Three Weeks After Christmas 2013
Leftover Christmas
Dr Jenny waiting for dinner

Christmas is over - time once again to start frantically inventing novel ways of using up the leftovers. Lots of leftovers. I say frantically because it's now been 3 weeks and counting and even the cheese is starting to get a bit suspect!

It's also a handy way of feeding Doctor Jenny, who's moved in with me while she operates on sick children.
Well, someone has to do it now that rapey Uncle Jimmy is no longer available.

Although she's complained bitterly about the lack of dinner choice she gets from being cooked for and waited on hand and foot, I have noticed that on her days off all she eats are my leftover leftovers, so I must be doing something right.
To be fair she also complains bitterly about the absurd length of time it takes me to get her dinner on the table. As we should know full well by now - girls need feeding instantly.
Must cook faster, must cook faster.

I had to use up the leftover goose first since it started getting a bit whiffy, which I did by just wrapping it up in tin foil with a handful of dried cranberries, a few par-cooked potatoes, quartered onions and choice herbs then roasting it in a low oven.
Then I ate it with some pickles right out of the foil like a tramp.

Heston's Chicken and Ham Pie
main meat fowl
Or Turkey and Ham, or Goose and Ham I suppose - since we're using up Christmas leftovers.

I very much simplified Heston's ludicrous recipe by using some onion and rosemary sauce I'd made earlier, and skipping the whole chicken-brining business.
Heston obviously has the hots for agar-agar though so maybe that's worth thinking about?

Heston: A great technique for thickening sauces and pie fillings is to use a tablespoon of agar agar flakes instead of starch. Agar agar is a setting agent derived from seaweed and it ensures a really smooth finish without masking flavour as starch does. Agar agar is also a good vegetarian replacement for gelatin and it is a lot more heat resistant.

Since Jenny and her beau Alistair don't like to wait more than THIRTY SECONDS for their dinner I occupied them with decorating the pie crust. Jenny chose a tiny pac-man and mini ghost theme. Can you tell?

Serves 6

Place the brine in a bowl big enough to contain the chicken thighs. Add the chicken to the water and leave in the brine for 5 hours.
Rinse the chicken under cold running water for 5 minutes, then pat dry with kitchen roll. Store in the fridge until needed.
Or don't bother and just open the packets of boned chicken thighs!
Preheat the oven to 85°C.
Place the brined chicken thighs in an oven-proof saucepan and cover with 500ml of chicken stock. Bring the stock to a simmer over a medium heat then place in the oven for 1 hour 30 minutes.
Or just simmer it in the pan for about 20 minutes until cooked through like I did!
Allow the chicken to cool in the liquid before removing and dicing. Retain 90ml of the chicken stock for the sauce which will bind the pies. (The remaining stock can be used for soups or sauces.)

In the meantime, cook the leeks. Place the pan over a medium-high heat. Add the chicken skin and render the fat from it for 10-15 minutes. Remove the skin and discard.
Reduce the heat to medium and add the leeks to the fat. Cook until completely soft (approximately 15 minutes), then allow to cool in the pan.
Although leeks are a traditional element of a chicken and ham pie I skipped them.
To cook the mushrooms, place a pan over a medium-high heat. Add the butter and when melted, add the mushrooms and cook until lightly coloured (approximately 5 minutes). Drain the mushrooms on a plate covered with kitchen paper.

For the sauce, put the cream, reduced wine, whole milk and reserved chicken stock into a pan and bring to a simmer over a medium heat. Sprinkle in the agar agar flakes and whisk to incorporate. Simmer for 4 minutes then allow to cool and blitz thoroughly with a hand blender.
Or use some old sauce you have lying around, freshened with a couple of tablespoons of double cream, a little grating your leftover Christmas cheese, and some of the chicken/goose stock.
When ready to assemble and cook the pie, preheat the oven to 215°C.
Mix the chicken thigh meat, diced ham, leeks, mushrooms, wholegrain and Dijon mustards together then add the sauce. I only used about a teaspoon of mustard Finely chop the parsley and add it to the mixture. Season with salt and a pinch of freshly ground black pepper and stir until all the ingredients are well combined. Pour into a family-sized pie dish (approximately 28cm in length).
I like a lot of pastry in my pie, so I lined the pie dish with (not too thick) pastry and baked it blind for about 10 minutes or so until it puffed up and was starting to colour. It didn't seem necessary to weigh down the pastry as it collapsed back down quite nicely when it cooled off.
Roll the pastry on a lightly floured surface until 5mm thick. It's a good idea to let the pastry rest after rolling for 5 minutes to reduce shrinkage. Lay over the pie dish and fold the overhang around the lip of the dish to seal the edges. Rest for 15 minutes in the fridge. This further resting will also help to reduce shrinkage
Crimp the edges of the pie with a fork for decoration then, using a pastry brush, coat the top of the pie with the beaten egg.
Place the pie in the oven for approximately 15 minutes or until the pastry turns golden on top.

Serve with steamed new potatoes stirred in a hot pan with leftover butter, leftover dried cranberries, and leftover spring onions.
I turned the oven down to Gas 5 at this stage and cooked the pie for about half an hour.
OK, I suppose my version wasn't anything like Heston's in the end.
I skipped the brining, prepared four boned chicken thighs by simmering them in goose stock the night before and leaving them to cool, used some pre-prepared roux-based sauce (instead of the whole agar-agar nonsense) to which I added some grated leftover Lymn Bank Farm Brewers Choice cheese (flavoured with brewer's yeast) and a few slices of Brie. I also missed out the leeks and most of the mustard.
But the whole thing then only took an hour, and it was really delicious.
So there.

A two-recipe, three-mustard dish!
Three Mustard Pork Stroganoff
main meat
A combination of a Delia and a Gary Rhodes recipe.
Don't go mental with the mustard though.

Serves 3-4

First of all prepare the pork by trimming it and cutting it into strips 3 inches (7.5 cm) long and ¼ inch (5 mm) wide. Season with salt and paprika and cayenne pepper if you like.
Then prepare the mushrooms by slicing them through the stalk into thin slices.
In a small bowl, mix together the three mustards with the crème fraîche be a little cautious with the mustard - it can overwhelm the dish, best not to add all the wet mustards yet, and to hold some of the crème fraîche in reserve so you can adjust quantities at the end and, when you're ready to cook the pork, take the frying pan and heat the oil and butter together over a high heat. When it's smoking hot add the strips of pork and fry them quickly, keeping them on the move all the time so they colour evenly, without burning.
Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add the onion slices followed by the red pepper if using and fry them gently for about 2-3 minutes until they're soft. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Turn the heat to high, add the mushrooms and toss around until they lose their juices and start to colour.

Add back the pork and onions and heat them all back up together. Add the wine or brandy and reduce (or flame). After that stir in the crème fraîche mixture and stir together.
Let it bubble and reduce a little - then adjust the seasoning you might need more crème fraîche or mustard at this stage.

Serve over rice - I flavoured mine with a half teaspoon each of black and yellow mustard seeds fried in butter before boiling.
That's the leftover pork done!

Pesto Crusted Salmon
main fish
When I made this I had a whole frozen side of salmon to use up (I defrosted it first!), and it seemed like a pesto coating of some kind would make a nice change from liquorice :)
So I did a couple of experiments, coating part of the fish in only pesto, part of it with mixed breadcrumbs, pesto and extra Parmesan, and the final third with some crushed peanuts added to the mix. (I like the idea of combining peanuts with pesto so I thought I'd give this a go.)

The breadcrumb/pesto mix was definitely the best, though the pure pesto was also acceptable. It just lacked that interesting bit of crunch and the attractive golden colour of the breadcrumbs (especially with the extra cheese), and might have worked better as a wrapped parcel, rather than open.
Mind you if you are looking for a bright green fishy wrap then the pesto is your man.
The peanuts didn't really work - they just made the topping heavy and cloying.

Use a fillet per 1-2 people

First prepare your pesto. OK you can buy it instead. You can grate some lemon peel into it too if you fancy.

De-scale and de-bone the salmon as well as you can and place it skin-side down (you can then serve the fish leaving the skin behind for squeamish guests) in a baking tin with enough of a lip to contain the runoff juices. You can line it with tin foil if you want to make the cleaning a bit easier.

Cut the crust off a couple of slices of white bread, roughly chop them and pulse in a food processor to make your breadcrumbs, then mix with the pesto to make a thick coarse paste. About 50/50.
Rub the fish with a little salt and a squeeze of lemon juice, then coat with the pesto mixture. You can make this more or less thick depending on how much pesto flavour you want with your salmon - it can get a bit overwhelming and greasy if you overdo it.
Grate over some Parmesan, or mix the extra Parmesan with some breadcrumbs and scatter those on top.

Cook at Gas 7-8 (220-230°C/425-450°F) for about 10 minutes until the crust turns golden (if you're using the breadcrumbs and extra cheese topping) and the salmon is just cooked and moist.
Since I was roasting a whole fat side of salmon, I cautiously cooked it slightly lower (Gas 5-6) for slightly longer (15 mins), but that might not have been necessary.

I served mine with couscous, mixed with chopped parsley and dressed with walnut oil before serving, and with broccoli with olives and lemon but to be honest the combination was a little dry. I think it would benefit from a side dish of a lemon or yoghurt sauce of some kind.

A fortuitous invention
Broccoli with Olives and Lemon
side veg vegan
A quick and simple way of cooking broccoli that was surprisingly well received.

Serves 4

Break the broccoli into florets, halving or quartering larger ones.
Pare the lemon peel into thin strips (or grate it if you can't be bothered or don't have a fancy lemon zester) and juice it (you'll need about half the juice, but perhaps all the peel).
Stone about a dozen (or fewer) black olives and cut them in halves or quarters.

Heat a generous amount of olive oil in a pan with a tight-fitting lid large enough to almost fill with the broccoli and fry the broccoli over a high heat, shaking occasionally until it has browned around the edges.
Throw in the garlic cloves, give the pan a good shake, then add the lemon juice, olives and salt and cover. Turn the heat down to its lowest setting and leave until the broccoli is tender, shaking occasionally (about 10 minutes).
Add the lemon peel and serve.
Really good. And really easy. Score!

Another attempt to adulterate lychees
Lychees with Basil Cream
dessert raw veg
Quite a nice combination of flavours if you're not a lychee purist (Flora!).

Peel the lychees, remove the stones and any hard brown layers and cut into halves or quarters. It helps if you cut the stalk end off with a sharp knife first.
Blend some basil with a small amount of cream (loosening it with milk as necessary so it doesn't turn into cheese).
Gently stir this intense green paste through some more cream to create an attractive basil swirl.
Dress the lychees and serve.
Well, I liked it ;)

Baked Apples stuffed with Mincemeat
dessert veg
A terrific way to use up that leftover mincemeat!

Per person

First choose your apple!
I used large Bramleys which turn nice and fluffy when cooked.
Pre-heat the oven to Gas 4/180°C/350°F.

Carefully cut out the apple core from the top, trying not to cut all the way through to the other side so the filling will stay in the apple.
At the back of my utensil drawer I found a very handy Shot Carver by LushLife - like a fat apple corer. It must have been an unloved Christmas present from a couple of years ago: it's supposed to be used for doing fruit shots, boring out quite a large hollow about the width of a shot glass, and as deeply as you like.
Perfect for stuffing baked apples - hurray another Christmas present comes into it's own!
Score a line horizontally around the apple just through the skin so it won't explode. Put the apples in a baking tray, pour the Calvados into the hollows, then fill with mincemeat. Feel free to perk up your mincemeat with a few slivers of lemon peel.
Of course you can use any kind of marinated dried fruit/peel you like if you've run out of leftover mincemeat.
Nigel Slater suggests:
  • a teaspoon of Muscovado sugar and butter
  • chopped pecans, dried cherries (or perhaps you still have dried cranberries?) and maple syrup
  • crumbled panettone, honey and chopped candied peel
Cover loosely with foil and bake for half an hour or so, then remove the foil and cook them until they are soft and fluffy but not collapsing which they will do if you don't keep an eye on them - another 15-30 minutes.
Serve with cream, ice cream or sour cream if you like.
Pretty good - the oven temperature isn't exactly critical so they'll go at the bottom of the oven if you're using it for something else, but it can take the apples a looooong time to cook so be prepared.
Maybe you don't really need to bother with the foil.
Also nice served with double cream, boiled, sweetened with condensed milk and freshened with a glass of Sailor Jerry's spiced rum.

Mushrooms in a Blue Cheese Sauce
side sauce veg
Leftover mushrooms make a fine complement to a blue cheese sauce. Made from leftover blue cheese.

Makes sauce for 2

Clean the mushrooms and cut them into quarters.
Fry in a generous knob of butter over high heat until they colour and just start to lose their moisture.
Slice or press the garlic and add to the mushrooms.
Add a glass of brandy, white wine, or whatever liqueur you fancy and flame or reduce.
Add double cream and chopped parsley (preferably curly) and simmer gently to reduce a little.
Crumble in the blue cheese and slices of Brie (or just use all blue cheese if you like), stir until melted, season (probably not much) and serve.
Great with steak, or just as a pasta sauce.

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