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The Fresser

When leftovers linger — will the festive foods never end?

If you have any Stilton or cranberry sauce lurking in your fridge this salad makes a lovely lunch. It also works with leftover roast chicken instead of cheese

    I’ve spent most of the last fortnight between kitchen and sofa.

    With family visiting from abroad and plenty of entertaining to do, my fridge bulged and the long, wooden table in my kitchen (we’re not formal enough to require a dining room) was rarely empty.

    I hosted Chanukah teas, family lunches and various meals in between. Unfortunately, the only Chanukah gift I received from Mr Fresser was a winter virus. A charmless guest, that has lingered the entire season — way after its welcome has expired. Which was why on our guest-free days I retired to the sofa and binged on Netflix.

    I cooked a huge lunch on Christmas Day. Some may frown, but that is how I was brought up. Living in England we are surrounded for months by the traditional foods of the season. Magazine and newspaper pages are stuffed with delicious ideas and I love the opportunity to include another festive menu in my repertoire. It’s a chance to be with family and continue the light that Chanukah brings to our homes. Doughnuts and mince pies share a place in my heart equally. (My favourite mince pies - pictured below - come from Watford-based craft baker Flourish, one of my happy places.)   

    Doughnuts and mince pies share my heart
    Doughnuts and mince pies share my heart

    We were 11 around the table — half the guests, children — and I catered (Jewish mother-style) for many more. My entire Tupperware collection was commissioned for the remains. Leftovers have featured heavily in my menus.

    For the days between 25th and 31st December we mostly ate roast potatoes, maple-roasted parsnips — which I forgot to take out of the oven on the day so were the full quantity — cranberry sauce, Brussels Sprouts and turkey.

    I plan for leftover turkey. One of my favourite lunches for the days after 25th December is a salad from Nigella Lawson’s book, Feast. She calls it a North American salad as it combines ingredients you would associate with that neck of the woods — wild rice, cranberry sauce, parsley and pecan nuts. It’s fresh and zingy — what you need at after all those roasties.

    As Mr Fresser is pesky-torian (sic) I often make this salad with flaked poached salmon, but this year, feeling too poorly for too much prep, I subbed turkey and salmon for Stilton. I also replaced the rice with buckwheat.

    Buckwheat is very ‘now’, and much favoured by the gluten-free brigade. I admit to being a bit on the fence about it generally, as it has a distinctive, slightly bitter flavour, so I spent a lot of time trying to hide it behind a strong-ish salad dressing. If I made the salad again, I’d substitute quinoa or a mixture or red Camargue rice and wild rice. Israeli couscous would also be a nice base. (If you do make it with the quinoa or rice, you may need less of the dressing, so add 2/3rds, stir, season to taste and add more if needed.

    I added maple syrup to the dressing (another North American flavour) to contrast the salty cheese. I also threw in dried cranberries alongside the ones in my home-made cranberry sauce.

     

    Buckwheat, cranberry and Stilton salad

    Ingredients:

    450g unroasted buckwheat (or a mixture of red Camargue and wild rice or quinoa – see note if not using buckwheat)

    1 -2 lime, zest of one and 4 tbsp juice

    4 tbsp cranberry sauce

    1 tbsp maple syrup

    3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

    salt and pepper

    100g halved pecans

    250g Stilton, crumbled

    100g dried cranberries

    20g flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped.

    Method:

    • Cook the buckwheat according to the pack instructions. Drain and cool.
    • While it’s cooking, mix the lime juice and zest, cranberry sauce, maple syrup, olive oil. Season to taste. Add to the still slightly warm buckwheat. (If you are using a different grain, add 2/3rds of the dressing and add more if needed).
    • Once cool, add most of the cranberries, pecans, Stilton and most of the parsley.
    • Just before serving give it a stir and taste for seasoning. Pour it into a serving bowl or onto a platter and sprinkle with the remaining cranberries and parsley. 
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