Lovely leftovers – safe storing and delicious re-using

I love leftovers as much as the main Christmas dinner. I think many of us enjoy the Boxing day re-hash of Christmas dinner more than the first time its served as we get all the deliciousness without any of the work.

Think of your leftovers as your ticket to a chilled out chunk of meals in the days after Christmas or in the coming months. Here’s how to safely store your leftovers and how to use them…

Storing leftovers safely

The faster you cool and store foods, the longer they’ll last and the safer they’ll be to eat. When getting Christmas dinner ready, get containers, labels and zip top bags ready to quickly and easily store the leftovers – that way you’re less likely to waste things or have a jumble of random badly covered plates and mystery foil packets in the fridge.

Cooked food can be kept in the fridge for (officially) 2 days. I would happily eat leftovers that had been in the fridge 4 days if they’d been chilled and stored properly. If you won’t eat something in the next few days, freeze it.


Reheat in the microwave, on the hob or in the oven until food is piping hot. Once you’ve re-heated something you shouldn’t chill it again. Only re-heat what you’ll eat. Meat is best reheated in gravy or sauce.


Uncooked food – label with how long it has been open before you freeze it, or how close it was to the use by date. Then when you defrost it, you carry on from that date. Previously frozen uncooked food can be cooked and then re-frozen.

Cooked food – work from the day it was cooked and either freeze it straight away then use it within 2 days of being defrosted. Or if it has been in the fridge for a day or two, freeze it but then use it as soon as it is defrosted. Previously frozen cooked food cannot be re-frozen.

These leftovers can be frozen as long as they weren’t previously frozen:

  • Pate – defrost and eat as usual or stir into Bolognese.
  • Smoked salmon and trout
  • Cheese – grate or crumble then freeze. Add to sauces, top gratins or pasta.
  • Mashed potato – add to soups or use to top shepherds pie.
  • Stuffing – cook alongside roast chicken thighs or add to soup.
  • Turkey – take the meat off the bones. Freeze and add to pies, pasta sauces, curries, soups or stews.
  • Turkey bones – make stock or freeze the bones to make stock later. Use the stock for soups, risottos or noodle bowls.
  • Gravy – Add to casseroles, pies or soups instead of stock.
  • Pigs in blankets – freeze and add to pasta sauces.
  • Vegetables – freeze in a bag and add to a soup or pie.
  • Cranberry sauce – can be re-frozen. Add it to porridge, yoghurt, and pancakes. Or have it on scones or on toast.
  • Bay leaves, sage, fresh horseradish – freeze and use from frozen.

Refresh flavours

When reusing leftovers, you’ll notice that bright bursts of flavour are lost when they’re re-heated. Fresh herbs, chilli, citrus or vinegar need adding or re-adding. Play around with textures and temperatures too.

Turn leftovers into something new

Leftovers really come into their own when you use them as a blank canvas then play with adding new flavours. Palates can get a bit jaded after Christmas so I love to add Thai or Indian flavours or loads of citrus and fresh herbs when I’m cooking.

But if you want to stick with the Christmas flavours, make this easy, comforting pie.

Christmas dinner pie

One of my favourite easy leftover recipes is a Christmas dinner pie. Mix any combination of leftover turkey, pigs in blankets, stuffing, veg and gravy together in a baking dish and top the mixture with sheet of ready rolled all-butter puff pastry.

Brush the pastry with egg and bake until the pastry is golden and the filling is bubbling. I usually bake mine from room temperature for 40-50 minutes at 200°C (180°C fan)/400°F .

The full pie or pie base can be frozen uncooked and can be brought out in January or February once you need comfort. Defrost it in the fridge overnight before cooking it.

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