Love those leftovers!

Turn out your cupboards and make the most of your Christmas leftovers with Michele Guinness’s recipe ideas

I used to love the week after Christmas in Normanton, the West Yorkshire former mining town where we lived for five years. Some of the old traditions lingered, and every night of that particular week people would open their homes to their extended families and friends for a series of  ‘leftover parties’. 

Every night, as you crossed the town on foot (it was small enough to do that), you would pass folk carrying shopping bags filled with tubs of turkey stew, ham rissoles or rice salad, half-eaten pizzas, a few packets of crisps, battered mince pies, three quarters of a bottle of wine and a few remaining cans of beer.

And there would be countless familiar greetings of “Eyup, our Ken”, “Eyup, lass”, as dozens of people criss-crossed  each other in the street on their way to wherever their party was.  The food deteriorated as the week went by, until New Year’s Eve, when everyone made fresh.  It created a wonderful sense of communal sharing. No one was forgotten, however elderly.  No single parent family was left on their own.

And they did teach me a certain ingenuity with all those bits left in the pantry, which  managed to turn up in dozens of different disguises - none taking an inordinate amount of preparation. Who wants to spend a lot of time cooking in the week after Christmas?  Simplicity and speed is of an essence.  My instinct would be to open a jar of curry and pour it over the leftover turkey pieces, but if you want to do something a little different with more wholesome ingredients, here is an alternative.

Spicy Turkey/Chicken Cous Cous

Serves 4

100g (3.5oz) leftover cooked turkey or chicken
2 tbsp medium curry powder
2 tbsp paprika
1 tsp cinnamon
375g (13oz) cous cous
100g (3.5oz) chopped apricots, dates or sultanas
2 tbsp olive oil
75g (3oz) butter
600 ml (one pint) chicken stock (use cube or powder if you have no fresh)

NB - After the turkey is served on Christmas Day, pour any fat and juices in the roasting tin into a bowl, and refrigerate.  By the next day, the fat will solidify on the top and can be scraped off and thrown away. The remaining stock on the bottom can be used in this recipe.  It will keep in the fridge for 3-4 days.

Put the cous cous into an oven-proof dish, cover with the stock and 1 tsp salt.  Leave for 6-7 minutes to absorb the liquid.  Stir in the cooked turkey or chicken, the olive oil, dried fruit and the spices, dot generously with butter, cover with foil and warm through in a low oven for around 15-20 mins.  Mark 2/150C (130C fan oven).  Decorate with chopped coriander and serve with a  mixed salad or fresh vegetables.

Apple and Mincemeat Custard Meringue (gluten free)

You need a sweet tooth for this one!

Serves 4

One  624g (1 lb 6oz) can low fat rice pudding
2 eggs
50g (2oz) castor sugar
One 370g (13oz) jar mincemeat
Apple puree (either home-made or in a jar/can)

Mix the egg yolks with the rice pudding in a deep, oven-safe trifle bowl and bake on 3/160C or 140C for a fan oven for around 15-20 mins until the top is firm to the touch like baked custard. Spread with a layer of  mincemeat and apple puree.  Whisk the egg whites until stiff, then fold in the castor sugar, and pile on top of the mincemeat and apple.  Return to the oven for a further 10-15 mins until the meringue is golden, then serve.

Spicy Cranberry Shortbread

Use up your leftover dried cranberries in this very special, easy to make, shortbread

225g (8oz) plain flour
150g (5oz) butter or good quality margarine
100g (3.5oz) light, soft brown sugar
2 tbsp clear honey
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
75g (30z) dried cranberries

Rub the butter, flour and spices together until they resemble fine breadcrumbs, then add all the remaining ingredients, and press the mixture down firmly into an 18cm shallow tin (round or square).  Sprinkle with castor sugar and bake on Mark3/160C (140C fan oven) for 20 mins.  Remove from the oven and cut into squares, triangles or fingers.