Creamy Christmas Turkey & Leek Casserole

Maybe it only applies to those who are obsessed with food, but for me and I’m sure many others, Christmas is as much about the main event as it is about the creativity that a kitchen bursting with produce and ingredients requires afterwards.

It’s how family traditions are born – be it that cheeky turkey toastie, the turkey curry, the leftover pud trifle…and it’s fantastic; because the honest truth is that the build up to Christmas, and the day itself, can be stressful. So when you know you’ve nailed that super roast and the day has done it’s job and reduced everyone to a near food-induced coma, then suddenly there’s a feeling of freedom as to what you can make of those incredible leftovers – and nothing should ever go to waste. It’s basically a time to look at what you have and have a lot of fun inventing whatever you like.  

I know a lot of people are tempted to move away from the “traditional” turkey, citing it as dry and boring, but I can assure anyone that if you invest in a truly good quality free range traditional breed roast, and invest again with the time in slow cooking, you won’t be disappointed. That said, I would always say to get a larger bird than you might need – I usually only have two people over for Christmas anyway but still do – just so that the bird has a longer time to cook and take on any flavours you might throw in there when you’re cooking for the main event, and allow plenty of resting time to keep the meat moist and flavourful.

But…of course…that does mean there will be leftovers. ­And I love cooking with them more than I do the Christmas Day meal every year.

This recipe was inspired by years of a family tradition of making Jamie Oliver’s post-Christmas turkey and leek pie in the days after the turkey was first cooked – and trust me, the guy was seriously on to something, so check it out here – but in recent times I decided to take it a little off in my own direction, lose the pastry (which truly kills me because there’s little lovelier than a pastry pie but, let’s face it, Christmas doesn’t do anyone any favours on the waistline as it is) and make something of my own out of it.

So over time the initial inspiration became something else, equally indulgent in flavour if (slightly) more restrained on calories but now very much my own family classic.  It’s got a beautiful mix of flavours with the gorgeous turkey leftovers and the sweetness of leeks, rich indulgence from the addition of double cream, a light touch of Christmassy chestnuts, and it works perfectly with everything from roasted vegetables to topping off a baked potato on a lazy evening – and if you wanted you could even let it down with more stock to make a super-indulgent creamy soup, throw in some button mushrooms or chopped leftover roast potatoes or even crumble in a little blue cheese – use what you’ve got!

INGREDIENTS

400g approx. mixed turkey meat – don’t abandon that lovely darker meat!

2 x medium leeks

70g approx. cooked or vac-pac chestnut

30g salted butter & a drizzle of olive oil

Dried sage & thyme leaves (optional)

¼ of a nutmeg, grated

1 tsp English mustard

500ml organic chicken stock

2 tbsp plain flour

150ml double cream

METHOD

  • First, prep the leeks. These often have soil traces trapped between the leaves, particularly high on the plant, so peel the worst leaves, wash what’s left, dice the whiter ends to 1.5-2cm dice and then don’t be afraid to open up the darker top leaves for a proper rinse – then dice to 1cm as these leaves are a little tougher.
  • Add the chopped leeks to the butter and olive oil (this stops the butter burning) in a large frying pan or straight into a casserole dish on the hob. Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper and grate in the nutmeg. Crumble in the dried herb leaves if using. Allow the leeks to soften, adding a little water when needed to make sure there’s enough moisture in the pan to stop them catching. Cook gently until starting to soften but still holding some shape.
  • Meanwhile, select and chunk up the turkey; you want a rough dice, with a variety of size so some meat will almost be flaking to bits but some are hearty chunks.
  • When the leeks are soft, add in the turkey and the chestnuts, having roughly chopped them, then dust over the flour. Cook this out for a few minutes, then add the stock and the English mustard (or any other flavours you’re trying), the double cream and check the seasoning. Bring the mixture to a simmer for five minutes, check the seasoning again and transfer to a casserole dish if not already using for the above stages.
  • Leaving the lid off, place in a pre-heated oven at 200 degree for a fan over. Cook until bubbling away and thickening, checking now and then to stir in any skin formed by the double cream.
  • Serve with veg, over a baked potato or with crusty bread and enjoy!  

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