10 ways to use up Christmas leftovers

Some people simply can’t get enough of Christmas leftovers. They seem to look forward to constructing the ultimate Boxing Day sandwich and eating a random assemblage of festive foods for weeks to follow even more than the main event. Lovers of Christmas leftovers might even consciously over-cater to ensure they have sufficient leftovers to make up for a year of waiting for seasonal novelties. They’re the ones who go out of their way to shop the Boxing Day supermarket sales and stash the freezer full of stuffing balls, pigs in blankets, mince pies and brandy butter. But for others, the prospect of figuring out what to do with a pile of leftover turkey, staring down bowls of bread sauce every time they open the fridge or being presented with yet another box of festive shortbread from a friend or neighbour all feels rather daunting. Whichever camp you fall into, Social Pantry has got you covered with some inspiring and surprising ideas to put your Christmas leftovers to good use – including those often overlooked scraps, stragglers and foodie gifts that you can’t simply pile in another Christmas sandwich!

Christmas leftovers from the main event

What to do with leftover cooked meat and poultry, drippings and gravy, carrots, parsnips, sprouts, stuffing and more…

Leftover cooked turkey, ham and other festive meats form the basis of many Christmas inspired dishes traditionally enjoyed in the days following the main event. Whilst larger slices are easiest for layering in fully-stacked Christmas sandwiches, smaller shreds of meat are perfect for pies, casseroles and soups. You can even freeze the cooked meat for future use if you don’t fancy cooking with it straight away.

Zero waste turkey pie

For lovers of tradition, a classic deep-filled puff pastry topped ham and turkey pie is a great way to use up not only leftover meat, but also carrots, parsnips and sprouts which can be substituted for any specified veg; gravy (which acts as a concentrated stock); and any crème Fraiche or double cream you might have offered with Christmas pud. Feel free to mix up the proportions – just maintain the ratio of solid to liquid – and add your own twist with chopped up pigs in blankets, chestnuts or a dollop of cranberry in the mix. You can even prepare individual ramekins topped with uncooked pastry lids to stash in the freezer for easy dinners to enjoy in the new year.

Matzo ball dumpling soup

As a lighter alternative, traditional Jewish style chicken soup can be made with turkey (or any festive bird) for a comforting and restorative meal that makes the most of the whole carcass to form a nutrient-rich and flavoursome broth. Matzo ball dumplings call for matzo meal, beaten egg, and schmaltz (rendered chicken fat), so make sure you save any broken or leftover matzo crackers from your Christmas cheeseboard, as well as the rendered poultry fat from your roasting tray for a truly zero-waste approach!

Middle-eastern inspired turkey shawarma / gyros

For something a bit different from your typical Boxing Day sandwich, consider making an anti-tradition Middle Eastern inspired turkey shawarma or gyros. The rich, succulent, dark meat from a turkey, duck or goose gives a close approximation to the classic taste and texture of meat pulled from a vertical rotisserie. Spare roast potatoes can be thinly sliced, seasoned with cumin, oregano and paprika, and refried to replicate the French fries commonly stuffed in Greek gyros. Leftover glazed or roasted carrots can also be transformed into a Lebanese inspired side with the addition of Middle Eastern spices, a handful of dried fruits or nuts (common Christmas nibbles) and a drizzle of tahini. Bread sauce even delivers a similar texture to hummus and can be paired with harissa or chermoula for a fragrant sauce, whilst stuffing balls replicate the consistency and appearance of falafel. Sweet chutneys and cranberry sauce also pair brilliantly with sour pickles and spicy condiments so don’t be afraid to mix and match! Serve in a pita, flatbread or with salad.

Excess foodie gifts

What to do with boxes of biscuits and chocolates, jars of jams and chutney, Italian sweet breads and the rest…

Forget triple-cooked chips and twice-baked croissants… we are all about giving surplus biscuits a second bake! Did you know that almost any type of festive biscuit or cookie can be transformed into a super-easy and extremely delicious cheesecake base or pie crust by simply adding butter? Whilst basic cheesecake recipes often call for digestive biscuits in the UK or graham crackers in the US, speciality biscuits can add flavour and complexity as well as using up a substantial quantity in one go so that you’re not left making your way through the festive selection come summertime. Use a 2:1 ratio of biscuits to butter and think imaginatively about coming up a new twist on your favourite pie or cheesecake recipe. Here are a few ideas to get you started…

  • Gingerbread crumbs work brilliantly in a lemon cheesecake base, or as a spiced cookie crust for a chocolate tart, treacle tart or lemon meringue pie.
  • Italian almond cookies such as cantucci / biscotti are fabulous with frangipane and can be used in the place of amaretti biscuits in an apple amaretti tart.
  • Chocolate biscuits can also be blitzed in a food processor with butter to create a decadent no-bake chocolate cheesecake crust (just reduce the butter ratio slightly to allow for the extra chocolate – we recommend 300g chocolate biscuits and 130g butter.
  • For an easy no-rub crumble topping, simply bash up all-butter shortbread biscuits with cold butter and scatter over the top of stewed fruit. This works brilliantly as a streusel topping for cakes and muffins too! You can even freeze your shortbread whole or crushed and defrost at a later date with the arrival of seasonal spring fruits (we can’t wait for forced rhubarb!).
Panettone inspired desserts

Panettone is a richly fruited enriched Italian sweet bread popular around Christmas and New Year. Unopened panettone keeps far longer than most cakes and breads as it goes through a long and balanced sourdough proofing and lactic fermentation. However, the high yeast content means panettone can go stale quickly once opened. Whilst gentle toasting and a generous amount of butter can revive a slightly dry slice, once your panettone is more than a few days old, consider making panettone French toast for an indulgent breakfast, or a sumptuously spiced bread and butter pudding for dessert. For an extra layer of decadence, spread the slices with brandy butter instead of plain butter, or add festive marmalade for a fruity touch. Panettone’s plainer golden cousin, pandoro, will work equally well. You can even use dried out panettone in the place of sponge in a festively themed trifle or tiramisu.


What to do with the remnants of the cheeseboard…

Some say the real Christmas feasting begins once you bring out the cheeseboard, and a thoughtfully curated cheeseboard is a sophisticated and satisfying end to any Christmas meal. Whilst limiting the number of cheeses and quantities you buy in the first place is a sure way to reduce leftovers, Christmas is a time for a little extravagance, and splashing out on some exceptional cheese is also a great way to support small businesses and artisan producers. Buying whole cheeses rather than smaller segments helps cheesemongers prevent finding themselves left with odd ends that are more difficult to sell (especially since many stockists require identical looking portions), and often there is a discount for buying in bulk.

Once the festive period is over and you no longer feel like pulling out a cheeseboard at the end of a meal, make cheese the main event and be open to substituting specified cheeses for whatever you have remaining and combining cheeses to make up the total weight (just pay attention to whether hard or soft cheeses are required).

Macaroni cheese

Why stop at three cheese macaroni cheese when you could combine four, five or more?! We love the idea of creating a macaroni cheese representative of the British Isles with some of our favourite native cheeses available from Neal’s Yard Dairy such as Hafod (a welsh-made Cheddar cheese with rich, layered flavours and a supple texture), Isle of Mull Cheddar (a hearty Scottish cheddar), Ogleshield cheese (the West country’s answer to Raclette) and Baron Bigod (a brie style cheese from Somerset).

Winter salads

Even if you want to eat a bit more lightly following lots of festive indulgence, there is no need to cut out cheese all together! A little cheese goes a long way to add flavour to winter salads and make them more satisfying – thereby reducing your need to snack! Plus when eating up leftover cheese is all in the name of sustainability, at least that is one New Year’s resolution covered! Toss peppery or bitter winter salad leaves through a simple citrusy dressing made from rapeseed or olive oil, honey, orange and sherry vinegar; add thin slices of seasonal fruits such as apple or pear, a handful of leftover festive nuts, and a cheese of your choice. Pungent blue cheeses work particularly well here!

Cheese Scones

Cheese scones are a great way to use up a substantial amount of cheese in one go – Felicity Cloake’s “perfect cheese scone” recipe in The Guardian calls for 250g of strong hard cheese – and Delia Smith once said “I’m convinced cheese scones were invented to use up the last remnants of some wonderful cheese”. They are, therefore, the perfect end for your cheeseboard remains. Warm cheese scones and cold butter are a decadent treat but they’re also great to incorporate into main meals too. Serve topped with a crispy fried egg and roast tomatoes for a delicious cooked breakfast, or pair with a bowl of soup as an alternative to a bread roll. You can even make an incredible beef cobbler by baking the scones and arranging snuggly on top of a slow-cooked beef stew – perfect for those cold January evenings. Children love them too, and they make a great breakfast-on-the-go or hearty addition to a lunchbox for those mornings when you’re struggling to get everyone out the house! January – we’ve got this!


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