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My mother is the queen of transforming leftovers into new wonders, and she comes into her own on Boxing Day, the biggest leftovers challenge of the year.

Christmas, after all, is a game of two halves. The first is Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (which I covered in last week’s Food Special), when there are plenty of fresh ingredients, bright-eyed cooks and extravagant feasts. Then, on Boxing Day and beyond, the kitchen turns into a battleground of odds and ends: pyramids of roast parsnips and spuds, Tupperware as far as the eye can see, when all you want is something that will virtually cook itself.

For my mother, using up leftovers was an obsession born of necessity, and she never threw out anything unless it was growing legs and about to walk out by itself. Now, spinning meals out of lonely and lost ingredients is her own one-woman game show, one that gives great joy as another piece of broccoli is saved from the bin. Her past Boxing Day triumphs include: roast potatoes hard fried with tinned chickpeas and lots of chilli and lemon; sprout and spud curry; pav bhaji, a sort of Indian bubble and squeak, piled high into yorkshire puddings; sweet and crunchy carrot and cabbage pakoras with a fiery cranberry chutney.

Today’s recipe is a homage to one of Mum’s Boxing Day curries. It’s Thai, not Indian, and not dissimilar to a red curry; but it features more aromatics such as Thai basil, kaffir lime leaves and galangal, and it comes together very simply via a blender and a pan. The result is at once soothing and enlivening, a meal that even the most tired cook can muster up without too much effort.

Christmas veg Penang curry
A perfect home for leftover roast veg, but salt judiciously, because they’ll have been seasoned already. (If you’d like to roast veg specially to make this, you’ll need about 1.4kg mixed potatoes, parsnips, carrots and sprouts, peeled and roasted in a little oil.) It’s worth hunting down fresh Thai basil, because it has a special aniseed flavour that really pulls the dish together. Serves four.

For the Penang curry paste
2 tsp coriander seeds
2 tsp cumin seeds
3 tbsp rapeseed oil
2 birds’ eye chillies, chopped
6 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 banana shallot, peeled and chopped
2 sticks lemongrass, tough outer leaves removed, chopped
6 kaffir lime leaves
1 tbsp galangal paste (I use Bart’s)
1 handful roasted unsalted peanuts
1 ½ tbsp tomato puree

For the curry
1.2kg leftover roast vegetables
400ml tin coconut milk
1 ¼ tsp salt
1 ½ tsp caster sugar
Thai basil, to serve

In a large frying pan, toast the coriander and cumin seeds until golden, then leave to cool. Put the spices in a blender with all the other curry paste ingredients, and blitz to a smooth paste, adding up to four or five tablespoons of cold water to help it along.

Put a large pan on a low heat, then add the curry paste, salt and sugar (if your cooked vegetables are pre-seasoned, just season to taste at the end) and cook out the paste, stirring, for about eight minutes, stirring constantly.

Stir the coconut milk into the paste mix bit by bit, and once the can is empty, fill it a third-full with cold water and add that, too. Leave the sauce to come up to a simmer, then stir in the leftover roast vegetables and leave to simmer and heat through for a few minutes. (If you’ve made the veg from scratch, they’ll still be hot, so stir them in at the last moment.)

Scatter over a handful of Thai basil leaves, check and amend the seasoning to taste, and serve hot with plain rice.



This needs to set in the fridge for five hours, or overnight, so make it ahead of time. Once assembled, it will keep in the fridge for a couple of days. Serves eight.

550g sweet potatoes (ie, 2 medium ones), cut in half lengthways
60g amaretti biscuits (the hard type, not the chewy ones)
60g Hobnob biscuits
60g roasted and salted almonds, roughly chopped
10g black sesame seeds, toasted (or white, if that’s all you have)
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
70g unsalted butter, melted
300g full-fat cream cheese
250g mascarpone
90g icing sugar, sifted
3 tbsp lemon juice (from 1-2 lemons)
2 tsp vanilla bean essence
140g fine-shred marmalade
3 tbsp maple syrup

Heat the oven to 210C/410F/gas mark 6½ and line a round 23cm spring-form cake tin with baking paper.

Lay the sweet potatoes cut side down on an oven tray lined with baking paper, and roast for 30-50 minutes (depending on size), until very soft. When cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh into a food processor – you should have 300g – and discard the skin and any hard or burnt bits. Blitz until very smooth, then refrigerate until cold.

While the potatoes are roasting, put the amaretti and Hobnobs in a clean plastic bag and bash them to a fine crumb with a rolling pin. Mix with the almonds, sesame seeds, spices and butter, then spoon into the base of the cake tin, pressing it down firmly to form an even layer. Refrigerate while you get on with preparing the cheesecake mixture.

In a free-standing mixer (or with a hand-held whisk), whisk the cooled sweet potato with the cream cheese, mascarpone, icing sugar, two tablespoons of lemon juice and a teaspoon of vanilla until smooth, thick and well combined. Spread the cheese mix evenly over the biscuit base, then refrigerate for at least five hours, or overnight, until set.

An hour before you want to serve, put the marmalade, maple syrup and the remaining lemon juice and vanilla in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil on a medium-high heat, then stir vigorously for two minutes, until the mixture thickens slightly. Take off the heat and leave to cool.

Release the cheesecake from its tin and discard the paper. Gently pour the cooled marmalade mix over the top of the cheesecake, and use the back of a spoon to level the surface. Refrigerate again for 10 minutes, then take to the table

Michael Rantissi believes in finding the most beautiful ingredient – a tomato or beetroot, for example – and then making that the hero by preparing it simply and dressing it with a few other things that bring out its beautiful flavours. His salads feature simple ingredients and can be eaten as side dishes with your main course, or as a meal on their own. They also make excellent lunches, if you take yours to work.

Beetroot and salmon salad

serves 4–6 as a side dish

The beetroot and salmon really complement each other and, once the roasting is done, this is so quick to assemble. Serve this salmon salad on croutons with good-quality mayonnaise for fantastic finger food, or as part of a summer mezze plate.

400g beetroot
300g salmon fillets, skin off and pin boned
65g (1 cup) chopped spring onions (scallions)
1 small horseradish, grated (see note below)
1½ tbsp good-quality extra-virgin olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp coriander seeds, lightly toasted and coarsely crushed
baby beetroot leaves (beet greens), to garnish

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Wash the beetroot, wrap them individually in foil and place on a baking tray. Bake for 40 minutes, until a knife easily goes through the unwrapped beetroot. Unwrap the beetroot and allow to cool.

Once they are cool enough to handle, peel the beetroot and cut them into 1cm cubes. Put the beetroot in a large bowl.

Cut the salmon into cubes roughly the same size as the beetroot.

Add the salmon, spring onion, horseradish, olive oil, lemon juice and coriander seeds to the beetroot and gently mix to combine. Season with freshly ground black pepper and garnish with baby beetroot leaves.

Note: The horseradish will be hot, so grate a quantity according to your liking.

A really useful recipe is one which doesn’t tie you to specific ingredients, allowing you to substitute at will. This idea of cooking slices of squash in butter with a little vermouth and herbs can be tweaked according to whatever variety you have to hand, be it courgette, pumpkin, butternut or, as here, cute little patty pans. I suggest cobnuts here, but the new season’s hazelnuts would be good, too.

Serves 2 as a side dish
patty pan 400g, or other small squash
butter 35g
white vermouth 80ml
sage leaves 4
shell-on cobnuts a handful, or hazelnuts

If any of the patty pan squash are larger than a golf ball, cut them in half horizontally. Melt the butter in a shallow pan, add the vermouth then the patty pans. Drop in the sage leaves and sprinkle on a little salt. Cover with a lid, letting the squashes simmer in the wine and butter for about 20 minutes until tender to the point of a knife. Keep the heat fairly low, basting the vegetables regularly with the pan juices.

While the squashes cook, crack the cobnuts or hazelnuts and remove them from their shells. Add the nuts to the pan, grind over a little black pepper then serve, spooning over the buttery juices as you go.