Darina Allen's festive tips for using up your Christmas leftovers...

Hope you have managed to tick off most of the items on your ‘must do for Christmas’ list and that all the family are cheerfully helping with last minute jobs and present wrapping. Chill the fizz, hang up the mistletoe, tuck holly sprigs here and there and play some jolly Christmas carols to get you into the festive spirit. Hope you’ve managed to resist the urge to fill your fridge and pantry to bursting point but having said that I love the fun of using up leftover bits of this and that.

Now for a few ideas…Not sure if there will be any little morsels of turkey or crispy skin left over after everyone has tucked into turkey sandwiches on Christmas evening but, if there are, strip off the carcass to make this delicious pilaff. Then pop the carcass into a pot with 2 or 3 quartered onions, same of carrots and a stick or two of celery, a sprig of thyme and a few peppercorns. If you don’t use the giblets (neck, heart and gizzard) to make a flavourful stock for the gravy, add them in to the pot. Cover the whole lot with cold water, bring to the boil, skim and simmer for 3 to 4 hours. Strain and you’ll have a delicious pot of turkey broth to sip or use as a base for a stew, casserole or to make an unctuous risotto or the pilaff.

Use the turkey liver immediately while it is fresh to make this parfait and serve it in little pots with plump Pedro Ximénez raisins. It’ll make a delicious starter or can be slathered on crisp, hot toast for a snack.

What other leftovers? If you have any leftover Brussel sprouts, trim the outsides, then half or quarter each one, blanch, drain well, toss in extra virgin olive oil and roast in a hot oven. Then toss with chorizo crumbs — so yummy. I’m loving roasted cauliflower and Romanesco florets too.

Left over cranberry sauce keeps well so don’t fuss about using it up but do try it with some soft goat cheese. Fresh cranberries also keep well and of course freeze perfectly, otherwise throw a fistful into your salads, scones, muffins or soda bread. Maybe stew them down, add a little chopped rosemary and add them to an apple sauce to serve with a pork chop or make a ‘catch-all’ cranberry chutney.

Sprinkle left over mincemeat into a batch of scones. Serve them warm with the remainder of the brandy butter. Tangerines, mandarins or clementines are balm to the soul after a rich Christmas meal, delicious just to nibble, but this mandarin sorbet is my favourite way to enjoy them. It’s a little fiddly to make but so soothing and refreshing after Christmas.

Make breadcrumbs from left over bread and pop them into the freezer. They’ll be so useful for crumbles, stuffing or panagratto to sprinkle over stews or gratins, sweet or savoury or make a Queen of Puddings. Otherwise make a bread and butter pudding, it’s a brilliant, catch-all for all kinds of scraps, morsels of meat or smoked fish, Brussel sprouts, chard, sautéed mushrooms, chopped herbs, grated cheese... just omit the sugar for a savoury version and serve with a good green salad.

Well, there are just a few ideas to help you to be creative with your leftovers. Meanwhile, a very Happy Christmas and New Year to all our readers, hopefully you’ll manage to get a few delicious long walks in.

Roast Brussels Sprouts with Chorizo Crumbs 

Serves 4-6

I first tasted roast Brussels sprouts cooked in a wood burning oven in a restaurant in San Francisco about ten years ago. My friend Mary Risley told me this new way of cooking Brussels sprouts was causing lots of excitement. I didn’t get it, but now I love them cooked this way, there’s a fine line between sweet roasted and acrid burnt, so watch them like a hawk.

  • (450g) 1lb Brussels sprouts
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • flaky sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • Chorizo crumbs to serve (see recipe below)

For the Chorizo & Parsley Crumbs

  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 125g (4 1/2oz) chorizo, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch dice
  • 100g (3 1/2oz) coarse breadcrumbs
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley

Preheat the oven to 230C/450F/Mark 8.

If necessary trim the Brussels sprouts of any tough outside leaves, trim the stalk, cut into halves.

Blanch in boiling water for 2 – 3 minutes. Drain well.

In a bowl drizzle the blanched sprouts with extra virgin olive oil. Season with flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, toss to coat.

Transfer to a roasting tin, cook for 10 – 15 minutes depending on size, shake the pan occasionally.

The sprouts should be pale golden and crisp on the outside and tender within.

Sprinkle with the chorizo crumbs and transfer to a hot serving dish.

Chorizo & Parsley Crumbs

Chorizo Crumbs are delicious used in so many ways. We like to scatter them over potato, celeriac, Jerusalem artichoke or watercress soup. They are particularly good sprinkled over cauliflower or macaroni cheese. Keep in a box in your fridge for several weeks, or freeze and scatter when you fancy.

This recipe makes 175g (6oz).

Put the oil into a cool pan, add the diced chorizo. Toss on a low heat until the oil starts to run and the chorizo begins to crisp. Careful, it’s easy to burn the chorizo, drain through a metal sieve, save the oil and return to the pan.

Increase the heat, add coarse breadcrumbs and toss in the chorizo oil until crisp and golden. Drain and allow to cool, add to the chorizo, stir in the chopped parsley.

Turkey Liver Parfait with Pedro Ximénez Raisins

Serves 10-12 depending on how it is served.

  • 225g (8oz) fresh organic turkey livers
  • 2 tablespoons brandy
  • 200-300g (8-12oz) butter (depending on how strong the livers are)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 large clove garlic, crushed
  • 225g (8oz) butter, cubed
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 50g (2oz) of raisins or sultanas
  • 2 tablespoons Pedro Ximénez Sherry
  • 50g (2oz) pistachio nuts, halved

To seal

  • clarified or melted butter

Put the raisins into a small bowl, cover with warm Pedro Ximenez and leave to soak until plump and juicy.

Wash the livers in cold water and remove any membrane or green tinged bits. Dry on kitchen paper.

Melt a little butter in a frying pan; when the butter foams add in the livers and cook over a gentle heat. Be careful not to overcook them or the outsides will get crusty; all trace of pink should be gone.

Add the crushed garlic and thyme leaves to the pan, stir and then de-glaze the pan with brandy, allow to flame or reduce for 2-3 minutes. Scrape everything with a spatula into a food processor. Purée for a few seconds. Allow to cool.

Add the butter. Purée until smooth. Season carefully, taste and add more butter.

This parfait should taste fairly mild and be quite smooth in texture. Fill into little pots or into one large terrine. Tap on the worktop to knock out any air bubbles. Spoon a little clarified butter over the top of each little pot of pâté to seal. If serving immediately spoon the Pedro Ximénez soaked raisins and pistachio nuts on top.

Serve with brioche, crusty bread, sourdough toasts or croutes. This parfait will keep for 4 or 5 days in a refrigerator.


It is essential to cover turkey liver pate with a layer of clarified or even just melted butter, otherwise the parfait will oxidize and taste bitter and turn grey in colour.

Mandarin Sorbet

Serves 10-12, depending on whether people eat 1 or 2

The quantity of ice below is enough to fill 10-18 mandarin shells. Clementine or tangerine or satsuma may also be used in this recipe. Catriona Daunt of Organic Republic will have organic citrus fruit including unwaxed lemons, oranges, clementines, blood oranges and bergemont lemons for sale on her stalls at the various Cork Farmers Markets. She also sells online www.organicrepublic.ie


  • 175g (6oz) sugar
  • juice of 1/4 lemon
  • 150ml (5fl oz) water
  • 20-28 mandarins
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • icing sugar (optional)


  • Vine leaves or bay leaves

First make the syrup. Heat the first three ingredients over a low heat, until they are dissolved together and clear. Bring to the boil, and boil for 2-3 minutes, Cool. Grate the zest from 10 of the mandarins, and squeeze the juice from them. Cut the remaining mandarins so that they each have a lid. Scoop out the sections with a small spoon and them press them through a nylon sieve (alternatively, you could liquidize the pulp and then strain). You should end up with 1 1/4 pints (750ml) juice. Add the grated zest, the lemon juice and the syrup to taste. Taste and add icing sugar or extra lemon juice, if more sweetness or sharpness is required. Freeze until firm.

Chill the shells in the fridge or freezer, fill them with the frozen water ice. Replace the lids and store in the freezer. Cover with cling film if not serving on the same day. Serve on a white plate decorated with vine leaves or bay leaves.

Make the sorbet in one of the following ways.

1. Pour into the drum of an ice-cream maker or sorbetiere and freeze for 20-25 minutes. Scoop out and serve immediately or store in a covered bowl in the freezer until needed.

2. Pour the juice into a stainless steel or plastic container and put into the freezing compartment of a refrigerator. After about 4-5 hours when the sorbet is semi-frozen, remove from the freezer and whisk until smooth, then return to the freezer. Whisk again when almost frozen and fold in one stiffly-beaten egg white. Keep in the freezer until needed.

3. If you have a food processor simply freeze the sorbet completely in a stainless steel or plastic bowl, then break into large pieces and whizz up in the food processor for a few seconds. Add one slightly beaten egg white, whizz again for another few seconds, then return to the bowl and freeze again until needed.

Pilaff Rice with Turkey and Ham and Fresh Herbs

Serves 8

  • 25g (1oz) butter
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped onion or shallot
  • 400g (14oz) long-grain rice (preferably Basmati)
  • 975ml (32fl oz) homemade turkey or chicken stock
  • 225g (8oz) diced cooked turkey
  • 225g (8oz) diced cooked ham or bacon
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tbsp freshly chopped herbs eg. parsley, thyme, chives: optional

Melt the butter in a casserole, add the finely chopped onion and sweat for 2-3 minutes. Add the rice and toss for a minute or two, just long enough for the grains to change colour. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, add the chicken stock, cover and bring to the boil.

Reduce the heat to a minimum and then simmer on top of the stove or in the oven 160C/325F/Gas Mark 3 for 10 minutes approx. By then the rice should be just cooked and all the water absorbed.

At this stage stir in the diced turkey and ham/bacon to heat through, ensure it is piping hot. Just before serving stir in the fresh herbs if using.

Note: Basmati rice cooks quite quickly; other types of rice may take up to 15 minutes.

Hot Tips

Kinsale Mead Gift Boxes: Kinsale Mead Company has Christmas gift boxes on offer this year. They include a trio of mead miniatures, a tasty food gift for any foodie person and a great introduction to mead – they are local, handcrafted and refreshingly different. www.kinsalemeadco.ie to order.

Pantry items for Christmas: If it’s not too late, stock up with Frank Hederman’s Belvelly smoked mackerel, mussels and salmon. A brilliant and super delicious stand by. I particularly love the warm smoked salmon au natural or with chilli flakes to liven up our lives. www.frankhederman.com

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