Make use of festive leftovers

IT’S A very busy time in the kitchen so don’t forget a big hug for the cook. By now most people will have planned their menu for the festive season. Let’s hope the lesson learned from the excesses of the Celtic Tiger era will mean that fewer people will totter out of the supermarket with trolleys piled high as though the shops were never to open again.

I’m just as guilty as anyone else, I always seem to over estimate what I’ll need and succumb to spontaneous invitations which are too tempting to resist. The result of changing plans is that my fridge and pantry overflow with the ingredients from cancelled meals. Lots of friends seem to be in a similar situation and there are regular conversations, and even arguments on the lines of, “you are so kind but please, please can you come over to our place instead and eat up the remains of the ….”

There are unquestionably people in dire straits and hungry this Christmas, so one can’t help feeling guilty if even a scrap of food is wasted. St Vincent de Paul, Simon and Quaker Penny Dinner are all delighted to hear from anyone who has food, or clothes, or a myriad of other essentials to share.

This Christmas instead of a ham I’ve decided to serve a piece of streaky bacon deliciously glazed with pineapple juice, brown sugar and cloves. I’m also going to make a piece of spiced beef using an inexpensive bit of flank – even more delicious than silverside. A piece of spiced beef keeps for several weeks and it’s delicious cut in thin slivers. Serve it with slices of avocado, Ballymaloe relish and a potato and scallion salad. This recipe has been handed down in Myrtle Allen’s family for generations and is the most delicious I know. The meat is not corned first as in some other recipes, just rub the spice into the meat and leave for a couple of days before cooking.

Left over streaky bacon also keeps well but can, of course, be cut into cubes and added to a delicious turkey and ham pie or into a frittata or pasta sauce.

Mincemeat made with suet keeps for months so you needn’t be in too much of a hurry to use it up. It is delicious in bread and butter pudding (uses up stale bread also) or in the base of an open tart with a topping of apple of frangipane. I’ve also added it to muffins and used it to stuff Bramley apples with delicious results.

Leftover Brussels sprouts make a delicious fresh tasting soup and even cooked ones provided they weren’t overcooked at the initial stage, make a bubbly gratin when covered with parsley sauce and some freshly grated cheese – a fine accompaniment to liven up some cold turkey or ham.

I love cold duck and goose just in a sandwich, but if you have enough make a red cabbage with dried cranberries, walnuts and apple salad and cut the duck or goose into thin slivers. Don’t forget to include some of the crispy skin – it’s packed with flavour and a little won’t do you a bit of harm.

The turkey carcass makes the best stock of all so make sure to chop it up and let it bubble away in a pot for a few hours with a few carrots, an onion and a stalk or two of celery. The resulting broth is good enough to eat on it’s own. Alternatively use it for soups or stews and it freezes perfectly – use it in the celery soup if you have a head or two left over after Christmas.

Leftover plum pudding, cut into thick slices and cooked gently in a little sizzling butter on a heavy pan is irresistible. Mrs Hanrahan’s sauce keeps for months but if you have already mixed it with whipped cream and aren’t planning to eat it with minced pies or apple tart, simply freeze it – the result is an irresistible boozy ice cream.

Cranberry sauce will keep but is surprisingly good with chocolate mousse or in a meringue roulade. Finally, leftover roast potatoes make a tasty roast potato salad tossed with lots of spring onions, parsley and a few dollops of mayonnaise. A very merry Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year to all our readers.

Turkey and Ham Pie

Try to keep some left-over turkey and ham for this delicious pie – it’s the most scrumptuous way to use up left-overs and can be topped with fluffy mashed potatoes or a puff pastry lid.

Serves 12

2 lbs (900 g) cold turkey meat

1 lb (450 g) cold ham or bacon

1 oz (30 g) butter

1-2 teasp. grated fresh ginger (optional)

12 ozs (340 g) chopped onion

8 ozs (225 g) flat mushrooms or button if flats are not available

1 clove of garlic

30 fl oz (900 ml) well flavoured turkey stock or

20 fl oz (568 ml) stock and 10 fl oz (300 ml) turkey gravy

1 tbsp chopped parsley

1 tbsp chopped chives

2 tsp fresh marjoram or tarragon if available

¼ pint (150 ml) cream

1 lb (450 g) puff or flaky pastry or 2 lbs (900 g) Duchesse Potato

2 x 2 pints (1.1 L) capacity pie dishes

Cut the turkey and ham into 1 inch (2.5 cm) approx. pieces. Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan, add the chopped onions and ginger if using, cover and sweat for about 10 minutes until they are soft but not coloured. Meanwhile, wash and slice the mushrooms. When the onions are soft, stir in the garlic and remove to a plate. Increase the heat and cook the sliced mushrooms, a few at a time. Season with salt and freshly-ground pepper and add to the onions and garlic. Toss the cold turkey and ham in the hot saucepan, using a little extra butter if necessary; add to the mushrooms and onion. De-glaze the saucepan with the turkey stock. Add the cream and chopped herbs. Bring it to the boil, thicken with roux, add the meat, mushrooms and onions and simmer for 5 minutes. Taste and correct the seasoning.

Fill into the pie dishes, and pipe rosettes of potato all over the top. Bake in a moderate oven, 190C/375F/regulo 5, for 15-20 minutes or until the potato is golden and the pie is bubbling.

Alternatively, if you would like to have a pastry crust, allow the filling to get quite cold. Roll out the pastry to about 1/8-inch (3 mm) thickness, then cut a strip from around the edge the same width as the lip of the pie dish. Brush the edge of the dish with water and press the strip of pastry firmly down onto it. Wet the top of the strip again. Cut the pastry into an oval just slightly larger than the pie dish. Press this down onto the wet border, flute the edges of the pastry with a knife and then scallop them at 1 inch (2.5 cm) approx. intervals. Roll out the trimmings and cut into leaves to decorate the top. Make a hole in the centre to allow the steam to escape while cooking.

Brush with egg wash and bake in a preheated oven, 250C/475F/regulo 9, for 10 minutes, then turn the heat down to moderate, 180C/350F/regulo 4, for 20-25 minutes or until the pastry is cooked through and the pie is bubbling.

Serve with a good green salad.

Winter Celery Soup with Cashel Blue and Toasted Hazelnuts

This soup is delicious served on its own, but a little crumbled blue cheese make a delicious addition if you have some to spare.

Serves 8-10

1.3 lbs (560g) celery, finely chopped

12 ozs (45g) butter

5 ozs (140g) onion, chopped

5 ozs (140g) potatoes, cut into 3 inch (5mm) dice

Salt and freshly ground pepper

2 pints (900ml) homemade chicken stock

¼-½ pint (150-300ml) creamy milk


2 tbsp hazelnuts, skinned, toasted and chopped

2 tbsp Cashel Blue or Crozier Cheese, crumbled

A few tbsp whipped cream

Sprigs of chervil or flat parsley

Use a potato peeler to remove the strings from the outside stalks of celery.

Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan. When it foams add the potatoes, onion and celery; toss in the butter until evenly coated. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover with a paper lid (to keep in the steam) and the saucepan lid and sweat over a gently heat for 10 minutes approx, until the vegetables are soft but not coloured. Add the chicken stock and simmer until the celery is fully cooked, 10-12 minutes approx. Liquidise the soup, add a little more stock or creamy milk to thin to the required consistency. Taste and correct the seasoning.

Serve the soup piping hot with a little blob of whipped cream on top. Sprinkle with the crumbled Cashel Blue, chopped hazelnuts and a sprig of chervil or flat parsley.

Red Cabbage with Dried Cranberries, Walnuts and Apple

This is a simple winter salad which is so good with cold duck, goose, pork or ham.

Serves 6

450g (1lb) red cabbage

3 Cox’s Orange pippin apples

75g (3oz) dried cranberries

50g (2oz) fresh walnut halves

Small handful of flat parsley leaves

2 tbsp red wine vinegar e.g. Forum

6 tbsp walnut oil

1 small tsp honey

Salt and freshly ground pepper

First make the dressing.

Whisk the vinegar, oil and honey together and season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Dice the apple (unpeeled) and toss in a little of the dressing, add the dried cranberries. Quarter the red cabbage and slice across the grain. Put into a large serving bowl, add the diced apple, dried cranberries, flat parsley and some more dressing. Toss gently to coat evenly, add the walnut halves, taste and correct the seasoning. Serve on its own or as an accompaniment to cold duck, goose, pork or ham.

Brandy Butter

3ozs (75g) butter

3ozs (75g) icing sugar

2-6 tbsp brandy

Cream the butter until very light, add the icing sugar and beat again. Then beat in the brandy, drop by drop. If you have a food processor, use it: you will get a wonderfully light and fluffy Brandy Butter.

Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry sauce is delicious served with roast turkey, game and some rough pâtés and terrines. We enjoy this simple cranberry sauce best. It will keep in your fridge for several weeks. It is also great with white chocolate mousse, as a filling for a meringue roulade.

Serves 6 approx.

170 g (6ozs) fresh or frozen cranberries

4 tbsp (60 ml) water

85 g (3ozs) granulated sugar

Put the fresh cranberries in a heavy-based stainless steel or cast-iron saucepan with the water – don’t add the sugar yet as it tends to toughen the skins. Bring them to the boil, cover and simmer until the cranberries pop and soften, about seven minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar until dissolved.

Serve warm or cold.

Mincemeat Muffins

Makes 8

225g (8oz) white flour

½ tsp salt

1 level tbsp baking powder

140g (5oz) caster sugar or caster sugar and soft dark brown sugar mixed

75g (3oz) butter

1 egg

½ tsp vanilla extract

170ml (6floz) milk

110g (4oz) mincemeat

1 muffin tray lined with muffin papers

Preheat the oven at 200C/400F/Gas mark 4-5.

Sieve the flour, salt, baking powder in a bowl. Stir in the sugar. Rub in the butter until it looks like breadcrumbs. Combine the beaten egg, vanilla extract and milk and add to the dry mixture. Combine with a fork to give a wet consistency. Fold in the mincemeat gently. Spoon into the muffin cases. Bake for 20-25 minutes until well-risen and golden. Cool on a wire rack and dust with icing sugar.

Glazed Streaky Bacon with Cloves and Pineapple

Serves 12-15

4-5 lbs (1.8-2.25 kg) streaky bacon, either smoked or unsmoked

14 ozs (400g) 1 small tin of pineapple, use 3-4 tbsp approx of the juice

¾ lb (340g) brown demerara sugar

Whole cloves, 20-30 approx.

Cover the bacon in cold water and bring slowly to the boil, if the bacon is very salty there will be a white froth on top of the water. In this case it is preferable to discard this water.

It may be necessary to change the water several times depending on how salty the bacon is; finally cover with hot water and simmer until almost cooked, allow 15 minutes approx to the lb.

Remove the rind, cut the fat into a diamond pattern, and stud with cloves.

Blend brown sugar to a thick paste with a little pineapple juice, 3-4 tablespoons approx. Be careful not to make it too runny a liquid.

Spread this over the bacon.

Bake in a fully preheated hot oven 250C/475F/regulo 9 for 20-30 minutes approx. or until the top has caramelised.


- A GIFT token for a cookery class make a great pressie. There are so many to choose from. Try Paul Flynn at the Tannery in Dungarvan, Co Waterford (tel 058 45420;; also Carmel Somers of Good Things Café in Durrus (tel: 027 61426;, as well as Catherine Fulvio of Ballyknocken House in Co Wicklow ( or Linda Booth of Dublin Cookery School (tel: 01 2100555, the latter are both past 12 Week Certificate Students. Ballymaloe Cookery School’s new season’s brochure is now available. The afternoon cookery demonstrations are open to the public. 021 4646785

- Fans of Café Paradiso will be thrilled to know that the restaurant will be in full swing again from Sunday, December 20, after extensive repairs following flood damage (tel: 021 4277939 or Urru in Bandon has also bounced back. Ruth Healy has many temptations for foodie friends (tel: 023 8854731, as has Claire Nash, the dynamo behind Nash 19. I particularly love their Confit of Fig, (tel: 021 4270880).


We need lots of Vitamin A and D. Liver from lamb, beef, pork and poultry are all rich sources of both Vitamin A and D which work together to boost our resistance.Darina Allen: Let’s concentrate on food that helps to strengthen our immune system

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