The ingredients you need to turn your leftovers into a new meal are already in your refrigerator and in your pantry
Chef Gary Rhodes on how to transform Christmas leftovers into delicious new dishes
Recycling doesn’t have to be restricted to items made out of plastic, paper or glass. Reusing the remnants of the season can also mean elevating the leftovers of your holiday feasts up to the next level. So believes British celebrity chef Gary Rhodes. The restaurateur and television personality, who has fronted shows such as MasterChef, Hell’s Kitchen and Rhodes Around Britain, is averse to food waste of any kind, as a visit to Dubai proved. Rhodes was here earlier this month to share his methods for transforming leftover festive fare into creative new meals, at an event sponsored by Spinneys.
“You know how it is at Christmas,” he tells me. “We buy far too many ingredients and we stuff our fridge with all the treats we can’t resist during this time of year, from puddings and mince pies to roasts and turkey. Your fridge is soon bursting with all the leftover treats and goodies you’ve been buying and cooking up.”
However, once all the presents are unwrapped, and family and friends have feasted to their hearts’ content, you have to decide what to do with the leftover food before it goes bad, and before you get sick and tired of yet another turkey sandwich. This is where Rhodes’s creative genius comes in. “You can easily create something that can stand up as an entirely new meal in its own right,” he says.
Start with all the smoked salmon you splurged on to serve as a Christmas appetiser. “People like to buy these expensive items this time of year as a special treat, and you don’t want to waste that kind of a leftover,” says Rhodes. “Turn it into a salad by using what you have: an avocado, some radishes, cucumbers, apples and spring onion. Use it all up, and feel free to be inventive, and create something rich and colourful.”
The trick, he says, is to be creative with the dressing. “It’s different, it’s colourful, it’s delicious and most of all, it’s creative,” says Rhodes. “That’s how you should be thinking when you’re trying to use up leftovers.” He suggests two types to spice up a salad of leftovers: a sweet, pink grapefruit vinaigrette and a marmalade sour cream dressing
(see recipes below).
For a main, Rhodes says to simply shred that pile of turkey leftovers and use it in a risotto. “It’s incredibly easy; don’t be daunted by the idea of making something up as you go along,” he says. “It's just about shredding the leftover turkey, chopping up leftover roasted parsnips, using up the remaining chestnuts, and then just adding some risotto rice, some spring onions and a sprinkling of Parmesan. If you have cranberry sauce leftover, perfect: mix half a jar of that with some red vinegar and walnut oil, and the result is divine.
"Arborio rice is most commonly used for risotto. It holds a large grain and needs to be carefully treated, because it can become slightly mushy if overworked. My favourite variety of rice is carnaroli. This is one of the richest types, and holds shape and texture once cooked," adds Rhodes.
Rhodes suggests other Christmas flavours that can be added to the risotto, such as diced stuffing, chopped turkey bacon, diced roast potatoes or chopped walnuts. Even dessert, he says, can be made from leftovers. He creates a recipe for Scotch pancakes using up crumbled-down Christmas cake that is stirred into the pancake batter, with a raisin syrup to elevate the dish. “It’s a full meal, and 70 per cent of it is made up of items sitting in your fridge. It all relies on simple cooking, and this is the kind of cooking I do at home, to be honest.”
The staff at his restaurants often eat this way too, explains Rhodes. They use the leftovers from the previous day to create lunch for themselves, ensuring there’s minimal food waste and a maximum chance of keeping their creative juices flowing. “It’s almost a competition for them to see what they can come up with when it comes to using the leftovers,” he says.
Lebanese chef Manal Masood, who has more than 30,000 followers on her Instagram account and runs the Homemade By Manal blog to showcase her Middle Eastern recipes, says there’s never a reason to throw out leftovers, nor tire of them.
“You’re not eating the same thing twice, if you just get a little bit resourceful,” she says. “If you have mashed potatoes left over after your Christmas feast, roll them into balls, dip them in an egg-flour-breadcrumb mixture and fry them up into croquettes, for example. Or use the roasted vegetables you have in a soup, or in a panini with plenty of good-quality, melted cheese and some pesto sauce. It’s a minimal amount of effort and the result is an entirely new meal.”
The ingredients you need to turn your leftovers into a new meal are already in your refrigerator and in your pantry, agrees Sawsan Al Farha, a chef, food stylist and food photographer working between Dubai and Amman. “It’s actually easier cooking with leftovers than creating a meal from scratch,” says Al Farha. “Since something like leftover turkey is already cooked, you just have to reheat the meat with a little seasoning, if needed, when using it in your recipes.”
Or better yet, eat it cold, adds Al Farha. “I love using leftover meats in salads. The salad becomes a full meal by just adding shredded turkey or chicken, or the leftovers from a roast leg of lamb, or some lettuce, carrots, radishes and red peppers, and maybe some red onions and pineapple chunks. Add some toasted nuts - I like cashews - and some chopped coriander and make a simple dressing with olive oil and vinegar, with either garlic added or some mustard. That’s it: think simple.”
Three Rhodes recipes to try
First course: Smoked salmon, pink grapefruit and avocado salad, orange marmalade sour cream dressing
Serves: 4 to 6
Ingredients for the marmalade sour cream dressing
- 50g marmalade
- 100g sour cream or crème fraîche
Simply mix together and season lightly with salt and pepper
Ingredients for the sweet pink grapefruit dressing
- 50g caster sugar
- Juice of 2 pink grapefruits
- 1tsp cornflour mixed with 1 or 2tsp water
- 100ml olive oil
Boil the sugar and pink grapefruit juice.
Once the sugar has dissolved and the liquid is boiling, whisk in the cornflour mix to thicken and leave to cool.
Once cool, whisk in the olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
Ingredients for the salad
- 200g pre-sliced smoked salmon
- 50g French beans, split lengthways and blanched for 30 to 40 seconds
- 1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded and sliced
- 1 green apple, peeled, quartered, cored and diced
- 6 radishes, top and tailed, and cut into slices or wedges
- 2-3 spring onions, sliced
- 1-2 avocados, diced into 1-2cm chunks
- Rocket leaves
- Marmalade sour cream dressing (as above)
- Pink grapefruit dressing (as above)
Spread half the marmalade sour cream onto a large plate or serving dish.
Arrange the smoked salmon slices in a rustic fashion on top of the dressing.
Mix the French beans, cucumbers, apples, radishes, spring onions and avocados, seasoning them with salt and pepper.
Drizzle the mix with some of the pink grapefruit dressing before spooning over and between the smoked salmon. Scatter the rocket leaves on top, finishing the salad with drops of the marmalade sour cream and pink grapefruit dressing.
Main course: Turkey and roast parsnip risotto
"Usually, 100 grams of raw rice per person is the weight needed. However, with the addition of supplement ingredients [such as stuffing, potatoes and walnuts], the weight can be reduced," says Rhodes. "For the stock, the turkey can be trimmed of all excess meat left on the bone along with any drumsticks, thigh meat or turkey breast trimmings. These can now be shredded into small strips. It’s best to have a generous quantity of stock. I suggest two litres for this recipe, simply following quantity instructions listed when using chicken stock cubes. To strengthen the flavour of the stock, chop the stripped turkey into rough chunks and add it to the stock, pouring in a cup or two of water, bring to the simmer and allow to cook for 20 to 30 minutes before straining."
Ingredients for the cranberry vinaigrette
- 2tbsp cranberry jelly or sauce
- 1tbsp red vinegar
- 2tbsp walnut oil
- 1tbsp walnuts, chopped
- 1tsp semi-dried cranberries (optional)
In a microwave, warm the cranberry jelly or sauce with the red vinegar.
Once the jelly has melted, whisk in the walnut oil, and season with salt and pepper.
Stir the chopped walnuts and semi dried cranberries into the dressing.
Ingredients for the risotto
- 2-3 onions, finely chopped
- Olive oil
- 500g carnaroli rice
- 2l hot turkey stock
- Strips of turkey trimmings
- Roast parsnips, chopped into 1cm chunks
- 3-4 spring onions, shredded and quickly softened in butter
- 4-5tbsp finely grated Parmesan cheese
- 50-60g butter. One or two extra knobs can be added for a richer and creamier finish
- Salt and pepper
Sauté the onions in a generous splash of olive oil for several minutes until they begin to soften.
Add the rice and continue to cook for a few minutes until the rice is coated and heated through.
Once the rice is hot, add a ladle or two of stock, stirring gently at medium temperature until the stock has been absorbed. Continue this process of adding and stirring for approximately 18 to 20 minutes, so the rice is cooked leaving a slight bite in the centre.
Stir in the turkey strips, parsnips and cooked spring onions while adding more stock, if needed, to loosen to a creamy consistency.
Once all the ingredients are warmed through, season with salt and pepper, before stirring in the Parmesan and butter. The Parmesan will thicken the risotto slightly. To maintain the creamy finish, simply add a little hot stock.
Drizzle the cranberry vinaigrette over the risotto to add a slight fruity bite.
Dessert: Christmas pudding scotch pancakes
“Ready-made custard and pouring cream are perfect accompaniments to pancakes,” advises Rhodes.
Ingredients for the syrup
- 100g raisins
- 150ml water
- 50g caster sugar
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1 vanilla pod, split
Simmer all ingredients together and cook for 10 minutes.
Remove the pod, blitz to a purée, and push through a sieve.
Scrap out the pod and add the vanilla seeds to the syrup
Ingredients for the pancakes
- 350g self-raising flour
- 40g unsalted butter
- 225ml milk
- 3 eggs
- 140g caster sugar
- 1tsp mixed spice
- 85g currants, sultanas and raisins (more can be added for a fruitier flavour)
- 20g mixed peel, chopped
- Butter for cooking
- Pinch of salt
Sift the flour. Melt the butter and whisk into the milk with the eggs, sugar and pinch of salt. Add all of the remaining ingredients and the batter is ready.
To cook the pancakes, heat a non-stick frying pan and brush with butter or oil.
The batter can now be spooned, using a tablespoon, into the pan allowing 1-2 spoons per pancake. These will take approximately 2 to 3 minutes before small bubbles appear on the surface, after which they can be turned over.
Once turned, cook for 2 minutes before removing from the pan.
In a large pan, 4-6 pancakes can be cooked at the same time. Once all are cooked, keep covered with a tea towel; this prevents them from becoming dry.
To serve, warm the pancakes and present on a large plate drizzling with the warm raisin syrup over the top, finish with a spoonful of thick cream.