Can you believe ’tis the season already! With this in mind and to help you plan ahead/make the most of your food at this time of year, my good friend Ann and I have put our heads together to do a piece on how to make the most of your leftovers at Christmas.
First a note on freezers (as you will see we turn to it a lot!) The freezer comes into its own for entertaining at major events such as Christmas and it really helps to spread the cost of Christmas when one can take advantage of special offers in the weeks leading up to the event. Several items of seasonal fare seem to have good deals at the start of December. They allow you to get ahead in the kitchen too, for example creating breadcrumbs ready to use for homemade stuffing or bread sauce. Freezers are also invaluable after Christmas for freezing leftovers.
The Main Event – Christmas Meat and Fish
Turkey stock is an absolute must, just remove the meat from the bones and throw the bones into a large stock pot with an onion and boil for an hour or so, allow to cool and put into clean small margarine tubs, they stack easily. It is a good idea to remove the skin and fatty areas but if you can’t be bothered, don’t worry, as when the stock cools the fat rises to the surface and when it is frozen turns solid, so even easier to scrape off! Bag up useful portions of the turkey meat and use throughout the year for curries, risottos etc, it saves everyone getting fed up with turkey after Christmas. But if you still haven’t had your fill of turkey, you can’t beat a turkey, ham and leek pie. Minced up leftover turkey can be used to turkey patties (think fish cakes with turkey) and even lasagne works well, just remove the tomato element – think bound with mushroom and cheese béchamel sauce with leeks etc.
Hayley made a wonderful glazed ham last year at Christmas. It obviously makes a lot but it was brilliant as it did us for weeks for sandwiches. Just slice it up and package it away in foil in your freezer until you need to make your sandwiches for when you back to work. The amount of money you will save is a no brainier, think about how much 4 slices of thick, quality ham will cost you in the supermarket?!
You know those lovely large packs of smoked salmon the supermarkets seem to have around Christmas time, why not buy a few packets and freeze what you don’t use so they are there for the rest of the year to pop in quiches and omelettes as well as to eat. Any other left over fish can be flaked into fish cakes or fish pie to name a few.
It might seem not worth it, but save those bits of roast potato, sprouts and other vegetables chop up to make delicious Bubble and Squeak or blitz the veg with some turkey stock to make a lovely soup.
Fresh cranberries freeze well so buy and stock pile them over Christmas in the freezer for future use; they work well in baking or cheesecakes too, in fact the berries soften so are easier to use.
You can use leftover cheese in all sorts of things such as quiches, brie and cranberry tarts and sprout and stilton soup is particularly good.
Cheese freezes well too so if you are tempted by a whole Brie or large piece of Stilton for a seasonal party then go ahead and freeze the remainder in useable pieces. Just make sure it is fully ripe as the freezing process inhibits further ripening. Hard cheese crumbles slightly on defrosting but is ideal for cooking and one could always grate before freezing which is fine and catering establishments buy in frozen grated cheese.
Don’t be tempted to buy a ‘Baking Camembert’ either, it is exactly the same as Camembert except for in a fancy terracotta dish and you end up paying double for it! Unless you particularly want the dish (which are quite handy actually if they are selling them off cheap), then just buy a normal one and put it in a dish you have at home.
Puddings and Mince Pies
After Christmas there is always leftover cream whether it be plain or alcoholic. Cream can turn grainy on defrost but with the addition of icing sugar it seems to stabilise, the higher the fat content the better.
Too many eggs than you know what to do with? Whole or yolks can be frozen mixed with a bit of sugar etc. Yolks can be used (with leftover cream actually) to make Lemon Possets. Egg whites can be frozen as they are and don’t need anything adding to them for this and obviously can be used to make meringues (which also freeze well). Why not try shaping your meringues into some festive shapes for a party likes Ann’s now yearly requested Christmas Meringue Tree!
Christmas pudding freezes easily and there are often hundreds reduced after Christmas. If only a few people in your family like this classic pud, then the mini ones are even better to get hold of as they don’t take up as much room! If you have bits of leftover Christmas pudding, it works well in ice cream if you fancy whipping up Christmas pudding homemade ice cream.
Another lovely pud to make is an exotic Bread and Butter Pudding with leftover Panettone and spare cream or brandy cream. If you want to buy reduced Panettones after Christmas, they freeze well and the bread and butter pudding will freeze well too.
Make lots of pastry and freeze in usable lumps for future use, this comes into its element for homemade mince pies, the whole pies can be frozen baked or raw, cook from frozen and if unexpected guests arrive, 10 minutes or so in a hot oven and one can produce freshly baked! Mincemeat doesn’t just have to be used in mince pies either, why not try out our mincemeat crumble recipe for an alternative Christmas pud.
Chocolate lasts well anyway but if you do have any selection boxes hanging round at the end of it all which you are sick of the sight of, why not try melting some of the chocolates down and using them in rocky road for example; you can also just chop up some bits which would work; Maltesers; crunchy bars; fudge; firm caramel etc to add in -bang goes the New Year Diet plans!!
Mulled wine is a good thing to stock up on, either to re-use for the following year or to use throughout the colder months. Buy up any reduced bottles after Christmas to add to your slow cooker stews, the spices in the wine give the meat a lovely deep flavour.