It’s estimated by the government waste scheme Wrap that we waste two million turkeys each Christmas. Most of that is likely to be meat left on the carcasses, which, if repurposed, could easily be used in all manner of lazy meals and snacks – perfect reserves to get us through the post-Christmas slump, after all that hard graft, hosting and booze.
In my household, turkey pilaf is our go-to, after-Christmas dish. It works well with just a few morsels of meat, especially when you use the bones to make a flavourful stock to cook the rice in, and when you can incorporate leftover vegetables into it, too. It’s a quick and tasty wintry treat.
My grandmother, on the other hand, uses the leftover meat to make coronation turkey simply by tearing pieces off the carcass, putting them on a spoon and topping them with mayonnaise sweetened with mango chutney and grapes and seasoned with mild curry powder – no recipe needed.
Turkey carcass pilaf
When I was younger, Boxing Day turkey and stuffing sandwiches with mayonnaise, lettuce and cranberry sauce was my favourite meal of the holiday, but now my repertoire for leftover turkey includes ramen, pasties and this decadent pilaf, which I cook for my family throughout winter, whenever we have a meat carcass to upcycle. It’s an economical, simple, wholesome family meal with comforting, warm spices. It also keeps well, in the fridge or freezer, and is very good reheated.
2 medium onions, peeled and sliced
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp paprika, plus extra for serving
1 tsp turmeric
200g wholegrain basmati rice
100g mixed nuts, crushed
50g dried barberries, cranberries or raisins
1 whole garlic head, cut in half horizontally
400g leftover cooked vegetables (eg, roast carrots, red cabbage, sprouts) or roughly diced carrots
5 parsley stalks, finely chopped, plus the picked leaves to garnish
200g leftover roast turkey meat, shredded
600ml turkey stock (made from the leftover carcass and bones), or water
Sea salt and black pepper
Yoghurt, to serve
In a large, heavy-based saucepan or casserole, saute the onions in a glug of olive oil over a medium heat for 10 minutes, or until they soften. Stir in the ground coriander, cumin, paprika and turmeric, then add the rice, half the crushed nuts and dried fruit, and stir to coat.
Addthe two garlic head halves, leftover vegetables, chopped parsley stalks and shredded turkey meat, then pour over the stock, season with salt and bring up to a boil. Cover the pan, turn down the heat to a simmer and leave, undisturbed, for 30 minutes, or until the rice is cooked.
Spoon out on to a platter (or serve it straight from the pot), sprinkle over the remaining crushed nuts and the parsley leaves, and serve with yoghurt seasoned with a sprinkling of paprika.