By Emma Chow
I love Christmas leftovers. I hate wasting food. That is, as long as I can turn said leftovers into something else. Leftover meat, cheese, salads, vegetables and fruit are easily turned into new dishes. Then there are other bits and pieces, not so easy to revamp into something that the family will be happy to tuck into again. If you often end up with a lot of leftovers post-Christmas, look through this list and see if I’ve thought of anything you haven’t already tried. We’ll start with the most obvious and move on to the more outlandish as we go.
“Phh”, I hear you say, “that’s so obvious”. It is, but sometimes I think people need reminding. The greatest most decadent sandwich experience I’ve had, has been of the post-Christmas leftover variety. Slices of ham, bits of leftover cheese, bit of turkey, cranberry sauce, good strong mustard, salad greens even if they’ve been dressed, coleslaw, pieces of roast pumpkin, mayonnaise. Only at this special time of the year can such a delicious monstrosity be rationally and easily made.
This may not be the time of year that soup is appropriate for, but you can easily freeze it and keep it for cooler times. Also, I find the key to making a really good soup out of leftovers, is to take the ingredients to a different cultural style than which they originated. Taking turkey and leftover chicken, whether sliced, rolled or on the bone, and putting them in an Asian inspired soup full of ginger, garlic, lemongrass and chilli can make you entirely forget your traditional Christmas lunch. A Greek inspired lamb soup would be great, or a motley mixed vegetable soup made up of roast bits of roast veg, spare salad things, leftover rice, pasta, and whatever else you dare add to the pot. When you blend it up, if there was a lot of roast pumpkin in it, it still looks like pumpkin soup. Sort of.
Everything can go into the pie. Assorted leftover meat, vegetables, maybe even a couple of condiments. Put it all in a pastry base and top with more pastry, bake and serve. If you feel that the meat is a bit dry, make a basic roux thickened pie sauce with 1 tablespoon butter cooked until bubbling. Add to this 1 tablespoon flour and stir constantly until mixture is bubbling. Add 1 cup of chicken stock (or other meat stock; you could make it from the leftover bones!) and whisk together over heat until the sauce is thickened and bubbling. Season to taste and add to leftovers a 1/4 cup at a time until you think the mixture is moist enough but not too moist that the pie is soggy. Allow mixture to cool before putting in pastry and baking.
4. Potato Topped Pot Pie:
You could do as above but avoid the pastry and just put the mixture in a casserole dish and top with mashed potato. Bonus points if you use leftover mash or leftover potatoes.
5. Leftover Party:
My lovely mother-in-law’s birthday is on Boxing Day, so we often gather with the previous day’s leftovers, or things that we’ve made from the leftovers. The more people who come who originally attended different Christmas gatherings, the more interesting your party fare will be.
6. Mashed Potato and Leftover Patties:
Combine cold mashed potato, leftover stuffing, chopped up bits of meat or vegetables and press firmly in slightly damp hands to form patties. Pan fry and enjoy. Is particularly good with lashings of tomato sauce.
I can hear my first boss in my head:
“You can’t make a quiche out of those things. It is not French.”
He was French, so I suppose he would know. But take a simple pastry case (you can find my recipe here) and fill it with bits of vegetables, meat and cold cuts OR fish, any and all kinds of cheese, any salad ends that you think will be easily disguised. Whisk together eggs, cream and milk with a touch of salt and pepper. I generally go 3-4 eggs with 1 cup of milk and 1/2 cup of cream. Fill the pastry case with the egg mixture and bake the quiche for about 40 minutes at 180 degrees. Cool before serving.
8. Leftover Breakfast Bake-Up:
Like the quiche, this involves adding a bunch of eggs, but sans the pastry. Good for a breakfast dish and if you can’t be bothered with/don’t want pastry involved. Grease a casserole or ceramic baking dish. Fill with leftovers as described above and top with a similar egg mixture, though you can go more heavy on the eggs. Garnish with grated cheese and bake for 20-25 minutes at 180 degrees.
9. Fried Rice:
All the odds and ends of meat and seafood can go into a fried rice. Chopped vegetables too. The best fried rice is always made with a lot of random leftovers. You never know what you’re going to get in every spoonful.
10. Pasta Bake:
fold leftover meat and vegetables through cooked pasta and a simple tomato sauce or creamy sauce, top with grated cheese and bake until golden and bubbling on top.
11. Baked Potatoes:
The best baked potatoes are simply medium size potatoes that are rinsed, rolled in salt, pricked all over with a fork and baked at 200 degrees for 1 1/2 hours. Fill these wonders with all the leftovers you have, be they meat, seafood, salad, sauce or other. Though maybe not dessert. If necessary, top with grated cheese and sour cream if you like.
Use my easy waffle recipe, add no more than 2 cups of assorted chopped leftovers to the batter. Makes an easy and delicious one handed meal. Nice for lunchboxes.
13. Leftover Nachos:
corn chips, black beans (bonus if you’re using a bit of leftover black bean salad), chopped up leftover meat, grated cheese. Crisp and allow to turn golden in a hot oven. Add diced avocado, tomato, drizzled sour cream and whatever odds and ends you might have, and you have a fine if messy meal.
14. Leftover Quesadillas:
It is for this very reason that I keep a packet of wheat tortillas in the house at all times. Between two tortillas, sandwich a handful of diced leftovers. Sprinkle over grated mozzarella (no more than a 1/2 cup). Press together and toast on one side in a hot pan for a few minutes before carefully flipping and toasting the other side. Slide onto a chopping board, cut into triangles and serve. Make more.
15. Cranberry tartlets:
Cranberries are not native to Australia, unlike in the US, so while we may bring out this condiment during the holiday period, you may be stuck as to what to do with it afterwards.
16. Giant salad:
Sometimes people are afraid of combining different salads, scared that they just won’t go together and taste disgusting. I once worked in a cafe absolutely famous for salads. We were able to charge people about $15 for a big bowl or tub of salads, and our patrons were unafraid of have an green salad full of shaved parmesan and grapefruit next to a Greek salad with watermelon, an Asian noodle salad or an Indian spiced roast potato salad. They shovelled forkfuls of everything together, and it always tasted surprising and good. Why not make a giant, insane salad from all your salad leftovers? If you’re scared, make a new dressing, powerfully flavoured and dump it over the whole thing.
17. Potato Croquettes:
If you have any leftover mashed potatos, or roasted potatos, or possible potato salad that could be mashed up, consider making these. It’s not that outlandish to use leftover potato salad that has been mixed with an egg based mayonnaise to make this, as you need to add eggs to the mixture anyway. Thicken the mixture up with bits of chopped vegetables and meat and add a touch of flour to keep it together. If using straight mashed potato, you need to add an egg for every cup of mash. Press into balls with damp hands, cover in breadcrumbs and freeze for 15 minutes. Fry in hot oil at 190 degrees Celcius for 3 minutes and drain on paper towel. Season with a little salt before serving.
Composed Desserts, sweets and cakes are probably the hardest things to use up. But here are a few ways that could help you move that sweet stuff a long. It’s pretty tempting to dump desserts and you should probably turf the creamier one’s if they’ve been sitting out for hours on a warm days. But otherwise, I try to use them because I read the history of how much sugar used to be worth to people and it freaked me out.
Best made and consumed the day after Christmas. Combine leftover diced or crumbled cake, layers of custard and/or whipped cream, fruit and jelly in a big glass bowl. Top with more whipped cream if you must.
All those fancypants ice cream shops and cafes are doing gourmet milkshakes where milk and ice cream are blended up with chopped up brownies, pies, cake, and more. My favourite is an apple pie milkshake at the most amazing bakery west of Melbourne. Have a go at making one of these yourself.
20. Brownies and Cookies:
It’s like dessert Inception. Desserts within a dessert. And maybe even that could be used again in another dessert. Take existing leftover bits of cake, biscuit, and the like, chop them up, and put them in a new cookie dough or brownie batter. Bake and enjoy.