50+ Brilliant Ideas for Christmas Leftovers

I have just read in Men’s Health Magazine (in an article that happens to mention me!) that we waste about a fifth of our food. That is surpassing ridiculous.


As behoves the author of The Leftovers Handbook I feel I should write a post about what to do with all the lovely Christmas leftovers. So here goes ...

Christmas Leftovers Inspiration
Handy pinnable image - go for it!

What do do with a Collection of Leftovers

~   Christmas Pie – turkey, stuffing balls, sausage-meat stirred into gravy topped with pastry or mash and baked.
~   Bubble and Squeak.  In short, fry leftover potatoes together with other leftover veggies in a little oil till hot all through and with a crisp crust.  The secret (not really, you can tell anyone) to this is to let everything sit for a while over the heat before disturbing it to allow a crust form. You could add leftover sausage, turkey, ham, stuffing and/or top with a fried egg.
~   Make an Après Christmas Pizza with all the leftovers, leftover bread sauce would make a great alternative to the more usual tomato base here. If you feel cheese is needed then Brie is probably your best bet, together with some leftover cranberry sauce.  Great pizza dough recipe here.

Leftover Turkey

Historically speaking this is the most discussed leftover since the World began. Ideas include …

~   Add shredded leftover turkey to this lovely Alfredo Sauce recipe and toss with pasta or eat on toast.
~   Turkey sandwiches, of course – you can add all sorts of other leftovers to advantage: stuffing, sausage meat, cranberry sauce, etc.
~   Add to stir fries.
~   See here for how to cope with the turkey carcass and scraps of meat attached to it.  The post is about chicken but the info is exactly the same for turkey. With the stock and scraps you can then make …

Chunky Chicken, Leek & Potato Soup – serves 2 generously

turkey carcass and 500 ml turkey stock
1 large leek
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large baking potato

~    Manually strip every last bit of meat from the bones  (there are two particularly succulent nuggets of flesh, known as oysters, on the underside of the chicken), and set the meat aside.
~    Cut off the root end of the leek, remove the outer layer and slice. Clean carefully – see here for how to clean leeks.
~    Cook the leek gently in the olive oil, covered, till soft – about 10 minutes.
~    Peel and slice the potato and add to the leeks. Pour over the chicken stock, bring to a boil, cover and simmer till the potatoes are tender.
~    Using a potato masher or fork crush the potatoes into the soup.
~    Taste and season and stir in the reserved chicken pieces.
~    Reheat as needed but Do Not Boil once the chicken has been added or it will toughen.

This soup (which is made using my Seriously Useful Soup Recipe) is delicious with croutons and frazzled prosciutto/parma ham torn into pieces and baked alongside the croutons till crisp. See here for info on Croutonology.


Leftover Gravy

~   This freezes well and, in fact, if you are also freezing some turkey meat it will fare particularly well if you freeze it in the gravy.
~   Spread into turkey sandwiches.
~   Use to sauce pasta together with shreds of turkey and sprinkle with crisply fried stuffing crumbs.
~   Use to enrich soup such as the one above.
~   Add a spoonful to mushrooms on toast.
~   Stir leftover gravy into the soup above or use it in a turkey pie.

~   If your gravy is particularly delicious (and I trust that it is, if not see here for how to make superb gravy) then serve hot as a dipping gravy – maybe alongside the turkey sarnies.

Leftover Stuffing

~   Form into patties and fry till crisp – maybe serve topped with poached eggs!
~   Crumble and fry till crisp then sprinkle onto turkey soup or dice and fry as stuffing croutons.
~   Add to bubbly ‘n’ squeaky type stuff.
~   Add to turkey sarnies, of course.
~   Use as a filling in vegetables – e.g. baked squash, onions, etc.
~   Boxing Day Fritters – roll leftover stuffing into balls, flatten and put a spoonful of cranberry sauce in the middle, reform the ball enclosing the cranberry sauce completely. Dip in flour, egg and breadcrumbs and deep fry till hot, crisp and golden. Eat carefully as the cranberry will be very hot OR, if you’re scared of hot sauce, form the stuffing into cakes, fry till crisp and serve with cranberry sauce.
~   Make stuffing balls or sausage shapes and use instead of real sausages in Toad in the Hole - recipe here.

Leftover Bread Sauce

~  Bread sauce is also good added to turkey sandwiches.

Bread Sauce Stuffed Mushrooms

Remove the stems from large open mushrooms and brush inside and out with oil. Fill with the bread sauce, sprinkle with soft fresh breadcrumbs and bake at 400ºF/200ºC/180C fan/gas 6 for 15-20 minutes till hot through and the top is crisp and golden. These are extra good drizzled with balsamic glaze.

Leftover Brussels Sprouts

~   Add to bubble & squeak.
~   Slice and gently reheat in bacon fat together with crispy bacon pieces.
~   Slice and reheat in butter then add a little cream and freshly ground black pepper.

Leftover Cranberry Sauce

~   Cranberry sauce is great in a bacon and/or turkey sandwich together with some Brie.~   Add a spoonful or two to vinaigrette (vinaigrette recipe and then some here) dress a festive salad.
~   Stir into yogurt or porridge for breakfast.
~   Add to fruit pies and crumbles.
~   Warm gently in a little orange juice as a sauce for pancakes or ice cream or even as a glaze for ham.

~   Swirl through cake, pancake or muffin batter.

Leftover Christmas Pud

~   Fry thick slices of leftover Christmas Pudding in butter to reheat luxuriously. Serve with custard, cream or ice cream or, if it is still the season of goodwill, all three.
~   Crumble and heat with some or all of the following: brandy/rum, butter, orange juice, ginger syrup, brown sugar etc. for a delicious ice cream sauce.  OR
~   Mix a similar goo into softened vanilla ice cream and refreeze.
~   Make the best Christmas Pudding Ice Cream I know - recipe here.

Christmas Pud Muffins

1 tablespoon brandy
100g leftover pud
125g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
50g soft light brown sugar
40g softened butter

~   Preheat oven to 350ºF/180ºC/160°C fan/gas 4.
~   Mix all the ingredient to a lumpy batter.
~   Divide between 8 muffin cups.
~   Bake for 10-15 minutes till ready.


Leftover Brandy Butter

~   Spread on hot toast, crumpets etc.
~   Fry Christmas Pudding in it as above.

Leftover Mincemeat

~   Mix into softened ice cream together with a little (and I do mean a little otherwise the ice cream will be too soft) brandy and refreeze. Actually, you can use crushed mince pies with this, the pastry adds texture.
~   Add to apples and make a Christmas Crumble.
~   Spread onto pastry, roll up Swiss roll fashion, slice and bake for Mincemeat Palmiers.


Leftover Panettone & Stollen

~   The most perfect breakfast ever – Stollen gently fried in butter and topped with double or clotted cream.
~   Panettone makes good toast.
~   These both make very good bread and butter pudding or see here for a wonderful quick way to use Stollen. It doesn't even have to be "leftover" Stollen!


Leftover Nuts

~   Toss in seasoned oil and roast till crunchy.  Cool completely, store airtightly and serve with salads and as nibble etc.
~    Add to salads and stir fries.
~    Add to granola and muesli.
~    Mix chopped nuts into crumble.
~    Mix coarsely chopped nuts and a little honey into softened butter for melting on waffles, pancakes, baked squash and anything you fancy.
~    Sprinkle over ice cream.

Whatever you have leftover after Christmas (even booze!) my book Creative Ways to Use Up Leftovers is bound to help covering, as it does, so many potential leftovers!

cookbook of creative recips and ideas for leftovers

Christmas Dinner Side Dishes the Easy Way!

This is my second post about making Christmas easy on the cook so that you/she/he can also enjoy the day.

My first post concerning the turkey and the gravy is here.  I shall now deal with the veggies and side dishes.

The standard Christmas dinner, in addition to the turkey and gravy, includes …

Roast Potatoes or Mashed Potatoes or Both
Roast Parsnips
Brussels Sprouts
Other veg – probably including carrots
Possibly Sausage meat
Bread Sauce
Cranberry Sauce

That seems quite a lot for a chap to prepare on Christmas morning when there is also so much conviviality, present opening and sipping of beverages to accomplish. 

The best thing to do is to prepare/cook everything you can in advance.

If you have read my previous post you will know that the oven will be on at 200°C/400°F/180ºC fan/gas 6 reheating the turkey so it makes sense that all the dishes here than need baking are done so at the same temperature. See a timetable  at the end of this post.

So here goes …

Roast Potatoes

It is possible to do the first half of preparing roast potatoes – the par-boiling bit – a day ahead.  Use a floury potato; Maris Piper, Desiree or King Edward would be good. 1 kilo of potatoes should be enough for 6 people.

On Christmas Eve

~    Peel the potatoes and cut into similar sized pieces so that they cook evenly.
~    Rinse in cold water, put into a large saucepan, cover with cold water and add a sprinkle of salt.
~    Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
~    Drain well and shake the potatoes in the strainer to rough up the edges a bit.
~    Spread out in a dish to cool and when completely cold, cover and refrigerate.

On the day, about 70 minutes before service ...

~    Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/180ºC fan/gas 6 (if you haven’t already done so).
~    Get the potatoes out of the fridge.
~    Put a little olive or other vegetable oil, goose fat, duck fat or beef drippings into a pan large enough to take the potatoes in one layer without touching. If there is not ½ cm/¼” of fat in the pan add a bit more. Pop into the oven till hot till very hot.
~    Carefully add the potatoes to the hot far and turn gently to coat.
~    Roast for 40-45 minutes till crisp and golden – you may turn them over half way through cooking if you wish.

Mashed Potatoes

Mashed potato can certainly be made in advance, chilled and reheated so long as you do it properly!  Firstly, make sure they are nice and creamy and then either …

1.   Heat a little double cream, enough to cover the base, in a saucepan and then stir in the potatoes and continue stirring gently and not too much over medium heat till hot through.  If it seems a bit stiff add more cream.

2.   Make a gratin - put them in an ovenproof dish, dot with butter, sprinkle with breadcrumbs and bake till hot through and golden on top – about 25 minutes.
Roast Parsnips

Treat the parsnips exactly as the potatoes but roast them for slightly less time, say 30 minutes, till crisp and golden. You could drizzle with a little honey for the last 5 minutes of cooking.

Incidentally you will see that I have cut the parsnips into slices rather than wedges.  Maybe not quite so pretty but they cook more evenly.



To be honest I do cook my veg a few minutes before serving the dinner; you can cut them up at leisure during the morning and they only take minutes.

You can, however, if you like cook them ahead of time, even on Christmas Eve if you wish, by cooking in boiling water till only just tender when pierced with the tip of a knife – 3-5 minutes. As soon as they are perfectly cooked and absolutely immediately, drain and refresh in cold water by tipping the cooked vegetables into a large bowl of icy cold water.  This “refreshing”, as we say in the trade, stops any further cooking and keeps their colours bright. Drain and chill till ready to reheat which you will do by either dropping into boiling water and draining after 30 seconds or tossing in a little hot butter till heated through.


Brussel Sprouts

Cook and refresh the brussel sprouts as with the vegetables above. You could also reheat as above but they are even better if sautéed in bacon fat.

Red Cabbage

Red cabbage is perfect because it actually improves with a long rest before serving with time so you can do this 2-3 days in advance.

1 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion finely sliced
1 red cabbage – finely sliced or shredded
2 tablespoons soft light brown sugar
2 eating apples – peeled and sliced
a pinch or two of ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon of  red wine vinegar

~   In a roomy pan with a lid gently cook the onion in the olive oil till starting to soften.
~   Stir in the cabbage and cook for 5 minutes.
~   Add all the rest of the ingredients, stir to mix, put the lid on and cook on low for half an hour.
~   Taste and season with salt, pepper, more cinnamon if you like and maybe some cranberry sauce or even a little port.
~   Cool, chill to needed and reheat by stirring over medium heat (or even in the microwave) to serve.


Possibly Sausagemeat

For the best results, don’t buy sausagemeat in trays, buy your favourite sausages and release the meat from the skins. Much tastier! Roll the sausagemeat into balls and arrange in an ovenproof dish and chill.  Bake for 25-30 minutes.  A cunning plan might be to form the ball loosely in your hand, put a spoonful of cranberry sauce in the middle and form the meat round it to enclose completely. Nice surprise when you eat them!



As I said in my last post, it is not a good idea to stuff the turkey (even though the stuff is called stuffing!).  Far better is to make it the day before, chill till needed, sprinkle with breadcrumbs, dot with butter and bake till hot, crispy and golden. You could make a packet of stuffing mix or use this recipe …

Homemade Stuffing

3 slices of, possibly stale bread torn into pieces
1 large onion – coarsely chopped
1 stick of celery, a clove of garlic and a carrot also coarsely chopped (all optional)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
salt and pepper
a little turkey, chicken or vegetable stock
a knob of butter

~   Sauté the vegetables in the oil till tender and starting to turn golden in places.
~   Stir in the bread and then add enough stock to moisten it but not enough that it is sitting in liquid.
~   Add the butter, cover and leave to soak for a few minutes.
~   Stir in any additions (see below), taste, season and stir in a little more stock if necessary.
Whether you make your own stuffing or a bought in mix make it much more interesting by adding something to the basic mixture: sage is a traditional choice and coarsely chopped bacon, crumbled sausagemeat, chestnuts, cranberries, nuts, ham, etc. also spring to mind.

Bread Sauce

This too can be made the day before – here’s my recipe which is not quite authentic but is ever so tasty.

Pin for future reference!
1-2 slices bread, torn into bite sized pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil or butter
1 medium onion
100ml/3½fl oz hot chicken or veg stock
75ml/2½fl oz double cream

~   Tear the bread into pieces and either allow to go stale or dry out in a hot oven for a few minutes.
~   Thinly slice the onion and cook very gently in the oil or butter till very, very tender. This is easiest done if you press a piece of foil or a butter wrapper directly onto the onions to cover completely and then put on the lid.
~   When soft enough to cut with a wooden spoon and starting to caramelise add the hot stock and the dry bread and bring to a simmer.
~   Stir in the cream, bring to a boil, taste and season then cool, cover and keep in the fridge till needed.
~   To serve reheat gently (stove top or microwave) and dilute as required with more stock, cream or water.

Cranberry Sauce

There are three recipes for Cranberry Sauce in my EasyFestive Food for a Stress-Free Christmas Chunky Homemade Cranberry Sauce, Cranberry & Apple Sauce and Rather Special Mulled Cranberry Sauce all of which can be made in advance but, if you are in a real hurry, open a jar and to make it even more delightful stir in a little port.


Dessert ~ incidentally

Christmas Dinner Timetable

To Serve Christmas Dinner at 2.00 pm

12.00 ~ Remove cooked turkey, potatoes (both mashed and par-boiled), part cooked parsnips, pre-made stuffing and sausage balls out of the fridge to come to room temperature.

12.30 ~ Turn on oven to 200°C/400°F/180ºC fan/gas 6

1.00 ~ Put ½ cm/¼” of fat in the roast potato pan and put in the oven to heat through.

1.15 ~ Turn the par-cooked potatoes in hot oil, spread out a bit so not touching and return the pan to the oven to roast.

1.25 ~ Put a dish with a little oil in it (as with the roast potatoes) in the oven to heat up.

~ Turn the par-cooked parsnips in the oil and put in the oven to roast
        ~ Put sausage meat balls in the oven.
        ~ Put mashed potato gratin in the oven, is using.
        ~ Put stuffing in the oven.

1.40 ~ Put turkey legs in oven.

1.45 ~ Put sliced turkey in stock in the oven – if using this method.
        ~ Turn the roast potatoes and parsnips over in their pan if you wish.

1.50 ~ Open cranberry sauce and perhaps stir in a little port.

1.50 ~ Gently heat the mashed potato, red cabbage and bread sauce. Cover and keep warm.
        ~ Boil water for heating vegetables if using that method.

1.55 ~ Reheat vegetables in hot water or melted butter.
        ~ Sauté brussels sprouts in butter or bacon fat.


A Stress-Free Christmas


I would, of course, just like to mention my Christmas book Easy Festive Food for a Stress-Free Christmas!

Catering for Christmas can be time consuming, tiring and a bit stressy, so I thought I’d offer some suggestions to make it quicker, easier, more relaxed and perhaps more impressive!

This book does not contain all the information and directions that you can find everywhere in books, magazines and on the net such as roasting times or mince pie recipes. This contains a collection of useful ideas and recipes that as a professional chef I have used over the years to delight guests and customers without knackering myself!

Included are over 50 interesting recipes such as The Quickest, Easiest, Smoothest and Richest Chicken Liver Pâté I know, a super easy but Really Luxurious Bread Sauce and a gorgeous no-churn Christmas Pudding Ice Cream. I have also added every useful idea, hint and tip I can think of!

How to Cook your Turkey the Day Before ~ Perfectly!

I have just read on the Huffington Post that, according to a study by the Food Network ...

cooking Christmas Dinner is so difficult that it takes 47 years (!) to learn how to do it successfully and that a third of women (it doesn’t mention men) never manage to do it properly!

Well something that will help a lot is – cook as much of it as possible in advance!  This post concerns the turkey and the gravy.  My next post or two will concern other dishes to prepare in advance. 

As a chef, I have cooked and served numerous Christmas (and, as it happens, Thanksgiving) dinners and I always roasted the turkeys the day before.  Also, domestically, time and time again on Boxing Day when eating pretty much the same meal as the day before, people have remarked how it seems so much nicer the second day.


Now I always roast my turkey in advance, not only is it delicious it also means I can get up late and spend a lot of time sitting around opening presents, nibbling things and sipping festive beverages.

I’ll talk you through it.

~  The Turkey  ~

1.   If using a frozen turkey defrost in accordance with the instructions on the wrapper. Completely!!
2.  Cook your turkey on Christmas Eve and start in the morning so that it has plenty of time after cooking to cool before chilling overnight.
3.   Take the fresh or defrosted turkey out of the fridge about an hour before cooking to bring to room temperature.
4.   If the turkey has instructions on the wrapper follow them!
5.   If your turkey has not provided cooking times and instructions see here. 
6.   If there is a bag of giblets inside the turkey remove it. You can either throw it away or simmer the contents in water to make a light stock to add to the gravy. (When I was in the West Indies I seasoned and roasted all the turkey necks and the girls in the kitchen would fight over them – a local delicacy!)
7.   Don’t bother washing it; it is a messy job and cold contaminate your kitchen. Any bacteria will be killed by cooking.
8.   Don’t stuff it!  If you stuff the turkey that will add to the weight and the cooking time; two inconveniences, you don’t need. The stuffing will also cool more slowly than the meat and could be a health hazard. If you cook the stuffing separately it will have a lovely crispy top.
9.   Preheat the oven in accordance with the instructions on the turkey or on the aforementioned website. 
10.   I recommend that you un-truss your turkey, i.e. remove any string or whatever holding the legs together and make it assume the position with legs spread wide.  This way it will not only cook faster and more evenly but it will also result in more crispy skin.  See below for info on crisp skin.

11.   Dry the breasts and rub with a little oil, you can use butter; it is tasty but the skin will be softer and more prone to burning. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and maybe other seasonings if you like; herbs, spices etc. 
12.   Season inside the cavity and if you wish put in half a lemon, wedges of onion or  fresh herbs.
13.   Cover loosely with foil and cook in accordance with instructions.
14.   Take the foil off about 45 before the estimated end of cooking to allow the breast to brown.

Is it Done Yet?

I don’t think the pop-up timers that some turkeys come with are reliable so instead …

~   If you have a meat thermometer the bird is cooked when it reached 70oC/160oF and incidentally here’s an interesting point, the temperature will actually rise for a short while after taking it out the oven.

~   If you don’t have a thermometer then pierce the thigh meat with a sharp knife and see if the juices run clear.  If there is any blood in them, return the turkey to the oven for another 15 minutes then test again. Another indication of doneness is the drumstick should waggle freely at the joint if you move it.

Cooling & Storing the Turkey

~   When the turkey is cooked cover loosely with foil and set aside to cool.
~   After at least an hour cut the legs and breasts from the turkey – if you cut it too soon delicious juices will be lost, after an hour or so they will have been re-absorbed by the meat.
~   Wrap the cold pieces in cling film and arrange in a container that will easily fit in the fridge.

How to Reheat the Turkey

~  Get the meat out of the fridge half an hour or so before reheating.
~   The legs and maybe the wings – arrange on a baking try, skin side up, and roast in a hot oven 200°C/400°F/180ºC fan/gas 6 for 15-20 minutes to heat through fully and crisp up the skin.
~   The breast meat – there are two ways I would recommend for reheating this meat …

1.   This is the method I use at home when cooking for just a few people.

About 20 minutes before serving bring the gravy (see below for gravy information) just to a boil, turn down the heat and add the sliced breast meat and submerge it in the gravy. Over low heat, watching carefully, return to a simmer. DO NOT allow to boil or the meat will toughen. Cover and set aside.  This way the meat will warm through without the slightest chance of being anything but tender and juicy. Serve the meat from the hot gravy and then, if necessary, reheat the gravy.

2.   Lay the sliced meat in a shallow roasting pan or similar and drizzle with a little turkey broth (that you have made in the roasting pan - see here).  Cover tightly with foil and pop into a hot oven 200°C/400°F/180ºC fan/gas 6 for 10-12 minutes.

As luck would have it 200°C/400°F/180ºC fan/gas 6 is the same temperature you will be cooking the roast potatoes.

~   Crispy skin – obviously, the skin on the breasts will have softened overnight so strip it from the meat, cut into as many pieces as you have guests, spread on a baking tray and then a few minutes before serving pop them in a hot oven the crisp up.  Don’t, of course, get any gravy on them when serving or they will immediately go soggy again.

~  How to Make Gravy with a Bonus!  ~

According to the above quoted article in the Huffington Post ...

“10% of people admit to messing up the gravy”

I also read somewhere that 25% of British people would like to see more interesting flavours of gravy and, at the same time, gravy with more authentic ingredients. 


I would suggest making your own gravy and, if you cook your turkey on Christmas Eve you can calmly make the gravy the following morning rather than rush it at the last minute.  Believe me, making gravy is easy, I promise.  See here for how to make wonderful gravy. 


There is an added bonus to making gravy the day after cooking the turkey; instead of carefully pouring the liquid fat from the top of the meat juices, If you have chilled the meat juices left from the day before the fat will have risen and solidified and be so much easier to deal with. 

Dessert ~ incidentally

To Further Help with Christmas

Catering for Christmas can be time consuming, tiring and a bit stressy, so I thought I'd offer some suggestions to make it quicker, easier, more relaxed and perhaps more impressive.