Reinvent the meal
Some would argue that the leftovers from Christmas lunch are the very best bit. With a clever makeover, green veg, nuts and fruits can be turned into something new and equally celebratory the next day, as these recipes will testify ...
I want to do something with the unopened packets I bought too many of, or the obscure vegetable I fancied at the greengrocer
For me, the joy of a Christmas dinner – or indeed any roast – are the leftover roots and greens, that can be fried up until deeply golden and crisp, then served topped with a fried egg and a spoonful of a punchy chutney.
I love a Christmas-dinner sandwich, too: stuffing, greens, roasted squash and a slick of cranberry sauce between two slices of bread. It’s a once-a-year thing, taking stodginess to the next level, but it’s a mark of the season, and I always eat one or two with glee.
Another favourite leftover is Christmas pudding. I find it too rich to eat on the day, so it’s something I enjoy on the days after, fried in a bit of butter in little portions until the fruit goes sticky, crumbled on top of a batch of brownies, sprinkled over ice-cream or torn into an apple crumble.
However, the leftovers that I really want to put to use are the unopened packets of things I have bought one too many of – the more obscure vegetables I fancied at the greengrocer, or the seasonal ingredient I picked up on a whim of festive enthusiasm, but which then sits around redundant.
In my house there are always a few cooked chestnuts left over from the stuffing recipe, some packets of greens or brussels sprouts, bundles of herbs – parsley, thyme, sage, tarragon or rosemary – and heaving bowls of citrus fruit that I have bought by the crateload.
So here are two recipes that use up a few of the things I always seem to have in stock between Christmas and the new year.
Greens and brussels sprout caesar slaw
This is a Boxing Day salad to eat with cold cuts and cheeses. Any leftover cabbage or greens would work well, but be sure to shred them quite thinly. You can also make good use of a few common festive kitchen leftovers: Christmas nuts (almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts and pecans all work well), cheese (any blue or hard cheese) and any soft herbs you have (a mixture of a couple works best). This slaw is better after sitting dressed for a couple of hours, as the dressing softens the greens a little, and when the flavours have come together. Serves 6-8 For the dressing 50g sunflower seeds 50g nuts (I used blanched almonds) 1 garlic clove, peeled 1 tbsp dijon mustard Juice of ½ a lemon For the slaw 350g raw brussels sprouts/cabbage
About 400g greens (I used 2 heads of cavolo nero) About 150g leftover hard or blue cheese (optional) A small bunch of leftover soft herbs (parsley, tarragon, chives, dill, chervil)
1 First soak your seeds and nuts in cold water: 15 minutes will do, but you could leave them as long as overnight – this will help the dressing become more creamy.
2 Once soaked, drain the seeds and nuts and add them to a blender with all the other dressing ingredients, then blend until smooth. Add 200ml water and blend to a creamy dressing. Keep in the fridge until you are ready to dress the salad.
3 Peel and wash the sprouts, or destem and wash the greens. Slice as finely as you can, then put them into a big bowl. Roughly chop the herbs and add these to the bowl, then pour over the dressing and mix well. I do this with clean hands to make sure that the dressing coats each little bit of green. When you are ready to serve, crumble over some leftover cheese.
Chestnut and ricotta pancakes with quick clementine jam
If your house is anything like mine, the fruit bowl heaves with clementines. I can’t get enough of them. This quick compote is a good way to use any lingerers. I add a pinch of saffron for its sunshine colour and warming flavour, but a couple of cardamom pods or a pinch of cinnamon would work as well. This is half compote, half marmalade and is wonderful served alongside some roughly chopped nuts – or even chestnuts, if you have any left – atop the golden ricotta pancakes. Serves 4 (makes about 8 pancakes) For the citrus compote About 300g of any leftover citrus (about 6 clementines, 1 large grapefruit or 3 small oranges) 2 tbsp honey A pinch of saffron (optional) For the pancakes 250g ricotta cheese 125g flour 1 tbsp baking powder A good pinch of salt 2 eggs, separated 2 tbsp golden caster sugar 200ml milk (I use almond milk) 100g cooked chestnuts, roughly chopped Grated zest of 2 lemons Grated zest of ½ an orange or 1 clementine Butter or coconut oil, for frying
1 Put the ricotta into a sieve and leave it over a bowl for 10 minutes or so, to allow the excess liquid to drain off.
2 Meanwhile, make the citrus compote by peeling the fruits and removing any large pieces of pith.
3 Put the flesh into a pan with the honey and the saffron, if you are using it. Cook slowly for about 10 minutes until you have a loose, jammy consistency.
4 Mix the flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.
5 Whisk the egg yolks with the milk in a jug. Add to the flour mixture a little at a time and gently beat until smooth. Fold in the chestnuts then the lemon and orange zest.
6 In another bowl, whisk the egg whites until frothy, then add the sugar and whisk until you have stiff meringue-like peaks.
7 Using a spatula or metal spoon, gently fold half the egg whites into the flour and egg mixture. Now fold in the ricotta, then the rest of the egg whites. You should have a light and fluffy batter.
8 Put a large nonstick frying pan on a low heat and add a tiny bit of butter or coconut oil. Working in batches, add about half a ladleful of the batter to the pan for each pancake. Cook the batter until the bottom is golden and the edges are cooked. Once bubbles have risen to the top of the pancake, flip it and cook on the other side for a minute. Once each one is done, keep your pancakes in a warm oven while you cook the rest.
Stack the pancakes high on your plate and serve with the clementine marmalade spooned over the top.