x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

New life for old meals

We go to the experts for advice on how to make the sad remains of Christmas dinner appetising again.

Just carved, turkey makes a tempting dish. After a night drhying out in the fridge it seems less desirable.
Just carved, turkey makes a tempting dish. After a night drhying out in the fridge it seems less desirable.

There's only one thing worse than dry sandwiches filled with the sad, uneaten, cold meat from the carcass of a Christmas roast. And that's the same dinner heated up and presented for your guests' delectation all over again. The fat has congealed, the best bits have already been gobbled up. You would never, ever, feed anyone such appalling food at any other time of year. But there is another way. It requires just a little effort but the rewards are worth it. For frugal older generations it was second nature to use up every last morsel. These days, however, when many of us have lost the knack or the willpower to be inventive with leftovers, it also requires the guidance of the women behind one of the most intriguing cookery books of recent years: The Kitchen Revolution.

This is a different kind of cookery book. In fact, it's barely a cookery book at all: it's a lifestyle. Rosie Sykes, Polly Russell and Zoe Heron set out a world where your weekly shop - and meals - are planned for you. They tell you, day by day, what to cook, what to freeze, and crucially, what to do with your leftovers. "There are lots of reasons - some practical, some ethical, some economic - for making the most of leftovers," says Russell. "The best reason for embracing the humble leftover is that it can create some of the most delicious, inexpensive and easiest meals imaginable.

"It's a case of getting the hang of it," adds Sykes. "Being able to use up leftovers becomes very rewarding - imagine the versatility of leftover mashed potato: it can be potato cakes, bubble and squeak, fish cakes, the base for a pizza." But this is Christmas. Mashed potato is, of course, eschewed at this time of year for the mighty roast potato. Seeing as all the traditional Christmas meats - turkey, goose, beef and chicken - actually do keep well, their very nature has been abused by years of tired hosts lumping them in between bread or unimaginatively simply reheating them. And that, says Russell, is the problem.

"Reheating roasted meat, which, by and large, is what most people have left over after Christmas, makes the meat dry and tough. If you must reheat, make sure that there is plenty of liquid - gravy or sauce - to help keep the meat moist. But I would advise transforming it into a new dish, either hot or cold. For instance, cold turkey can be tossed with capers, anchovies, olives, hot new potatoes, parsley and plenty of dressing and served with warm poached eggs. It's a lovely salad."

That's the real idea behind The Kitchen Revolution: the same ingredients making completely different dishes. Russell gets very excited about Vietnamese-style beef wraps that use cold roast beef, mint and coriander leaves on glass noodles, pancakes or tortillas. The only work is in the simple dressing, made from chilli sauce, lime, sugar, and fish sauce. Russell and Sykes's enthusiasm for leftovers is contagious. Before long I'm wondering aloud what I can do with some food I have left over from a dinner party of my own. Happily, these kitchen revolutionaries have an answer for everything.They proceed to bombard me with ideas: making paté or potted meat with leftover roasts; crumbling that old bit of Stilton into soup, or a pear and walnut salad.

In fact, so completely persuasive are this resourceful duo, they make the meal afterwards seem almost more tempting than the main event. "The only problem is the word," Russell continues. "Leftovers are so maligned and unappealing. I wish there was another word, but if we started to see them as cost-free gifts to the cook, I think their image would be transformed. Even the turkey sandwich can work with just a bit of thought: in some thick, fresh white bread, well buttered, with a thin layer of mayo and mustard, some sliced gerkins, plenty of seasoning and sliced tomato, it's a different beast altogether."

"And Christmas pudding fried in butter is a cheeky but delicious Christmas treat," adds Sykes with a wicked laugh. See? Leftovers can be fun too. The Kitchen Revolution (Random House) is out now. More details at www.thekitchenrevolution.co.uk.