Any keen cook – professional or amateur – knows that playing around with leftovers is often more fun than making the main dish in the first place, and Christmas is a bumper time for experimentation. In the aftermath of the biggest meal of the year, though, it is also a time to give yourself a break, with some recipes that are as easy to throw together in between bracing walks and refereeing family rows as they are to enjoy in front of the big Boxing Day film.
Save the showstoppers for New Year’s Eve, in favour of simple crowdpleasers: a fiery turkey stir-fry is always a good shout after a couple of days of more traditional British festive flavours, and no one is going to turn their nose up at nut roast burgers with cranberry sauce, or stale mince piescrumbled into vanilla ice cream. If you don’t have enough savoury leftovers to make a whole meal, then chop them up finely and add them to a meaty ragu, or a zingy curry.
But first, relax. After the stress of cooking for the big day, this is the fun bit: the ideas below are just that, so feel free to adapt them to what you have on hand: sometimes the weirdest combinations yield the most delicious results. Although I’ll be honest, I’m not sure if brussels sprouts go with absolutely everything …
Christmas bubble and squeak
This is a great way to empty the fridge, and makes a killer Boxing Day breakfast or quick supper. It is almost infinitely adaptable, so make it vegan by using only leftover veg or, alternatively, add roughly chopped pigs in blankets, shredded turkey etc, as you like, and serve with bread sauce if there is any still hanging around.
¼ onion, thinly sliced
½ tbsp olive oil or goose fat, lard or dripping from the roast, plus a little more for the egg if using
150g cooked veg (potatoes, sprouts and root veg are all ideal), chopped into bite-size pieces
¼ tsp smoked paprika
¼ tsp cumin seeds
1 egg (optional)
Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat, add the onion and cook until it is soft and golden. If you are serving it with an egg, turn the oven on low.
When the onion is done, stir in the paprika and cumin and cook for another minute or so, then scoop into a bowl, leaving as much fat in the pan as possible, and turn up the heat.
Once the pan is sizzling hot, add the veg and stir-fry until it crisps, then return the onion to the pan.
Keep the bubble and squeak hot in the oven while you heat a little more oil in a small pan and fry the egg. Serve on top, with a sprinkle of extra paprika.
Turkey fajitas with spicy sprout and orange slaw
Remember the 90s, when guacamole liberated the avocado from vinaigrette, and Tex-Mex was the coolest food on the block? Sizzling fajitas may have been replaced by overstuffed burritos or tiny tacos, but they are still as fun, and delicious, as ever. The accompanying slaw adds crunch, and is a useful way to use up excess sprouts, but can be replaced with shredded lettuce if you prefer – and you can use fresh tomatoes in the guacamole if you can find good ones in December.
2 red peppers
2 green or yellow peppers
2 tbsp oil
4 garlic cloves, crushed
400g roast turkey
2 tsp brown sugar
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp chipotle or other chilli flakes
Squeeze of lime juice
For the sprout slaw
200g brussels sprouts
2 spring onions
1 red jalapeño (optional)
4 tbsp fresh orange juice
2 tbsp oil (I like avocado)
For the guacamole
2 ripe avocado
Small bunch of coriander
2 sun-dried tomatoes (optional)
Start by making the slaw. Trim the sprouts and finely shred them crossways: you can use a food processor to do this if you prefer, but it doesn’t take long. Separate the slices as you put them into a bowl, then sprinkle with salt. Slice the spring onions and jalapeño, discarding the latter’s seeds, and add to the same bowl. Drizzle with orange juice and oil and toss well. Taste and season further if necessary. Set aside.
Cut the onion into chunky slices, and repeat with the peppers, discarding the seeds. Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat, and cook the onions until they begin to soften, then add the peppers and cook until both are soft and beginning to char slightly.
Meanwhile, to make the guacamole, slice the avocados in half and scoop out the flesh, discarding the stone. Roughly chop and then mash to a chunky puree. Finely chop the coriander and tomatoes, if using, stir into the avocado and season to taste with salt and lime juice.
Heat tortillas in a dry pan, and keep warm in a low oven.
When the peppers and onions are ready, stir in the garlic and cook for another minute or so. Toss the turkey with the sugar and spices and add to the pan. Turn up the heat and toss well with the lime juice until hot. Serve with the warm tortillas, slaw, guacamole and any other sides you fancy.
The great thing about this recipe is that you can use just about any cheese – perfect for seeing off all those odds and ends. The only thing to be wary of is it getting too hot, especially if you scale up the recipe to deal with more cheese. For this reason, I use a bain-marie, though if you have a fondue set or heat diffuser for your hob, then use that instead. If it does split, then whisk another teaspoon of cornflour with the same of cold water and gradually whisk it in until it comes back together.
350g-400g cheese, any rinds removed
150ml dry white wine (leftover fizz is perfect)
1 garlic clove, squashed
1 tsp cornflour
Dash of port or brandy (optional)
Nutmeg, to grate (optional)
Boiled new potatoes, toast, gherkins, lightly steamed vegetables, to serve
Grate hard cheese and cut softer ones into small chunks, keeping them separate. Boil a half kettle of water and prepare the accompaniments.
Put the wine in a small pan with the garlic and bring to a simmer. Whisk a little into the cornflour to make a paste, then whisk this into the rest of the wine.
Pour the boiling water into a saucepan over a medium-high heat, and the wine into a heatproof bowl big enough to sit just over the water without touching it.
Allow to heat up again, then gradually whisk in the cheeses, starting with the soft ones that will melt most easily and leaving hard ones until last.
Once it has all melted, whisk in the port together with a grating of nutmeg, if using, and serve immediately with the accompaniments for dipping – preferably still over the pan of hot water to keep it warm and liquid.
Christmas pudding is pretty great fried up in a little butter for breakfast, but if you want to make more of a ceremony of it, then this aptly named mess will make mincemeat of the leftovers. I have given the amounts per person, but it also works well in a big bowl.
75ml cold whipping cream
1 tbsp brandy, rum or whisky
1 tsp brown sugar
Pinch of nutmeg
75g cooked Christmas pudding
1 tsp pomegranate seeds (optional)
1 tsp flaked almonds
Put the cream, alcohol, brown sugar and nutmeg in a large bowl and whisk until it forms soft peaks.
Peel the tangerine and remove as much white pith as possible, then cut into rings.
Crumble half the pudding into individual glasses or a serving bowl and spoon some of the cream on top, followed by the tangerine. Repeat these layers, and finish by decorating with the pomegranate seeds and almonds.