Why waste your leftover trimmings from Christmas dinner? You can turn the usually discarded parts of your Christmas day prep into delicious side dishes and more. Reduce food waste this year and perform a little magic to turn the cut-offs and trimmings into delicious festive fare – it’s easy.
As we’re usually cooking for more people than we’re used to at Christmas, a large amount of food waste can occur. This year, don’t toss your trimmings on the compost heap or in the bin, use these recipes for great sides, salads and mains – full of all those flavours we love at Christmas – to augment your Christmas lunch, eat in the days after, or to store for use in the new year.
The neck and offal you get with your bird are packed full of flavour. You can use the neck to make delicious gravy or stock that you can keep in your freezer for well beyond Christmas. Roast the neck with vegetable trimmings – onion, garlic, or whatever veg you have leftover from your turkey roasting – then add medium-bodied stock and reduce by half. Strain and thicken with corn starch or add whatever extra elements you have to lift the flavour. Check out how to make gravy like a pro.
The liver makes a really delicious snack when fried in butter. Make sure not to overcook it because it can become grainy. You can add a splash of sherry, some sautéed shallots and sage, and blitz for a small amount of pâté to spread on crusty bread at the table.
You only get two feet with your turkey, but you can ask the butcher to throw a few more in so you can make confit turkey feet. Cut the talons from the feet and place in a roasting pan with garlic, sage, rosemary, thyme, lemon peel and garlic and cover with duck fat. Season with salt and pepper, and cook on low heat for about two hours until the feet are tender. Let the feet cool in the fat and keep in the fridge overnight. To serve, gently warm the fat until the feet can be removed. The meat can be stripped off and shredded with a knife.
The stalks and leaves from the top of your carrots inevitably end up in your organic waste bin, but these are actually very tasty green leaves that can be a substitute for spinach or for herbs like parsley. They actually make a good side dish if sautéed with garlic, olive oil and a touch of chilli flakes. Add a squeeze of lemon juice for extra zing. Carrot tops can also be made into a fresh pesto. Just throw them into a food processor once you’ve sautéed them, together with garlic, fresh mint, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, a handful of walnuts and a few spring onions. You’ll be surprised by how delicious it is.
Parsnip leaves shouldn’t be thrown away as they make a fantastic salad leaf, once blanched. Toss them together with some other leaves and some crunchy vegetables, and add a nice dark soy sauce-based dressing, some hot Szechuan peppercorns, a splash of vinegar and garlic for a fresh and lively salad dish at Christmas. You can also add them to any leftover parsnips for a parsnip risotto with plenty of parmesan cheese.
Keep your onion skins and add them to the stockpot for colour and depth. You can also roast them on their own and then deglaze for an onion broth to add to ravioli. Or add them to your risotto pot while cooking and remove them before serving.
Whatever you do, do not throw away the fat that you trim from your ham. Keep it and render it down to keep as a versatile and delicious meat fat to give flavour to so many different things. Make sure your butcher leaves on the fat trimmings, which you can put in a deep pan and melt on a low heat, stirring occasionally. Skim off any impurities and strain before adding to a clean, dry jar. Allow to cool before storing in the fridge. Watch how chef Jessica Rosval renders beef fat in FDL's Why Waste? series with Massimo Bottura, below.
Celery leaves are actually the more interesting and delicious part of the vegetable. Add them to your stockpot for a delicate fresh note, or use them to make pesto. The freshness of the celery leaves works very well with pecorino cheese and a squeeze of lemon juice to bring them together.
Your potato peels can be roasted on a tray for crispy potato peel chips. Just lay on kitchen paper, make sure they are very clean, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt. Never eat the peel of potatoes that are green as they contain toxins. Drizzle with chilli oil for a spicy kick.
Any leftover bread can be used to make breadcrumbs for your stuffing and if you’ve still got some to use, make bread and butter pudding. Watch the below video from Why Waste? with Massimo Bottura and co. for ways to get the most out of leftover cereals, including bread.
This article was updated on 20/11/2023.