone. I even save the skin separately for turkey crackling (re-roast for 10 minutes with extra salt and pepper, if needed, for a crispy, salty, savoury low-carb snack).
Cut the turkey meat into 2cm chunks and pack into takeaway containers (enough for, say, 4 people per container). Then freeze – you can dig out a container at a time and make curries, or Coronation Turkey Salad with curried mayo and dried fruit, Chef’s Salad with cubed/grated cheese, Turkey Waldorf Salad with sliced celery, apple, mayo and (Christmas) nuts + your favourite dressing.
Recipe: Turkey Curry (serves 4)
- 2 tbsp oil (olive or sunflower) or ghee or butter
- 1 onion or bunch of spring onions (I use the green part only but that’s just me), chopped
- 1-2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped (optional)
- 2 tbsp curry paste or curry powder
- 400g tin chopped tomatoes
- 400g tin coconut milk or 300ml pot actual dairy cream
- Handful cooked leftover veg (carrots, green beans etc) or fresh mushrooms/peppers etc
- Salt and pepper
- 500g cooked turkey
- 300g rice (raw weight), to serve
- 25g coriander leaves, chopped (to serve)
Method: Fry the onion in the oil in a medium/large saucepan 5 mins. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more. Add the rest of the ingredients except the turkey and rice. Stir and simmer 10 minutes. Then add the turkey (it’s already cooked, you’re just heating it through) and keep on a low heat while you cook the rice (if serving) as per packet instructions. Sprinkle over the coriander leaves and serve (with rice and mango chutney, if you like a bit of sweetness, which I do).
Yep, I bought a 2.5kg ham and the four of us ate about 400g (I boiled it in non-alcoholic mulled wine for 3.5hrs and then finished in the oven). With the leftovers, I have done what I always do: keep the meat in the fridge and cut hunks off it as and when: slathered with mustard, in toasties with cheese, in a parsley sauce with veg and potatoes etc. It keeps for a good few weeks, I have found, as it’s so salty. The broth is more interesting – and I definitely never waste that. Same as the turkey, I freeze it in 700ml takeaway containers (sieving out the bits/herbs/scum). It’s VERY highly flavoured, salty AND sweet. Use it for soups – don’t add any more salt or spices – and use a bland veg such as turnip, celeriac, swede etc (or you can also use leftover, already-cooked veg from the Christmas meal – probably not sprouts though – too strong a flavour – see below).
Leftover Veg Soup (serves 4)
Fry an onion in 1-2 tbsp oil, add the peeled, cubed veg (a couple of handfuls) and cook 5 minutes. Add the ham stock and heat through, then blitz with a stick blender or in a liquidiser/food processor. Add 300ml cream (single or double), taste to check the seasoning and serve with either bread, or (if you want a lower carb meal) grated cheese, chopped hard boiled egg – or some of that ham.
Maybe you bought lots of cocktail chipolatas for “honey and rosemary sausages” to hand round with drinks, or sausages to make pigs in blankets to go with the turkey. If they’re fresh, you can usually freeze sausages/sausagemeat on the day of purchase. Other ideas for sausages are:
1.Slip the casings off and use the sausagemeat to stuff chicken breasts. I add chopped spring onion, an egg to bind, grated cheese, dried chilli flakes, mixed dried (or fresh) herbs such as thyme, parsley etc, maybe some Worcestershire Sauce, feta or whatever I have lying around. Roast for 30 minutes or until the chicken is done and the juices run clear. Serve with dressed salad.
2. Sausage rolls! Who doesn’t love a sausage roll?! Make with shop-bought puff or shortcrust pastry (and the gluten-free pastry isn’t too bad now either). Serve with a leftover cranberry or chutney dip (you can puree these in a blender with crème fraiche, yoghurt or mayo).
3. Pasta bake – I put anything in a pasta bake, as my kids will tell you. Chop the sausages into chunks and (if they’re not already cooked) fry in 1tbsp some olive oil for 10 minutes, add chopped onion/spring onion, a tablespoon of flour and cook for 5 mins more, stirring, then gradually add 500ml milk or chicken/veg stock – stirring all the time – to make a sort of white sauce with veg and sausage in. Season, possibly add herbs and LOTS of grated cheese (can be Christmas Stilton or just cheddar/mozzarella etc). Then stir in 300g (raw weight) of cooked pasta, pile into a greased/oiled baking dish, scatter a bit more cheese on top and bake for 20-30 minutes to meld it all together (remember, the ingredients are cooked so it doesn’t actually need to cook, just melt the cheese and get it bubbling/browned).
Veggies are the thing we’re often most at a loss what to do with when it comes to Christmas leftovers. Try these ideas!
Sprouts have quite a strong, polarising flavour (although they are breeding the ammonia-ey smell out now!) but they make a nice puree with cream: just blitz already-boiled sprouts in a food processor with cream, check the seasoning and warm through gently in the microwave or a saucepan. Serve with plain roast meat/fish or your veggie main course.
Veg generally can be used for soups (see above in the “Ham” section) and bakes. Boiled veg can be simply frozen and used anytime (remember to defrost it for a few hours so it isn’t a big, frozen clump). So: cooked carrots, green beans, swede, celeriac, cabbage, peas etc should be frozen separately and dug out when you need them. I like to put them in a frittata – fry an onion (everything starts with a fried onion, right?) and add in the chopped, cooked, defrosted veg, plus some herbs, seasoning and 4-5 beaten eggs. You could add cubed ham or turkey at this stage too. Cook for 5 minutes on a medium heat (make sure your frying pan doesn’t have a plastic or wooden handle – it has to be metal to go into the oven!). Then put the whole lot in the oven for 10 minutes to brown the top – but CHECK by sticking a knife in because sometimes the middle is still quite liquid, and liquid raw egg is vile!
It’s all very well knowing what to do with your Christmas leftovers – but they could still go off before you get to eat them all! Here’s how to make your leftovers stretch – so you’re not wasting anything.
As I have said – most of my cooked veg/meat/fish leftovers go in the freezer if they’re going to hang around for more than 3-4 days. I am not a big labeller – I can usually tell what things are. Just freeze different things separately. Fruit: satsumas don’t freeze well unless you juice them first – or make into a Christmassy Citrus Marmalade – just treat them like oranges. Apples: I peel and cook eating apples and cookers (Bramleys) in the microwave with lemon juice (to stop them browning) and make puree (I don’t add sugar at this stage because it depends what I am going to use them for – usually an apple cake which has sugar in anyway).
This is really for raw veg, if you have over-bought. There are lots of recipes online but I like a really simple one that uses my food processor.
Chilli Pepper Jam
- 8 red peppers, stalks and seeds removed
- 10 red chillis, stalks removed
- Up to 8 garlic cloves (optional)
- 400g tin chopped tomatoes
- 750g sugar
- 250ml red wine vinegar
- Salt and pepper
Method: Pulse the peppers, chillis and garlic (if using) in a food processor till they’re all well chopped. Tip into a big saucepan with tomatoes, sugar, vinegar and seasoning. Bring to the boil and simmer for 50 minutes, stirring occasionally, till it’s sticky and jammy. Sterilise some jars (and lids that fit!) in a sink full of boiled/hot water – dry upside down on a clean tea towel. Carefully pour the hot jam into the jars and screw the lids on immediately. The heat creates a vacuum as it cools down and seems to keep everything sterile. Cool and store – you can use this immediately, but it also keeps for many months. You can try this recipe with other RAW veg eg swede, turnip, courgettes – but I am not making any promises!
Traditional, heavy, British Christmas fruit cake has a shelf life of several months, so you’ll probably be OK just sneaking a slice every now and then – I’ll happily have 2-3 slices a day (yes!) so it won’t last long in my house. Panettone freezes well but slice it and pack into takeaway containers – say, 2-3 biggish slices per container. Lovely buttered for breakfast or made into French Toast dipped in a beaten egg and fried with a bit more sugar/icing sugar dredged on top.
I have an annual nut-cracking session in the New Year when the walnuts-in-shells I bought for people to pick at – finally get dealt with. It’s quite satisfying. They go into cakes, on breakfast yogurt, into salads. The same with roasted and salted nuts which I love in salads – especially Waldorf Salad – no need to add salt to the dressing as the nuts are already salted.
This keeps quite well anyway, but not for months and months. I usually freeze it in the packet, the minute I get it, and dole it out when we run low. It gets used at breakfast-time with scrambled eggs (low carb!) and for salads. You can also make a mousse or pâté with softened butter, cream cheese or double cream (or a combination), plus lemon zest (grated), black pepper and dill (dried or fresh, chopped).
Grate and freeze. Couldn’t be easier. Use for pasta bakes, salads, cheese sauces etc. Stilton doesn’t really grate (it ends up being a big, sticky mess) so chop/cube.
So, those are some of my top tips. I know some of us bought a huuuuuuge turkey! Several kilos, at a cost of £60-70! We didn’t want to cancel because we didn’t want to let the supplier down – so we will be eating turkey for a while. But at least if you freeze it, you can bring it out when you can face it – maybe March or April or even later. And by
then, perhaps we can have our friends and family round again. Here’s hoping!
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