Turkey curry is a classic, but expand your repertoire this festive season with bread sauce croquettes, red cabbage chutney and Christmas pudding vodka
The turkey has been ravaged, the last roast potato fought over, and the family are sprawled on the sofa in an advanced state of postprandial somnolence … but using up the leftovers has only just begun. 2013 was the year that food waste hit the headlines, and Christmas is no exception. Each year we bin the equivalent of 2m turkeys, 5m Christmas puddings and a staggering 74m mince pies. "The key foods that are wasted are those that we buy especially for Christmas but wouldn't normally. People tell us that turkey, sprouts, bread sauce and cranberry sauce are the big ones," says Emma Marsh of Love Food, Hate Waste.
We asked leading chefs and food writers for their most practical and delicious ideas for using up festive leftovers. Not only will these tips help keep the hordes fed in the lull between Christmas and New Year, but you can save money and redeploy some of those Christmas staples as New Year's canapes, too …
The temptation to buy a big bird is strong, and when it comes to the leftovers, it's easy to get stuck in a rut. Emma Marsh suggests "whizzing up" turkey in the food processor to make mince. Freeze and use in place of chicken or beef. For a twist on turkey pasties, try Argentine restaurateur Diego Jacquet's idea for turkey empanadas made with "turkey, cranberries, leftover Brussels and bought shortcrust pastry." Turkey curry is tried and true, and chef Naved Nasir says leftover turkey works well in place of chicken in a murgh makhani (butter chicken), "garnished with lots of coriander".
Leftover bread sauce can stymie many cooks. Luckily "it can be frozen so long as it hasn't been frozen before," says Marsh. Or try bread sauce and ham croquettes, an idea from Justine Pattison, author of Freeze. "Mix cold bread sauce with diced smoked ham and grated cheddar. Form into balls and roll in flour, beaten egg and dried breadcrumbs. Deep fry until golden and serve with cranberry sauce for dipping. If you make them on Boxing Day, you can freeze and serve as canapes on New Year's Eve."
"Braised red cabbage can easily be turned into chutney," says chef Guy Awford. Anna Hansen loves "red cabbage and potato open sandwiches on Danish rye bread," and "shredded roast pork, red cabbage and coriander summer rolls - delicious with a little hoi sin dipping sauce". If you don't have pork, try Marsh's easy suggestions: "drain off any moisture from braised red cabbage then top with béchamel sauce and breadcrumbs and bake at 180C/Gas 4 until crisp. Or, fry up with some leftover ham or chorizo and onion and mix with pasta."
No matter how many trendy twists you make to the Christmas Brussels, there'll always be refuseniks. Instead of chucking out unloved cooked sprouts, you can "freeze and add to future vegetable soups," says Marsh. Blanch and shock raw sprouts, recommends Pattison, then: "open freeze on trays. Pack into freezer bags, remove as much air as possible and return to the freezer for up to 4 months. Cook from frozen." Bill Granger suggests "shaving sprouts thinly. Toss in a pan with some chilli flakes, garlic and olive oil. Boil some pasta and once it's ready and drained, add the sprouts. Serve with some ricotta on the top."
Yes, you can freeze cheese. "Stilton can be frozen either crumbled or whole and used later in soups, and sauces," says Marsh. But Yotam Ottolenghi's Boxing Day quiche sounds so delicious, I doubt your stilton will make it that far: "Crumble stilton into a quiche, along with diced membrillo [quince paste] and cubes of butternut squash – a treat of a Boxing Day lunch. Buy some shortcrust pastry for the fridge and the rest of the ingredients – eggs, double cream, creme fraiche and parsley – will surely be kicking about with the Christmas stocks," he says.
"Make a crumble tart with leftover mincemeat," suggests food writer Debora Robertson. Pies also work a treat tumbled into ice-cream: "Leave a tub of vanilla ice-cream to soften a little at room temperature then spoon into a bowl and quickly mix with roughly chopped mince pies. Press into a lidded freezer-proof container, cover and freeze for up to a month. Serve with a little warm brandy or amaretto," says Pattison.
Leftover pud equals your New Year's tipple sorted: "I like to make Christmas pudding vodka," says chef Jesse Dunford Wood. "Simply add your puddings to half a bottle of vodka, leave to infuse for a day or so, strain and enjoy." Christmas pudding truffles also make a clever gift for any relatives you're visiting over the holidays. Deli Melrose and Morgan makes them with flaked almonds, dark chocolate and brandy.
And finally … the Christmas leftovers sandwich
There is an art to the leftovers sarnie (think Ross from Friends and his "moist maker" gravy layer) – it's not just a case of throwing half the fridge in there. "Exercise a bit of restraint and perhaps pick out the bacon, some leftover cheese and a smear of sticky gravy juices from the roasting dish," advises Helen Graves, author of 101 Sandwiches.
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