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Saying goodbye to leftover turkey

"All that leftover turkey traditionally calls for curry" Felicity Cloake

Now when did that tradition begin, if indeed it is a tradition?

I actually was going to write about something completely different but it will wait, because in my email inbox was the Guardian's Word of Mouth newsletter, which included an article by Tim Dowling of 17 things to do with leftover turkey. I was intrigued by the picture of a curry shown here and the reference to:

"a tomato and cream affair, mild but wholly adjustable spice-wise. It even has 10 brussels sprouts in it."

which almost sounded like a turkey butter cream, (if you leave out the brussels sprouts) so I thought I would check it out. After all the original version of chicken butter cream, and, indeed, many current versions begins with leftover tandoori chicken. So why not a similar leftover turkey curry?

Now this year, having been the guest at the Christmas dinner rather than the provider, I do not have any leftover turkey. And you know what? I rather miss the challenge of (a) how do you fit all those leftovers into the fridge, and (b) what the hell do you do with them all anyway? But many of you may have piles of leftovers, so this is for you to consider. Mind you I suspect the Australians amongst you are rather more likely to eat the leftovers in salads and stir fries than in curries, and actually that article by Tim Dowling has several of them too. I shall just have to wait until I have some chicken leftovers sometime. I suspect that I shall never be cooking the Christmas turkey again. And now that I have said that I feel rather sad. It was immensely stressful I suppose cooking the festive Christmas dinner with all the trimmings, and it was also immensely challenging dealing with the leftovers, even if, in latter years my sons have demolished the majority of them at the subsequent Christmas Day lunch, in sandwiches. But yes Christmas - or rather the post Christmas pause, just doesn't seem normal, even real, without a mountain of leftovers to deal with.

But back to the British and leftover turkey curry. The recipe comes from Felicity Cloake and is the result of her research into the various turkey curry possibilities that she found. In fact her 'perfect turkey curry' is largely based on a recipe from Raymond Blanc - a Frenchman although he has lived in England for decades. You can find his version on his own website, where it looks slightly different - but then it would, because when it comes to leftovers everybody really does their own thing. No brussels sprouts i notice.

I admit to being intrigued by the notion of a British tradition of making a curry out of leftover turkey. It certainly wasn't part of our leftover solution in my youth. I think we mostly had sandwiches, and maybe some vol-au-vents. In fact vol au vents are our family leftover turkey tradition and I suspect that David will miss them. He really looks forward to them every year.

Felicity Cloake, however, is a lot younger than I and to her it's curry.

"In my family, the turkey curry is as much a part of Christmas as the big roast itself – creamy pies and overstuffed sandwiches are all very well, but after the joyous orgy of bread sauce and roast potatoes on the 25th, our palates cry out for something a little more lively."

I suppose it's a combination of British colonial heritage and the massive conversion to curry via immigrants from the Indian sub-continent. Whatever it is, Felicity Cloake quite rightly goes through a list of various different types of curry, most of them semi-authentic Indian curries, but including the British curry that developed in colonial times and which often included fruit. I remember having the occasional curry on the ships that my father worked on, and they almost always included sultanas. I didn't like it. Too sweet for me. I think now that I would probably adjust but only for richer kinds of meat such as pork. I have no idea whether this was truly authentic Indian food - it was, after all, cooked by Goans, or whether it was a British idea of what a curry was. I suspect the latter, and I fear my father, who was responsible for the menu may well have influenced the recipe somehow. It was a great relief to me, when eventually becoming familiar with Indian restaurants that curries very rarely included fruit.

Felicity Cloake mentions two examples of this "very British kind of Indian-ish curry: a true fusion of culinary, if not festive traditions." One is from Mary Berry called Turkey korma and one from Delia Smith which even includes 'colonial' in its title - English colonial curry with turkey. They are both now ageing English ladies, steeped in tradition. And back then you put fruit in your curry.

"as well as chutney, the sauce boasts apple and sultanas, the last of which, in conjunction with curry powder, instantly transports us back a couple of culinary decades."

says Felicity Cloake of Delia's recipe. Here they are - Mary Berry's on the left and Delia's on the right - and I have to say that the Delia one does indeed remind me of the early attempts of the British to reproduce Indian food. Somehow always rather yellow in colour.

Mind you they may come back into fashion, because the craze for Middle-Eastern food has probably reintroduced us to the use of fruit with meat, and spicy meat at that.

There was one last recipe in Felicity Cloake's rundown of options that sounded appealing - simply called Perfect leftover turkey curry from chef Olivia Potts, though I have to say that the picture doesn't quite match Felicity's description of it:

"it’s thicker than some of the others, and richer, with a kick of heat and a touch of sweetness from a spoonful of honey – plus some bonus green stuff to balance out the past four days of reckless self-indulgence."

The 'green stuff', that she mentions is spinach but I have to say it's not very much in evidence in the picture.

Times seem to have changed in my absence. They do say that emigrants maintain traditions in their new homelands that no longer exist in their original home, and that if they return they will feel like a stranger in their own land. Well you do if you leave it and live elsewhere for many many years. My sister did not mention curry as a possibility for her leftover turkey. Indeed so far she seems to have been rather Australian and served it with a slaw kind of salad.

You know I almost feel like going out and buying a small turkey just so that I can have leftovers!


Weeds - dandelions, and natives - a eucalyptus tree in flower. My agapanthus pictures were out of focus. My first walk for days.


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