Christmas is not just for turkey

Boxing Day cold meat and bubble

CHRISTMAS lunch or dinner plays a big part of most people’s interest in food over the holiday period but what about the rest?

In our house we can count at least five special meals we have every year at this time.

They are almost, but not quite, as important as the main event but eagerly anticipated all the same.

The first comes on Christmas Eve. We’ve boiled and glazed the ham so we carve off the ends to make it look trim and have ham, egg and chips with pickles for tea.

Of course, the liquid in which you’ve boiled it up with herbs and vegetables will make soups. It’ll be salty and needs diluting but stick a few big peeled spuds in to absorb it. Then you can eat those too, fried.

Christmas Dinner needs no explanation and I bet we’re not alone in having a Boxing Day treat of cold meats and bubble and squeak, fried up from the leftover vegetables. And more pickles.

This year we visited for Christmas Day but did bring home the remains of the turkey.

So apart from dripping for breakfast, there was the carcase to pick for curry (into the freezer because you can have too much turkey in one go) then the bones were boiled up for yet more soup and stock.

Just look at all that dripping

And there was quite a bit of skin left over so sections were crisped up in a pan, with the fat released used to fry the bubble.

Turkey is the bird which keeps on giving and it’s my mission in life to make it disappear from the fridge as quickly as possible.

Bits that get left over can always go into pies or be minced up finely, along with the ham, as potted meat.

I am also planning a stir-fry so we’ll round that up with the dripping ( for me only) and lunchtime soups ànd call them meal number four.

Finally, at my wife’s insistence, we always have beef Stroganoff on New Year’s Eve. Probably because it’s not turkey or ham of which she is getting tired.

Mind you, that turkey essence, nicely jellied in the fridge, would really enhance the Stroganoff. She doesn’t need to know . . .

Get potting that leftover turkey or ham!


Potted turkey or ham (it looks the same!)

If you’ve still got turkey or ham in the fridge and can’t bear the thought of another ham sandwich or turkey curry, why not pot it? This blog has been here before but the post is way back in the archives.

Christmas food is lovely but it’s what to do with the leftovers which is the biggest problem. Since we also had a home-baked ham we had double the amount of food – and surplus – to find a use for. I did it with one day to spare before the end of the year and we’ve only had turkey leg curry once!

I gave some of the meat (it was a 14lb bird) to family and some of the ham but that still left a lot. The carcase was easy. I made a stock. And that helped to produce a turkey and leek soup, with the rest in the freezer. The essence from the dripping has gone on my breakfast toast (what I don’t eat will be the basis of even more soup) and I am still working out what to do with the fat left on top.

We’ve had ham sandwiches for lunch all week. There was more than enough turkey and ham to make fillings for future pies, the meat in a white sauce enriched with the double cream bought for the Christmas pudding. That went in the freezer. But there was still more. So I made potted ham and potted turkey. It’s easy. Here’s the technique. It’s not so much a recipe as a procedure.

Chop up about 8oz of meat and put in a processor. Whizz. Meanwhile gently heat half that quantity of butter to clarify. Add what spices you want to the blender with a tablespoon of wine or cider vinegar and pour in two-thirds of the melted butter, making sure not to add the solids. If you do it’s no big problem. Whizz again to the required consistency.

If you don’t want the bother of a blender and are adept with a sharp cook’s knife then the meat can be easily minced using that. I’ve just done it this year (2017) with 3oz of roast beef, mixed with half that amount of melted butter, salt, pepper, nutmeg (or mage), paprika, finely chopped cornichons and mustard, although to be honest I forgot the mustard!

Pack into small ramekins (you will need to press down with your fingers to exclude air spaces) and pour over the rest of the butter to seal. When set keep in the fridge for a week or double wrap and freeze for up to three months.

For the ham I used Dijon mustard and a pinch of ground cloves as well as salt and pepper. With the turkey I replaced the cloves with ground mace. If you haven’t got that, try its cousin nutmeg. I got two ramekins of each.

That still left me with acres of cooked turkey skin. I heated a frying pan and cut the skin into two inch squares and cooked until crisp, about three hours on the lowest light. Dried on kitchen paper and salted, it made some lovely scratchings.

I have also got the fat from the scratchings . . . Naturally I’ve saved it for the next time I have to fry.