After filling the fridge – and the freezer – with enough food to last an Arctic winter (at least 6 months’ worth), post-Christmas is the time we start emptying it again, unless of course you have another buying spree for New Year.
Whatever occasions you cater for, no doubt you will have something leftover. Some ham or turkey, a pot of cream lurking at the back of the fridge, even a few veg languishing in the salad drawer, or all that cheese you didn’t get around to eating. Do not dispose, and do not despair, there are many glorious things you can do with leftovers.
Bread and cheese – if it’s ripe – will freeze, as will cream if it’s been whipped. Transferring food from the fridge to the freezer, if you have room, is one way to avoid waste. It is far better, to knock up something tasty that you will enjoy eating, rather than leaving bits of things in the freezer to potentially throw away later. If you are going to freeze anything do label it with a date and identity. It’s surprising how difficult it can be to distinguish lentils from mince once they’ve been frozen.
If you wish to use up your surplus food in more creative ways here are some suggestions. Toasties. Most things go well between slices of less than fresh toasted bread. Turkey, ham and cheese to name a few, with that leftover cranberry sauce or stuffing – or both if you’re feeling experimental. There are no rules and any combination you fancy will probably work.
The same can be true of wraps, where you can combine leftovers with the addition of fresh herbs, slaws or relishes to make something special.
Pasta dishes are another great way to use up leftovers. Scraps of meat, bacon, even a few ‘less than fresh’ veg will work well with a macaroni cheese, or simple pasta and dish. If you’re feeling more adventurous you can have a go at making ravioli stuffed with pureed veg, cheese or meat. A simple butter and sage sauce adds a nice finishing touch. If you don’t feel up to making pasta, get some lasagne sheets and make up your choice of layers from what you have left.
The ubiquitous turkey curry is a must for some people’s leftover’s menu, but how about ringing the changes with a biriyani? Saffron rice with leftover turkey, spiced according to your own taste can be a delight.
Another ‘must have’ leftover dish for us is bubble and squeak. I’ll deliberately make extra so we can have this annual treat, making any spare into patties for the freezer. You can make a vegetable jumble if you prefer, which is essentially a mix of any veg you have left, fried up with your choice of herbs and spices and perhaps topped with an egg. What’s not to like? Another couple of ideas for using up veg – cooked or fresh: vegetable bakes and roast vegetables for wraps or salad. Both can also use up some of the cheese mountain at the same time. Bakes are a great winter veg option, and pretty much anything goes. For a roast veg dish I use a couple of large breaking trays and leave the roughly cut veg in a single layer, well lubricated with olive oil and well-seasoned. Once cooked it can be served hot or cold as a salad, with brie or blue cheese. It’s also another wrap option which works really well. So, don’t let your roots or salad perish, get them roasted into something tasty.
If you’ve done enough cooking over the period and want a simple solution, you can always whizz up a soup. A decent stock, some leftover meat and a few veg can make something memorable. Some years I’ve used up both stuffing and bread sauce in soups. Bread is a great thickener and makes a very silky soup, so do give it a try.
If you have sweet things leftover, don’t fret, as most of these will keep well, although if you do wish to clear down your larder for the inevitable January guilt fest here are some options on the most commonly leftover items: Christmas pudding makes a good ice cream; a cross between a Cassata and a Spumone, and can also be used in soufflés or sundaes. Even if you’re not a Christmas pudding fan you’re bound to love these desserts and can use up spare cheeses (ricotta or mascarpone) and cream. Christmas cake and mincemeat can all be used in a similar way.
If you have a sweet tooth, how about a Christmas cake fudge? This recipe couldn’t be easier.
- 300g dark chocolate
- 397g condensed milk
- 50g butter
- 100g icing sugar
- 100g Christmas cake, leftover, crumbled
- 25g of mixed whole nuts, broken into small pieces (optional)
Break the chocolate into small pieces and place them into a non-stick saucepan along with the condensed milk and butter. Heat very gently until the chocolate and butter has melted and the mixture is smooth and glossy
Beat the icing sugar into the chocolate mixture and then add the crumbled cake and nuts, if using, beat well until everything is combined.
Pour or spoon the fudge cake mix into an 18cm square tin or container that has been lined with greaseproof paper. Smooth over the top of the mixture.
Put in the fridge for an hour to set, before cutting into squares. Keeps for a few weeks in a cool place. Best in a container or refrigerated.
If you you’re stuck for ideas on using a particular ingredient, do get in touch. I love a challenge. Equally, please feel free to share your own tried and tested recipe suggestions for using leftovers.