The best of leftover dining

Turn Christmas dinner leftovers into something interesting with these recipe ideas from Evening Echo food columnist Di Curtin
The best of leftover dining
Fridge Gnocchi

THE one thing we all do at Christmas is buy more than we need so we’ll have leftovers, then moan because we don’t know what to do with the leftovers! It’s a dilemma we all face, every single year.

In the days that follow Christmas, we stare gloomily into the fridge, looking at the remainder of the turkey, and wondering at which point is it ok to say we don’t want any more turkey sandwiches.

Anyone who denies that is lying. Even I can be guilty of it and I’m a cook!

But in times when food waste is so high on the topics of discussion, it’s just not ethical to discard good food. If you’re fed up with eating it as it is, make it into something interesting. Then it becomes a whole new meal.

Traditional uses for lefotover turkey include soup, cold cuts and curry. Ham usually gets put into a pie with the turkey, or eaten as it comes in toasties and snacks. Although these are good ways to use up leftovers, there are more exciting things to do with these two prime Christmas meats.

As for extras of festive dining – the rest of the cheese from the cheese board, unused cream for the desserts, eggs, bread and vegetables — if you think creatively, these become the ingredients that bind our leftovers together, to make a brand new dish that everyone will want to eat.

QUICK TIPS FOR STORING LEFTOVER TURKEY AND HAM

It’s best to strip all the meat off the turkey as soon as you can. Then you can boil the turkey carcass for a stock for the freezer.

You might not fancy it now, but it will become a handy thing to have to hand for delicious soup, in the cold days of January.

Make a turkey stock by placing all the bones into a large pan. Add a roughly chopped carrot and halved onion with skin on (for colour), as well as chopped celery sticks, a chopped leek and a couple of tomatoes if you have them. Cover with about 2 litres of water. Add some fresh herb sprigs and whole black peppercorns. Bring to bubbling. Skim the surface, then cover and simmer gently for about an hour. Keep an eye and top up water levels if necessary. When the stock is done, strain it into a clean bowl and discard the bones. Leave to go cold. Portion it and pop it in the freezer.

Cooked Turkey off the bone will freeze well. Portion it into freezer bags for convenience. Don’t forget to label and date it.

The same applies to cooked ham. Slice and portion it into freezer bags if you don’t want to use it up straight away. Fresh cooked ham and turkey off the bone will keep in the fridge in airtight plastic fridge boxes or airtight fridge bags for about three days.

If you’ve gone to the trouble of making really good gravy for the turkey, any leftover will freeze. Pour it into plastic tubs with tight fitting lids and stack in the freezer. This will keep for a couple of months.

RE-INVENTING YOUR LEFTOVERS

These three savoury ideas add something new to the leftover situation! My Bread, Ham and Mustard Bake makes a superb brunch dish. This is essentially a savoury version of bread and butter pudding. A great way to use up slightly stale crusty bread, leftover ham, excess eggs, milk and cheese. Pickled Jalapeno Chilli slices add a bit of poke.

The Sweet Spicy Warm Turkey Salad is good for a Stephen’s Day lunch or buffet party. A mix of shredded turkey with noodles and lightly stir fried vegetables. I’ve used the usual veggies you find in the fridge after Christmas, but add any fresh veggies you want to use up for this warm salad. A sweet spicy dressing of soy, sweet chilli sauce and lemon gives a finishing touch.

Fridge Gnocchi in rich garlicky sauce uses up cream and any cheeseboard cheeses leftover. I used grated mature cheddar, but de-rinded Brie or Camembert, crumbled goat’s cheese or blue cheese would work just as well.

The time saving ingredient here is ready made fresh gnocchi, which you can get in convenient packs in any supermarket. Get the fresh stuff from the chill shelves, not the ambient gnocchi. Frying it gently after boiling, gives a lightly crisp finish. I’ve used long stem broccoli for the greens, but normal broccoli florets or kale would work just as well. Makes a stylish comforting supper, for one of the nights after Christmas.

Pictures by Di Curtin.

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Fridge Gnocchi
Fridge Gnocchi

FRIDGE GNOCCHI 

Stylish and comforting.

Serves 4 Bring a large pan of salted boiling water with a little olive added to the boil.

Place the broccoli into a colander or sieve and cover with a lid. Place over the pan of boiling water and steam for about two minutes.

Lift off the colander with the broccoli inside and reserve.

Add the gnocchi to the pan with the water still boiling. Cook for two minutes, or until they are puffed up and rising to the surface.

Drain and drizzle with extra olive oil tossed through, to stop them sticking together.

Melt the butter with little olive oil in a pan and add the mushrooms, spring onions and garlic.

Cook gently over medium heat till softened.

Add the gnocchi and stir through.

Keep frying till they take on a pale golden colour.

Add the cream and broccoli and bring to a gentle simmer.

Add the cheese to melt.

Season and serve in warmed bowls with grated fresh Parmesan, or any cheese you have, on top.

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Oriental Turkey Stir Fry
Oriental Turkey Stir Fry

ORIENTAL TURKEY STIR FRY

BEATS the turkey cold cuts for Stephen’s Day lunch!

Ingredients (Serves 4)

4 nests medium egg noodles

olive oil

1 bunch spring onions, trimmed and sliced

2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into matchsticks

handful tiny broccoli florets

1 red pepper, seeded and cut into strips

200g fresh beansprouts

8 canned water chestnuts, drained, rinsed and sliced (optional)

½ small head young green or white cabbage, finely shredded

400g cooked turkey, torn

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the dressing:

6 tbsp olive oil

finely grated zest and juice of a lemon

2-3 tbsp soy sauce

2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce (to taste)

pinch of dried red chillies

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method:

Shake the dressing ingredients together in a screw top jar. Reserve.

Cook the noodles by placing in a pan of boiling water for about 4 minutes, or until tender. Drain and place in a warmed bowl. Drizzle with olive oil to stop them sticking together and toss through. Cover and keep warm.

While the noodles are cooking, heat a splash of olive oil in a large frying pan and stir fry the spring onions and garlic for a moment to soften. Add the rest of the veg and cook gently, stirring, till they are heated through and beginning to wilt but still crisp.

Transfer the vegetables to the noodles and toss together.

Add most of the torn turkey, saving some to finish the salad.

Shake dressing again and pour over. Toss lightly and season.

Divide between four serving bowls. Scatter a few bits of the the remaining turkey on top of each bowl.

Serve decorated with fresh coriander sprigs and some fresh red chilli slices scattered over, if you wish.

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Bread Ham and Mustard Bake
Bread Ham and Mustard Bake

BREAD HAM AND MUSTARD BAKE

Great for brunch!

Ingredients (Serves 4)

8 thick slices crusty bread

Dijon Mustard for spreading

8 slices leftover cooked ham

8 cherry tomatoes, halved

1 bunch spring onions, trimmed and sliced

3 large fresh free range eggs

600mls milk

100g grated mature cheddar cheese (or use crumbeld soft cheese, grated

Parmesan and even blue cheese if you have it to use up.

Method:

Spread the bread with mustard and arrange in a buttered baking dish in which they fit snugly.

Tuck the ham slices in between the bread. Scatter over the cherry tomatoes and spring onions. Beat the eggs with the milk and add the cheese. Season.

Pour over the pudding. Scatter over the Jalapeno chilli slices if using.

Bake in a pre-heated oven, Gas 5 375F 190C for 20 minutes or until the top is golden and the egg mix has set.

Serve hot, straight from the oven.

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