Making the most of leftovers

Re-using leftovers ... Chicken, roast vegetable and macadamia salad.
Re-using leftovers ... Chicken, roast vegetable and macadamia salad. Photo: Quentin Jones

Many households will have a roast bird of some kind with roast vegetables for Christmas lunch, as well as the inevitable leftovers. With a little planning, the enormous amount of work put into one meal can pay off for days to come.

Here's how to do it. Tear off all the remaining meat from the carcass (I'm using chicken but it can be turkey) and put it in a covered container in the fridge. Ditto with the vegetables. Place the remaining chicken bones in a large pot, fill to about 5 centimetres from the top with cold water and add a couple of chopped celery sticks, a peeled and quartered onion and a chopped carrot. Throw in a handful of parsley stalks and bring to the boil, lowering immediately to a simmer. Keep it bubbling gently for 3 hours. Strain the stock, cool and refrigerate.

There are several ways to proceed from here. For lunch, roughly chop up the leftover chicken and roast vegetables, toss with some grated cheddar, gruyere or parmesan and fill some jaffles before toasting. Serve cut in triangles with a salad. The featured salad can be made with just about any leftover meat - turkey, pork, ham or lamb.

A risotto, using the chicken stock, is a quick and easy meal for up to six people. Made simply with the addition of saffron and finished with the chopped roast vegetables, most of the preparation is already done.

It's relatively simple for a competent cook to put together delicious dishes with great ingredients but the mark of a really good cook is how cunningly the leftovers are used.

Saffron risotto with leftover roast vegetables

2L hot chicken stock
50g salted butter, plus 80g salted butter
1 onion, finely chopped
250g risotto rice such as carnaroli or arborio
100ml dry white wine
Pinch saffron threads
1 cup leftover roast vegetables, chopped into 1cm cubes
80g parmesan, finely grated

Place chicken stock in a pot and bring to boil. In a large, wide pan heat 50g butter, add the onions and lightly fry until transparent - do not let them colour. Add rice and stir until grains become transparent. De-glaze with wine, allowing wine to completely evaporate. Add a couple of ladles of boiling stock then saffron and simmer until liquid is almost entirely incorporated. Keep adding stock a little at a time until almost cooked (about 20 minutes). Add chopped vegetables and stir in with a few pinches of salt. Remove from heat, add remaining butter and parmesan, stirring in vigorously until creamy. Rest for 3-4 minutes with lid on before serving.

Serves 4-6 as a substantial first course

Wine Tempranillo

Leftover chicken, roast vegetable and macadamia salad

100g macadamia nuts, shelled
1-2 cups leftover roast chicken meat
Leftover chicken skin, crisped in hot oil
2 cups leftover roast vegetables
1 bunch rocket leaves, well washed and dried
3 tbs extra virgin olive oil
2 tbs red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper

Toast macadamia nuts in a pan on medium heat without oil. Move them around constantly until lightly coloured. Set aside to cool, then roughly chop. Shred or slice chicken meat and skin into bite-sized pieces and place in a large bowl. Cut roast vegetables into smaller pieces if need be and add to bowl with chopped rocket and cooled nuts. Dress with oil and vinegar, season with salt, toss and arrange in serving plates. Finish with a few turns of cracked pepper.

Serves 4 as a quick lunch with crusty bread

Wine: Verdelho or Albarinho

This story originally ran in Spectrum, in The Sydney Morning Herald, on November 19, 2011.