It is the most wonderful time of the year for entertaining and eating, but – let’s face it – Christmas can mean a lot of excessive shopping and overstocking of fridges, freezers, and cupboards. Come January, the fridge contents will include half-jars of cranberry sauce, chutney, brandy butter, double cream, and a vegetable drawer with half a bag of Brussels sprouts. Unfortunately, most of these items end up in the rubbish. Household food waste skyrockets over the Christmas period.
Author of the bestselling lifestyle book The Homemade Year, Lilly Higgins is one person who goes all out for Christmas, but makes sure there is as little waste as possible in the kitchen.
“I love Christmas. The food, atmosphere, music and family, it’s one of my favourite times of year,” says Lilly. “I love that there’s specific food for the occasion, and there’s such a focus on it. We all sit around planning who’s going to cook what and there’s so much chat about one meal.”
When it comes to shopping and planning, Lilly always counts on her trusty list. “I love list writing at Christmas. It’s impossible to keep it all in your head – so many plates are spinning – so I usually delegate. This year I think I’ll prepare lots ahead of time and I usually make double or triple the recipes so I can give everyone else stuffing, bread sauce and cranberry sauce, too.”
Two leftover traditions that most households in Ireland enjoy are the Christmas dinner sandwich and turkey curry. There are so many varieties of these dishes and they’re great ways to use up leftovers from the main dinner, but what about the other ingredients?
“For me, the leftovers at Christmas are the best. Elevate those turkey and ham sandwiches with stuffing, bread sauce and cranberry sauce,” Lilly says. “To mix it up, I always look to Asian dishes as they lend themselves really well to those leftovers.
“Stir fries are a great way to use up everything. Adding ginger and garlic is great this time of year as they have medicinal properties. I add loads of noodles and spring onions. It’s delicious. A twist on that is to put it into a bowl, add turkey stock, and swirl an egg in there, maybe some kimchi and you’ve got a ramen dish.”
Turkey stock is something that can be easily made at home and a great way to use up the leftover bones? “Use a slow cooker to make your stock easily,” says Lilly. “Add the bones, along with any peelings you have from onions or carrots with some apple cider vinegar, to help extract nutrients. Cook overnight, or if you’re going out or to visit friends, and when you get back it’s all done. It makes a beautiful broth or you can make soup from it.”
For little bits of leftover meat or vegetables, Lilly recommends making homemade spring rolls and dumplings. “Use soy sauce and star anise in these, they are festive flavours that work beautifully together. It’s also food that’s great for on-the-go and with nights out, it’s restorative.”
Lilly’s reusable christmas cracker
Avoid leftover packaging, paper and plastic waste from shop-bought crackers and make them yourself. Making reusable ones is so much nicer and we get to keep our own ones each year, swap them or personalise them with family names. It’s a fun activity to do, writing out the cracker jokes or tucking notes inside, choosing the sweets, even making paper crowns ourselves.
What you’ll need:
First decorate the felt. I do some simple embroidery in different patterns around the centre line of the square, keeping in mind this will be the main body of the cracker.
Make little packages of sweets with the greaseproof paper, including any notes, trinkets or paper hats. Tuck this inside the paper tube.
Lay the paper tube at one end of the felt square and roll it up. Tie each end with a ribbon. Repeat with each piece of felt. Now they’re ready to place on each table setting.
Tip: Sanitise your toilet roll tubes by placing them on the centre of the racks in a preheated oven, 100°C, for 15 minutes to heat through and kill any bacteria. Don’t leave unattended.