What should you do with the turkey and ham leftovers? Try these recipes

Give your turkey and ham a cheesy lid, or spike the bird with Asian spices

Chilli and lemongrass turkey curry with jasmine rice

Chilli and lemongrass turkey curry with jasmine rice


Christmas leftovers tend to polarise opinion. There are those who look at the ravaged carcass of a turkey and a lump of ham and see endless possibilities. And those who don’t have the same vision, and reach for the nearest takeaway delivery menu.

If you are the person who shopped for and cooked the Christmas dinner, the chances are you might not have had the best appetite it when it came time to actually eat it.

For you, today’s the day. There is a lot to be said for plating up the same meal again – some even say turkey and ham and all the trimmings actually tastes better on St Stephen’s Day.

And there is a scientific reason for that, as Aoife McElwain discovered when researching this subject for her Now We Know column in the Irish Times Magazine: “The food writer Guy Crosby, who was science editor at Cooks Illustrated (cooksillustrated.com) for more than a decade, puts this pleasant phenomenon down to chemical reaction.

“According to Crosby, ‘even after cooking ceases, many chemical reactions continue to take place in foods. In the case of a soup or stew containing milk or cream, the lactose breaks down into sweeter-tasting glucose. Similarly, the carbohydrates in onions develop into sugars such as fructose and glucose. Proteins in meat turn into individual amino acids that act as flavour enhancers. Finally, starches in potatoes and flour break down into flavourful compounds.’ ”

But if you just can’t face a two meat and three veg dinner again, without tarting it up somehow, here are two suggestions from Donal Skehan. The turkey and ham pie has a tasty Cheddar pastry crust, and the curry is a Vietnamese-influenced one which will perk up even the most jaded palates.

A Cheddar cheese rough puff crust on a turkey and ham pie
A Cheddar cheese rough puff crust on a turkey and ham pie

Turkey and ham pie with Cheddar rough puff pastry

Serves 6


For the filling:

75g butter
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1-2 tsp finely chopped thyme leaves
2 tbsp plain flour, plus extra for dusting
350ml hot chicken stock
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 heaped tsp English mustard
150ml single cream
300g cooked ham, roughly chopped
400g cooked turkey, torn into bite-sized pieces
1 large egg, beaten

For the pastry:

250g plain flour
170g very cold butter, cut into small cubes
1 tsp sea salt
1 egg
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp ice cold water
100g Cheddar cheese, finely grated
Freshly ground black pepper


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While I’m an advocate of just eating a second Christmas dinner to make the best of your leftovers, I do stretch the rules for a pie like this. The pastry lid is wonderful and is a good savoury pastry recipe which can be used for many different tarts and galettes.

For the pastry, put the flour and butter into a mixing bowl and, using a butter knife, cut the butter into the flour (or use a pastry blender tool) until the mixture looks like rough breadcrumbs and there are still visible lumps of butter. Whisk together the egg, the balsamic vinegar and the sea salt in a small bowl.

Add this to the butter and flour, along with the cheese, and using two forks gently toss through until the dough begins to come together. Add a little cold water to bring the dough to a rough ball. Press into a flat circle, wrap in cling film and allow to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius/gas 4.

Melt 25g of the butter in a large sauté pan, add the onions, carrots, celery and thyme and fry for 6-8 minutes, or until tender. Add the remaining 50g of butter to the saucepan and allow to melt over a medium heat. Add the flour and cook for a minute, whisking to combine.

Gradually add the stock, mixing briskly with a wooden spoon until it thickens.

Reduce the heat and simmer for 3-4 minutes. Season with a generous pinch of salt and black pepper and add the mustard. Pour in the cream and stir it through, allowing it to cook for a further minute.

Add the turkey and ham to the sauce and stir well. Transfer the mixture to an ovenproof baking dish, 20cm diameter and 5cm deep.

Roll the pastry out on to a floured work surface, until it is large enough to fit the top of the dish. Brush the edges of the dish with a little beaten egg and place the pastry on top of the pie. Brush with a little more beaten egg and cook in the oven for 25 minutes, until the pastry is puffed and golden.

Chilli and lemongrass turkey curry with jasmine rice

Serves 4


4 lemongrass stalks, finely chopped
2 red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
2 tbsp Thai fish sauce (Nam Pla)
400g cooked turkey meat, preferably dark meat, cut into bite-sized chunks
1 tbsp sunflower oil
2 tbsp curry powder
300ml chicken stock
2 tbsp caster sugar
100g sugar snap peas
Small handful of mint, basil and coriander leaves, to garnish

For the rice:

275g Thai jasmine long grain rice


This is a simple recipe I picked up in Vietnam. With a few aromatic ingredients, you can transform your leftover turkey.

For the rice, place the grains in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan with a lid. Add cold water and using your fingers swirl the rice to wash it. Drain the water and repeat two more times, until the water becomes clearer. Drain completely and then top up with 600ml of water.

Bring to a steady boil and stir through to prevent the rice from sticking to the bottom. Lower the heat and bring to steady simmer. Continue to cook and stir until the liquid is reduced by half and is almost absorbed.

Place a lid on the pot and cook on the lowest heat for 6-8 minutes, or until the water is completely absorbed. Remove from the heat and allow the rice to sit for eight minutes, lid on. Fluff the rice up with a fork and put the lid back on again again until you are ready to serve.

For the curry, in a bowl, combine the lemongrass, chilli, garlic.

Heat the oil in a wok or a large non-stick frying pan over a high heat. Add the lemongrass mixture and stir fry for about a minute, until fragrant. Then add the curry powder and stir-fry until aromatic. Add the turkey and sugar snap peas and stir-fry for four minutes until the pieces are completely coated.

Pour the chicken stock into the pan and stir in the sugar and fish sauce. Simmer for a few minutes until the stock has reduced and you are left with a thick sauce. Stir through half the herbs until just wilted.

Serve with rice and garnish with the herbs.

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