Turkey dinner anyone?
The chances are there may be a fair bit of (hopefully not too dried-out) turkey meat left over from yesterday’s annual eatathon, not to mention that paradoxically superfluous yet essential side-kick, the baked ham. And maybe some spiced beef if you’re lucky – or if you’re from the People’s Republic of Cork, where it’s surely obligatory.
You probably have some leftover spuds kicking around too, because as any self-respecting Irish person knows, one can never have too many spuds. Except perhaps, just ever-so-slightly-possibly, if and when you managed to prepare waaay too many roast root veg. And three kinds of stuffing. And bread sauce to counterbalance the cranberry. And some fresh greens, for their nutritional value, in case anyone developed rickets or scurvy (not on your watch, begad!) for lack of vitamins and minerals.
Then there’s the small matter of the large plum pudding. Plus dessert. And the cheeseboard that had seemed so indispensable when list writing. And whatever else you’re all having, because at this stage there’s nothing to do but rally the troops, loosen the belts and settle down to the unavoidable job of still having your Christmas cake AND eating it, every day, until 2019 brings some release.
Now, you could just go into Groundhog Day mode and reheat the bejaysus out of everything, lash on some gravy to rehydrate and repeat ad nauseam. Or you could go the cold-cut route, and graze for days, only turning on the cooker to fry up plum pudding in butter (easily one of life’s greatest guilty pleasures).
Or, you could change things up, and give your tastebuds a little holiday. Ask them where they fancy going (some Mexican sunshine or or Italian warmth perhaps), and then channel your inner Ready, Steady, Cook competitor and get improvising.
Think outside the sandwich
Even just toasting the thing will elevate it to a whole new comfort level, especially if it’s oozing with brie or blue cheese cut with cranberry sauce and red cabbage or sauerkraut. Or baked ham with almost any kind of cheese and thinly sliced pear (fresh or poached) would be just as good. Or make it a pan-fried tortilla-encased turkey quesadilla with sour cream and salsa, or use up uncooked cabbage and carrots in a pickled slaw for a Vietnamese banh mi-style baguette with paté and spiced beef. Do whatever you like. It’s your sandwich.
Chill out with some frozen pastry
Mash up some turkey, ham, stuffing and cranberry sauce, bind in a little egg and wrap in puff pastry for festive ‘sausage’ rolls. Swap the egg for creme fraiche, pop in a pie dish and top with shortcrust. Or pack some filo with potato, turkey, turmeric and mustard seeds, fold into triangles and serve with a cumin-mint yoghurt as free-style samosa.
Let them eat cake!
Fishcakes maybe, with smoked mackerel or salmon, mashed potato and a little roast onion or fresh scallions. Or potato cakes, maybe boxty-style with some grated potato giving textural contrast to the mash. Use buttermilk for that authentic flavour or a 3:1 yoghurt and milk mix as a substitute, and serve with a full fry or wilted greens and poached eggs or smoked fish.
Stock up on flavour
The world seems divided into people who make their own stock and people who think life is too short. But it really is as simple as keeping a zip-lock bag in the icebox compartment, filling it with herb stalks, veg trimmings (just avoid brassicas and starchy roots like potatoes) and an extra carrot, onion or celery stick, then seasoning with peppercorns and simmering with the bird’s carcass for several hours before straining.
Life’s a broth, so suck it up
Once you’ve made your gorgeous turkey stock (or cheated with chicken stock cubes), there are any number of improvised soup combos that you can dream up, depending on what’s in the larder. Barley or spelt make a wholesome match for diced root veg, maybe with stuffing dumplings if you’re feeling adventurous, while noodles bulk out a broth nicely. Keep it light and bright with rice noodles, lemongrass and star anise à la Vietnamese pho, or go deep with dried mushroom and miso flavours in a nod to ramen’s rich comforts.
Channel that mama
And ask yourself, what would the Italians do? They’d probably use that stock to make a magic risotto, for a start, especially if they had celery and celeriac to use up, and then they might throw some diced turkey and grated lemon zest in at the end, if they felt like it. Or conjure up a magnificent pasta dish – a creamy mushroom tagliatelle, tangy tomato penne or mac’n’cheese would all welcome turkey or ham in their company.
Turn up the heat in a one-pot treat
Those root veg will flesh out a Moroccan turkey tagine with some harissa-blend spices, or look eastwards for some curry inspiration, either with rice on the side or potatoes in the pot, Massaman-style.
Let them eat cake (for real)
Even staunch Christmas cake lovers – an endangered species – can struggle to get through all that richness without a bit of contrast. But dice up the fruit cake and layer it with fruit and custard into a trifle? Now you’re talking. Or mix it into some home-made ice-cream, maybe topped with espresso for a festive affogato.
Crumble, fast under pressure
Leftover mincemeat is gorgeous in an orchard fruit crumble, especially laced with cranberry sauce and topped with a winter spice oat crumb. Or crumble that plum pudding into melted chocolate for seasonal truffles.
Butter them up
Who doesn’t love bread and butter pudding? Also, who can’t make bread and butter pudding? (You can. Honest.) Anything from plum pudding to panettone can be sliced into a Christmassy take on this comfort classic. Stale panettone also makes great French toast: just soak in egg and fry in butter. It’s still Christmas, after all!
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