Make Christmas last: Top chefs on how to make your festive leftovers shine

Think beyond the turkey sandwich and cut out food waste with these delicious recipes

“When it comes to reducing food waste, the shopping is where it starts,” says Danni Barry, head chef at the Wicklow Escape, where hyperlocal sourcing from neighbouring farms and their own kitchen garden remind the team just how precious our food sources are. “We get all get carried away, but it’s only a few days of eating that we’re shopping for.

“If you plan properly and shop locally, you can treat yourself to some really good cheese rather than buying lots of it mindlessly.”

She suggests buying a Christmas vegetable box or shopping at your local market for what you actually need rather than picking up massive bags of carrots or parsnips that you'll struggle to finish.

Erica Drum is a freelance chef who recently ran a Zero Waste Week Supper Club with Conor Spacey of Food Space, in collaboration with Food Cloud. She agrees that planning is the first step to reducing food waste. “At Christmas we all tend to over-purchase our regular food as well, down to the bread and milk. Only purchase what you will actually eat on the day or make leftovers from; or you could always have back-ups prepped, but not cooked. Count a carrot per person, maybe two potatoes per person. And let people help themselves, buffet or family style; they’ll take what they actually want.”

Vegetable trimmings have all sorts of creative uses. "The sweet and crunchy stalks of broccoli or cauliflower are very underused," says Jordan Bailey of the two-Michelin-starred Aimsir Restaurant. "Both can be cooked in a pasta, curry or stir-fry, used raw in a remoulade or coleslaw, or cut very thin and dressed in salt and vinaigrette. Peelings of potatoes and any starchy root veg like parsnips and carrots can be roasted with salt and oil for homemade crisps."

Of course, the cooked leftovers can be a highlight too: what’s Christmas without a turkey sandwich? Erica loves a triple-decker sandwich with a middle slice of double-buttered toast for a crispy inner layer (her twist on “the moist maker” à la Ross from Friends, who dips the middle slice of bread into gravy). She’s also a fan of pulled turkey tacos with cumin and smoked paprika, and a spiced-up cranberry sauce; or stir-fried turkey, sprouts and carrots with Chinese five spice, ginger and soy sauce.

Leftover roasties can be transformed into potato cakes or chopped into a frittata with sprouts and chopped ham; that ham is also great in risotto or omelette. Martin O’Donnell of the Twelve Hotel loves deep-fried croquettes with mashed potato and ham: “they’re perfect for St Stephen’s night, served with a cranberry sauce or chutney as a little drinks snacks.” And be sure to make a stock with the turkey carcass, neck and giblets: either as the base for a sauce as in Danni’s Christmas pie, or for a ramen broth or good old-fashioned barley and vegetable soup.

Later in the holidays, leftover plum pudding or Christmas cake are delicious crumbled into a homemade ice-cream, pancake batter or chocolate biscuit cake – or into a cheesecake with a drop of sloe gin, as Martin likes to do, “using the last of the leftovers in a gorgeous indulgent way.”


Danni Barry, head chef at the Wicklow Escape, Co Wicklow

This pie is a great way to use up all the leftover turkey and ham meat from the day itself, as well as leftover cheeses and cranberry sauce.
Serves 4-6

Leftover turkey meat
150g chestnut mushrooms, wiped clean and chopped
1 packet shop-bought puff pastry, defrosted
2-3tbs cranberry sauce
Uncooked Brussel sprouts, finely sliced
1 egg, beaten

Optional additions:
Cooked chestnuts, chopped
Fresh parsley and chives, chopped
1 packet smoked bacon lardons, fried
1 large tbs creme fraiche

For the stock:
Turkey carcass
4-5 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 leek, cleaned and roughly chopped
1 onion, roughly chopped
Hard herbs of choice, such as thyme and bay leaf

For the roux:
50g butter
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 leek
1 carrot
1 stick celery
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
50g plain flour
500ml turkey stock
For the crumb topping:
200g leftover bread or breadcrumbs
60g hard cheese
Leftover turkey skin


1 Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.

2 Pick any remaining meat from the turkey carcass and set this aside in a large mixing bowl. Set aside any leftover turkey skin in another bowl. Roast the clean carcass in a preheated oven for 10 minutes, then bash it down a little with a rolling pin, cover with a litre of water, add some chopped garlic, leek and onion, and throw in some hard herbs, such as thyme and bay leaf. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes to make a stock (do this in the tray either in the oven or directly on the hob).

3 Meanwhile, begin a simple roux to make the sauce. Melt the butter in a large pan over a medium heat. Once foaming, add the onion and garlic with a pinch of salt, and cook for 10 minutes until softened. Add the flour and cook for another two minutes until turning sandy, then gradually pour in the hot stock through a sieve until smooth. Simmer for 10-15 minutes or until thickened.

4 In a separate pan, fry the chopped chestnut mushrooms in butter until golden brown. Add this to the turkey meat in the mixing bowl, and then bind with the sauce together with whatever optional extras you fancy. I like to add some chopped parsley, chives and cooked chestnuts, and you could add some smoked bacon lardons if you wished and a large tablespoon of creme fraiche to lighten it.

5 Using shop-bought puff pastry, line the bottom of a pie or casserole dish and spoon over a layer of cranberry sauce. Sprinkle some finely sliced Brussel sprouts over the base, top with the turkey pie mix and cover the dish with another layer of puff pastry. Brush with a beaten egg.

6 In a food processor or blender, blitz the stale bread into breadcrumbs, add the leftover turkey skin and hard cheese, and pulse until it comes together like a crumble. Sprinkle over the pie dish.

7 Light a fire, stick on Only Fools and Horses and place the pie into a hot oven (at about 180 degrees) for 40-45 minutes.


Jordan Bailey, head chef at Aimsir Restaurant, Co Kildare

This is one of my favourite Christmas dishes, and a great way to finish off that big bag of Brussel sprouts that you bought too much of. You could replace some of the boiled potatoes with leftover roasties, chopped and mashed with some butter.
Serves 6

1kg floury potatoes, peeled and quartered (or leftover roasties)
500g Brussel sprouts, trimmed
200g smoked bacon lardons
40g butter
1 bunch spring onion, thinly sliced
50g plain flour
Oil, for frying

To serve:
600g pickled red cabbage, homemade or shop-bought
300g grated carrot
Parsley, a handful, chopped
8tbs good quality mayonnaise
3tbs wholegrain mustard
2 Granny Smith apples, cut into thin batons


1 Heat oven to 190 degrees.

2 Boil the potatoes for 12-15 minutes or until tender.

3 Meanwhile, boil the sprouts for 3-5 minutes, until just tender. Drain and cool quickly under cold running water. Shake dry, then shred as finely as you can.

4 Heat a frying pan and fry the lardons until crispy. Drain on a piece of kitchen paper to catch the excess fat.

5 Once the potatoes are tender, drain and return to the pan over a low heat for 1-2 minutes to dry out. Add the butter and mash well.

6 Mix in the blanched sprouts, bacon and spring onion and season to taste. Leave until cool enough to handle, then shape into 8 round cakes. Tip the flour on to a plate, then coat the cakes, tapping off the excess.

7 Heat a 5mm depth of oil in a large frying pan and shallow-fry the cakes in two batches for two minutes on each side, turning carefully. Drain on kitchen paper and transfer to a baking sheet lined with greaseproof paper. Finish the cakes in the preheated oven for 15 minutes until hot through and crisp on the outside.

8 While the cakes are in the oven, mix the red cabbage, grated carrot and chopped parsley with the mustard and mayonnaise. Finish with the apple batons on top.


Martin O’Donnell, head chef, the Twelve Hotel, Co Galway

This turkey and ham wellington is a seasonal favourite at the Twelve Hotel, and has become a favourite with my family too. It is such an easy way of turning the Christmas day leftovers into something really special.
Serves 4

Leftover turkey, sliced thinly plus any broken bits
Leftover ham, sliced thinly
Good quality shop-bought puff pastry, defrosted
A little flour
A beaten egg

To serve:
Cranberry chutney
Leftover gravy


1 Preheat the oven to 190 degrees.

2 Begin by slicing the turkey leftovers pretty thinly; broken bits are perfectly good for this also. Next slice the ham, reasonably thin again.

3 On a lightly floured table, roll out the puff pastry to approximately ½cm in thickness and 20cm x 30cm in diameter. Lay the ham slices in the centre of the pastry, keeping it an inch in from the edge and finishing an inch from the other end. Next, lay the Christmas stuffing on to the ham all the way to the end.

4 Cover all the stuffing with any broken bits of turkey first and then with nice slices to cover the stuffing completely, using your hands to compress it into a meaty log. Brush the exposed pastry with a beaten egg and then fold it over towards the centre of the meat from one side and then the other.

5 Once the log is fully covered in pastry, trim any excess, then crimp the edges with a fork to seal it well. Use both hands try to reshape into a really tight cylinder. Have fun with cookie cutters to cut out Christmassy puff pastry decorations to lay on top.

6 Egg wash the whole Wellington and bake in a preheated oven for about 45-50 minutes until it has a lovely golden colour and is piping hot in the middle.

Read More