7 of the most delicious recipes for leftover turkey

Posted by
Rosie Mullender
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From risotto to curry, these are almost better than the big Christmas day roast itself…

After you’ve polished off a Christmas dinner replete with turkey – and perhaps some glazed ham, stuffing, roast potatoes, carrots, sprouts, red cabbage, cauliflower cheese, bread sauce and gravy on the side – you’ll probably feel like you never want to eat again.

But your stomach will start rumbling again sooner than you think – and that’s when your thoughts will inevitably turn to the leftover turkey. So what should you make with it? Should you use it to create a classic turkey Moist Maker sandwich, a la Ross from Friends? Go traditional with a curry? Or do something completely different?

You might be tempted to live off Quality Street until the new year, but there are loads of ways to make the most out of every last bit of your Christmas bird. We’ve got plenty of delicious ideas, from an indulgent pasta bake to an Asian-inspired soup that’s ideal for beating a mulled-wine hangover. All our recipes serve two. So grab a fork (or spoon), and tuck in.

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Stock, gravy and more…

Leftover turkey isn’t just about the meat – you can use the turkey fat, skin and bones, too, leaving you with minimal waste, delicious food to last you well beyond Christmas Day, and the warm glow of knowing you’ve done your bit to reduce waste.

Fat: When your turkey’s done, pour the fat and juices into a wide bowl and leave to settle. Once the fat has separated, skim it off using a metal spoon, being careful not to catch any turkey juices. Once it’s completely cooled, put the fat in the fridge – it can be used for sautéeing vegetables and making fantastic roast potatoes.

Juices: The juices left behind once you’ve skimmed off the fat can be strained (if you’re feeling fancy, use a muslin cloth or piece of kitchen towel to make it beautifully clear) then used to make amazing gravy by adding stock, white wine and cornflour whisked with water.

Skin: Peel any leftover skin off the carcass – you can season and crisp it up in the oven to make crackling to go with your roast, or use it to add a crunchy topping to turkey risotto or pasta.

Meat: You’ll be surprised how much meat you can get off the average turkey – although if you want a bumper bounty, you can’t be squeamish. Once you’ve carved the meat off for dinner, you’ve had a nice nap and the bird has cooled, use your hands to pull any remaining meat off the carcass (make sure you get it in the fridge sharpish, as room-temperature turkey is a breeding ground for bacteria).

There’s meat to be found all over the bird – it’s a messy job, but don’t forget to collect the rich, dark meat from underneath and the crispy nubs you’ll find around the wings. Turkey legs contain several thin, sharp bones, so make sure these are removed.

Bones: Once your turkey’s picked clean, throw the bones into a large casserole, and add the turkey neck from the giblets, if you have them (the neck is the curved piece with a bone inside). Cover with cold water, then peel and chop two onions, two carrots and two ribs of celery, and add them to the pot.

Throw in five peeled cloves of garlic, a few peppercorns, and some sprigs of any herbs you have to hand – parsley, thyme, rosemary, sage and/or bay. Put a lid on the pan, bring to the boil and simmer for around three hours, until the liquid has reduced by about a third.

Strain the liquid, then simmer again for around an hour until the liquid is reduced by about half and is a lovely rich yellow. It will keep in your fridge for four days, or can be frozen – just season with salt before using.

Asian turkey soup

This warming bowlful is really quick and easy to make. It’s also great with chicken, and makes an excellent hangover lunch.

Add a chunk of finely-chopped ginger and two chopped cloves of garlic to a litre of turkey stock (chicken will do, if you don’t have any). Add four big handfuls of chopped cooked turkey, a handful of bean sprouts, two nests of dried egg noodles, and a few good slugs of soy sauce.

Simmer until the noodles are soft, then divide between two bowls and serve with a soft-boiled egg cut in half on top of each. For an additional kick of flavour, you can soak the shelled eggs for an hour or so in a small bowl of light soy sauce with a pinch of sugar and a couple of star anise before serving.

Top your soup with any or all of the following: crushed peanuts, sliced and deseeded red chilli, coriander leaves, a sprig of mint, toasted sesame seeds, picked vegetables and a drizzle of hot or sweet chilli sauce.

Turkey and leek risotto 

This recipe uses up bits from all over the turkey, and has a deliciously rich turkey flavour. Choose your favourite topping or, for a really interesting flavour, use all three.

Warm up 500ml of turkey or chicken stock and keep it on a low heat. Melt a tablespoon of butter or a blob of turkey fat over a medium heat, and fry a finely-sliced leek until it’s soft. Add 350g risotto (arborio) rice, and stir for a minute or two until it starts to look translucent around the edges. Add a glass of white wine and stir until it’s evaporated.

Gradually add the warm stock a ladle at a time, and stir until it’s been absorbed by the rice (this is also a good time to pour yourself a glass of wine, as you’ll be stirring for a while). Repeat until the stock has been mostly absorbed, and your risotto is creamy. Stir in a few handfuls of cooked turkey and a large handful of grated Parmesan cheese (you can add more if you fancy). For a bit of texture, add some crispy fried sage leaves, chopped seasoned roasted turkey skin or crumbled crispy streaky bacon, and drizzle over a teaspoon of melted butter just before serving.  

Simple turkey curry

This recipe is deceptively easy – it’s packed with plenty of flavour, and is one of the most popular ways of using up leftover turkey for good reason.

Cut 200g of baby potatoes into quarters, add to a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil and simmer for five minutes. Meanwhile, melt a knob of butter in a frying pan and add a tablespoon of curry powder. Stir for a minute or so, adding more butter if it looks dry, then add a finely chopped onion, a deseeded and finely sliced red pepper and a small knob of grated ginger.

Cook gently for five minutes, then add 350ml turkey or chicken stock, a handful of chopped pineapple and the drained potatoes. Stir in four handfuls of shredded cooked turkey, and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the turkey is warmed through and the sauce has thickened to your liking. Sprinkle over some fresh chopped coriander and deseeded and sliced red chilli, and serve with rice or garlic naan breads. 

Turkey tacos

You can use the cooked spiced turkey to make classic fajitas by adding onion and guacamole and wrapping it in a tortilla – or try try these zingy tacos.

In a bowl, mix together a few twists of pepper and a teaspoon each of cumin, paprika, chili powder, garlic granules, dried oregano, salt and sugar. Make a simple salsa by mixing sweetcorn (make it extra tasty by grilling some corn on the cobs then slicing off the kernels) with as many as you like from the following: chopped avocado, sliced red chillis, chopped tomatoes, thinly sliced spring onions, crumbled feta, coriander leaves, chopped red onion. Add a squeeze of lime juice and season to taste.

Heat a tablespoon of turkey fat or olive oil in a pan, and fry four big handfuls of shredded cooked turkey until lightly browned. Add some strips of pepper and fry for a couple more minutes. Add some glugs of turkey or chicken stock to moisten the mixture, bring to a simmer, and stir in the fajita powder. If you like it extra hot, stir in half a teaspoon of cayenne pepper. Serve the turkey in taco wraps, topped with salsa and a dollop of sour cream.

Shredded turkey pizza

Never had a turkey pizza before? There’s a first time for everything.

Shred four big handfuls of turkey and fry in a bit of turkey fat or olive oil until browned. Roll out two portions of fresh pizza dough, or lay out two shop-bought pizza bases. Spread with passata, sprinkle with oregano, top with the turkey, then break up a drained ball of fresh mozzarella and scatter over the top.

Cook each pizza on your oven’s highest setting on a sheet of lightly oiled tin foil for 8-12 minutes, or until the cheese is browned and bubbling and the base is crispy and golden.

Turkey pasta bake

This is pretty indulgent, but it’s ideal if you’re a bit fed up with the usual Christmas fayre. You can make this richer as you like by making a bit more sauce.

Cook 160g fusilli according to the packet instructions, and fry four rashers of streaky bacon until crispy. Drain the pasta and set aside, then make a basic roux: melt two tablespoons of butter in a heavy pan and stir in two tablespoons of flour. Stir for one minute, then stir in 200ml milk and 200ml of turkey or chicken stock. Bring to the boil, then add two or three handfuls of finely grated Parmesan. Season to taste, and add a bit more Parmesan if you’d like it extra cheesy. Add a few handfuls each of chopped cooked turkey and frozen peas. Crumble in the bacon (or use chopped cured meat if you have some leftover from Christmas), stir in the pasta and pour the whole lot into a greased baking dish. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and some picked thyme leaves or dried oregano, and cook at 180 degrees (160 fan) for 45 minutes.   

Spiced turkey hummus

This is more traditionally made with lamb, but you’ve got turkey to hand, and hummus is delicious, so there’s nothing not to love.

Finely chop an onion and fry it until soft in some turkey fat or olive oil. Add a few big handfuls of chopped turkey, and fry until it starts to get lovely and crispy. Add a pinch each of salt, pepper, allspice, ground cinnamon and grated nutmeg, and squeeze over a bit of lemon juice. Add some toasted pine nuts too, if you like.

When the turkey is crispy and golden, serve it on a bed of hummus, with a dollop of tahini, a sprinkling of paprika, and some picked coriander leaves, all scooped up with warm pitta breads. 

Images: Unsplash, courtesy of author


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Rosie Mullender

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