This is the fridge’s finest hour. A bowl of cranberry sauce full to the brim; shards of cold roast goose, turkey perhaps; some cold roast potatoes, craggy and golden, and, joy of joys, a saucer of cold pigs-in-blankets. There is bread sauce in a gravy boat, a piece of cold salmon, brandy butter and even a jug of Marsala-laced gravy. Treats beyond measure.
There is nothing, simply nothing, I like doing in the kitchen more than picking at leftovers. Those bowls with saucers for lids, keeping the buried treasure safe until we are ready to eat. A ready-made breakfast, a midnight treat, bounty to pick at for the quiet days that follow the feast.
There are no rules. (Though I should warn you to sniff everything first.) If you want to add a dollop of cranberry sauce to a fry-up of cold roast potatoes and sprouts, go for it. Likewise bread sauce as a dip for crisp-fried turkey skin or the last of the nut roast crumbled into a pilaf.
A fry-up does seem the most honest answer to the conundrums currently residing in the fridge. The deliciousness increases if there is any sort of gravy or roasting juices. (That jelly lurking under the bones is pure gold.) Try bubbling a surfeit of gravy and the juices that have set in the roasting tin together in a shallow pan then adding shredded greens served on mashed potato or potato cakes.
Sweet leftover favourites include brandy butter spread on toasted panettone; Christmas pudding crumbled into a frying pan with a glass of brandy and bubbled up as a dressing for vanilla ice-cream, and mince pies mashed and folded into cold custard (good when you’ve had a bit too much to drink). Best of all is torn panettone baked with eggs, sugar, cream and candied peel – bread and butter pudding with its Christmas hat on.
Bones, beans, bits and bobs
No matter how many aromatics you put in, it’s the bones that make the broth. Ideally there will be a ham bone to share the pot with onions, carrots, thyme and garlic, but those of the roasted turkey or goose will do. Bones give the soup a satisfyingly silken quality. If I have time, the beans will be dried, soaked overnight, then boiled and simmered with bay and peppercorns. If not, a can will do.
Care is needed in what else we add, but any fresh greens – cabbage, broccoli, chard and the like – are welcome, as are cooked carrots, parsnips and potatoes. A cold chipolata or two would be like finding buried treasure in your soup and the same with bacon, but this is not the place to chuck anything and everything.
The number one addition would be a lump of rind from the parmesan, which will quietly add a pleasing back-note of umami while it simmers. Serves 6
onions 2, medium
goose fat or olive oil 3 tbsp
carrot 1, roughly chopped
celery 1 rib, chopped
chicken, turkey or goose stock 2 litres
thyme 6 springs
bay leaves 3
rosemary 3 sprigs
bones (such as turkey leg or carcass) 1 or 2
parmesan rind (optional) a 5-10cm piece
butter beans 2 x 400g tins
Pesto, to finish:
garlic 2 cloves, peeled
basil leaves 50g
pine nuts 45g
olive oil 150ml
parmesan 30g, grated
Peel and chop the onions. Warm the goose fat in a casserole over a moderate heat, add the onions, chopped carrot and celery and cook until soft and pale gold. Cut the bacon into small pieces, cooking it until the fat is gold, then pour in the stock and add the thyme, bay and rosemary. Submerge the bones, add any meat juices or jelly, the peppercorns and a piece of parmesan rind if you have it, then bring to the boil. Lower the heat to gentle simmer for 45-60 minutes.
Crush the garlic to a paste with a pinch of sea salt then mash in the basil leaves, pine nuts and olive oil, then the parmesan.
Add the beans to the soup and continue cooking for a further 10 minutes. At this point you can skim off the fat if you wish, but I don’t – instead, relishing the silkiness it lends to the soup. Ladle into bowls and stir in the basil sauce.
I like this bread and butter pudding when it is barely set, so you get spoonfuls of just-set pudding and a little trickle of custard, for which I suggest a baking time of 35-40 minutes. If you prefer your pudding puffed up – more of a wobble than a quiver – then I suggest 40-45. Serves 6
For the custard:
full-fat milk 125ml
double cream 500ml
caster sugar 50g
golden sultanas 50g
candied peel (optional) 3 tbsp
pistachios 2 tbsp, shelled
orange zest of 1
You will also need a 2 litre baking dish.
Set the oven at 160C/gas mark 3. Break the eggs into a bowl and beat until mixed. Add the milk, cream and caster sugar; beat everything lightly together with a whisk. Tear or slice the panettone into large pieces and place in the baking dish.
Scatter the sultanas and peel among the panettone. Finely chop the pistachios and sprinkle over the top. Pour the custard into the dish, soaking all of the panettone. Grate the zest of the orange over the surface, then bake for 35-45 minutes until lightly set. To check the pudding is ready, shake the dish – the custard should quiver in the middle. Take it from the oven and leave to settle for 15 minutes before serving.