Recipe: the perfect leftover turkey curry

How to spice up your Boxing Day dinner

Turkey curry, as a means of using up festive leftovers, has become something of a joke: the turkey curry buffet in Bridget Jones is the true low point of Bridge’s festive calendar. The prospect can strike fear into the most Christmas-spirited of souls. But actually, on Boxing Day, or the day after, the last thing you really want is the same meal you’ve been eating for the past two days, looking a little tired and fridge-worn, all the best bits gone.

Don’t get me wrong: I’ll be first to the table for cold roast meats and my fifth serving of stilton in 48 hours, and if you hesitate for a moment, you won’t see that final portion of trifle for dust. But after a couple of days of drawn-out, almost continuous Sunday lunches, I’m ready for something a little bit different, something that doesn’t taste of goose fat or brandy. But after an hour battling through the supermarket on Christmas Eve, and a fridge already groaning, I’m loathe to buy even more groceries just to satisfy this itch.

That’s where turkey curry comes into its own. Forget insipid, tepid, old-fashioned turkey curries: this one is packed full of aromatics and spice; it’s creamy and punchy and golden, and it’s packed with enough spinach to make you feel a little more human after your 25th Quality Street of the festive season.

Like any self-respecting leftovers dish, you can really chuck whatever you like in here: sliced unwanted sprouts can replace the spinach; break up any uneaten roast potatoes (no, I know – none in my household either, but a girl can dream) and add them at the same time as the turkey; even neglected bread sauce can be stirred through at the end to thicken.

Of course, there’s no need to stop at the curry. Rice is the perfect vehicle for lots of festive foods that never reach their full potential: those chestnuts that never quite made it into the sprouts, or dried fruits you bought in a panic on Christmas Eve can all find a home here. Pistachios or flaked almonds will also work very well toasted and stirred through the rice. If you have a handful of currants or sultanas, heat them in a dry pan until they puff and blacken and serve on top of the dish.

Leftover Turkey Curry

Makes: Enough for four
Takes: Half an hour
Bakes: No time at all

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 onion, sliced
6 cloves garlic
A thumb of ginger
1 tablespoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon Kashmiri chilli powder
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons honey
250g leftover, cooked turkey (ideally, a combination of white and dark meat)
200g spinach
200ml chicken or turkey stock
400ml natural yoghurt
A handful of coriander

  1. Heat the oil in a large pan over a low heat, and add the sliced onions. Cook until the onions are soft and golden. Grate in the garlic and ginger using a fine grater (a microplane here is very effective), and cook for another couple of minutes. Add the garam masala, ground cardamom, black pepper and the chilli powder, stirring through the onion mixture and cooking for two minutes more. Stir the honey through the mix.
  2. Spoon in the cooked turkey, add the stock and bring up to a simmer. Leave to gently simmer until the stock has reduced by half.
  3. Add the spinach: this won’t all want to go into the pan initially, but will quickly wilt and reduce in volume.
  4. Turn the heat right down and add the yoghurt. You want to heat the yoghurt through, but if it boils, it will split (don’t panic if it does split; it’ll look odd, but still taste delicious). Once warmed through, season generously with salt, and serve with rice and lots of coriander.

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