I’ve never really liked the word leftovers. It feels negative and reproachful, as if the unfortunate bits of food are unwanted hangers-on at a party. How many people moan about the prospect of eating turkey sandwiches for days on end, as if it were some sort of cold poultry penance?
The remnants of the Christmas feast should be viewed as a blessing rather than a chore. A meal composed of leftovers, with their ready-made layers of flavour, so often amounts to more than the sum of its parts. My mother used to turn what was left of Christmas lunch into a Boxing Day soup. Everything went in: bread sauce and cranberry sauce, gravy, red cabbage, bits of turkey meat picked from the carcass, roast potatoes and parsnips, chopped-up brussels sprouts, all bound together in a stock made from the simmered bones of the roasted bird. The result was a hotchpotch of incredible comfort and deliciousness.
What puts people off, I think, is the thought of having to eat the same thing over and over again. So the trick is to find as many different ways of possible to use the same ingredients, to make it feel like you’re eating something new each time. I’ve given you some ideas below to get you started.
TURKEY AND PEAR WALDORF
The inspiration for this was an American idea for Thanksgiving leftovers. The substitution of apples with pears somehow makes it more Christmassy. Lemon, celery and watercress give it a freshness and crunch that is often missing from the Christmas feast itself.
4 tbsp mayonnaise (decent shop-bought is fine)
4 tbsp Greek yoghurt
2 tbsp smooth dijon mustard
1 tsp mild flavoured runny honey
Juice and grated zest of ½ lemon
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 ripe but firm pears
200g turkey breast meat, thinly sliced
2 handfuls of watercress
2 handfuls of shelled walnut or pecan, broken into pieces
4 smallish stalks of celery, strings removed and thickly sliced, plus some of the pale inner leaves
2 handfuls of seedless grapes, optional, halved if wanted.
In a salad bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, yoghurt, mustard, honey, lemon juice and zest. Add about ¾ tsp fine salt to taste and a few good grinds of pepper.
Halve and core the pears and cut them lengthways into slices or strips. Toss with the dressing. Add the turkey meat, watercress, half the nuts, the sliced celery and half the leaves — plus the grapes if you have them.
Toss well, then scatter with the remaining nuts and a few celery leaves, adding a few more grinds of pepper before serving
BOXING DAY SOUFFLÉS
These festive soufflés transform leftover pud into something altogether lighter. Like all soufflés, they need cooking at the last minute, but you can whizz up the basic mixture ahead of time, then whisk and fold in the whites just before putting them in the oven — it takes only a few minutes. Use the extra egg yolk to make mayonnaise.
Butter, for greasing
3 level tbsp caster sugar, plus extra for dusting
170g leftover cooked Christmas pudding
2 tbsp milk
2 egg yolks and 3 egg whites
Icing sugar, for dusting
For the brandy cream
100ml double cream
2 tbsp brandy
1 tbsp caster sugar
Using upward strokes, generously grease the inside of four 7cm-wide ramekins with butter. Dust with some of the extra caster sugar, then shake out the excess.
In a food processor, whizz together the pudding, milk and egg yolks until smooth. You can add a splash more brandy at this stage if you feel so inclined, though don’t make the mix too sloppy. Cover with clingfilm and put in the fridge until you want to make the soufflés.
Place a baking sheet in the oven and heat to 200C/ Fan 180C / Gas 6. In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites with 2 tsp of the caster sugar until they form soft peaks, then add the remaining sugar and whisk until stiff. Fold a third of the whites into the pudding mixture to loosen it a little, then gently fold in the rest. It is better to have the odd uneven streak than knock the air from the whites.
Divide the mixture between the ramekins and level the tops. Run a thumb around the inside of the rim to make a shallow furrow. This will help the soufflés to rise. Bake in the oven on the heated tray for 10 minutes, until risen and golden, but still creamy under the surface.
Meanwhile, mix together the cream, brandy and sugar and pour into a jug.
Remove the soufflés from the oven and dust with icing sugar. Serve immediately, encouraging people to crack the top and pour in some of the brandy cream.
This page is available to subscribers. Click here to sign in or get access.