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Easter meals with leftover frozen Christmas turkey by Chris Rundle

By West Country Life  |  Posted: April 12, 2014

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Bumped into an old friend this week: a bag of left-over Christmas turkey. It had been nestling in the lower reaches of freezer no. 3.

But, while the other contents were being rummaged through, it rose again just in time for Easter.

Into a pie it will go, along with leeks and suitable additions, and a very welcome contribution to the holiday catering it will make too, since a pie is as good in cold weather as in hot, and Easter (the only event in the calendar still to be governed by the phases of the moon) can never make up its mind which it is going to be.

I remember an Easter when I was young when, after weeks of distinctly indifferent weather, the weekend delivered a sudden blast of near-tropical heat and we all dug out our summer clothes, went racing down to the beach, jumped into the sea and nearly died of heart failure because the temperature would have had a polar bear reaching for a hot water bottle.

There wasn't that much in the way of celebratory food then, either. But Easter was probably one of the few occasions in the year when we would have treated ourselves to chicken, if only to take a break from the perpetual round of beef and lamb. Times have, indeed, changed.

The butchery sector is gearing up to sell plenty of turkeys this Easter and the birds do represent as excellent value for money now as they do at Christmas, perhaps even better. New season's lamb is going to be expensive, what with a continuing strong export trade, but if you don't want to invest in a whole joint then double, or Barnsley, chops could provide an alternative.

Similarly, if you fancy a break from plain roast chicken then giving it the Italian treatment could be the answer, the only downside being that there won't be any leftovers to cook with because this way every last scrap gets eaten on day one. The great advantage, though, is that it is a very flexible dish: once it's cooked it really doesn't mind sitting around in an oven for a couple more hours – ideal if you're out and about, the weather turns fine and you decide to make the most of it.

But for those who do expect to have cold turkey or chicken (or any kind of poultry) knocking around over the weekend then my pie recipe will provide an ideal destination for it.

You could go for shop-bought puff pastry if you're pushed for time but homemade flaky pastry is much nicer and really doesn't take that long to knock up.

Turkey, leek and mushroom pie

500g cold turkey or chicken, cut into cubes; 1tblspn finely chopped shallots; two large leeks; 50g button or chestnut mushrooms; 175g butter; 1tblspn dried tarragon; large glass of white wine, boiled for 30 seconds; two heaped tblspn crème fraiche; 225g plain flour; 50g diced lard; one beaten egg; teaspoon water

Trim and finely slice the leeks. Melt 50g of the butter in a heavy saucepan, add the shallot and leeks, cover and cook on the lowest heat for 20 minutes, shaking occasionally to prevent sticking. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the wine and allow to reduce by half, then add the crème fraiche and tarragon. Slice the mushrooms and sauté in 25g of butter, drain and add to the pan with the turkey or chicken meat. Turn two or three times to mix then pour into a pie dish.

For the pastry, sift the flour into a food processor and add the remaining butter, the lard, egg and water. Whiz to form a paste, place in a plastic bag and refrigerate for at least half an hour. Roll out the pastry to fit the pie dish, lay over to form a lid and refrigerate for another 30 minutes.

Brush with beaten egg and bake for 30 minutes in an oven preheated to 190°C/gas mark 5.

Tuscan chicken with garlic and rosemary

One large, free-range chicken; two heads of garlic; six sprigs of rosemary; 4tblspns olive oil; sea salt; freshly ground black pepper

Spatchcock the chicken by cutting down the both sides of the backbone with a sharp knife, removing it and splaying the carcass out, or have your butcher do it for you.

Break up the heads of garlic, leaving one lot of cloves unpeeled and peeling the others. Place the peeled cloves in a food processor with the olive oil and the leaves stripped from the rosemary and whiz to form a thin paste. Place the unpeeled cloves in a roasting pan and lay the chicken on top, skin side up. Prick all over with a fork then pour on the garlic and oil and rub in well. Sprinkle generously with coarse sea salt and a few more rosemary leaves and place in an oven preheated to 200°C/400°F/gas mark 6 for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4 and roast for a further one and a half to two hours.

Barnsley chop with ginger, rosemary and redcurrant

Four trimmed Barnsley chops; 50g butter; two large glasses red wine; 2in piece of root ginger, peeled; 2tblspns redcurrant jelly; 2tspns very finely chopped fresh rosemary; one star anise; sea salt; freshly ground black pepper

Season the chops generously on both sides. Melt the butter in a large, deep frying pan and cook the chops for four minutes on each side. Meanwhile, cut the ginger into very thin slices, then into very thin strips.

Once the chops are done remove to a serving dish and leave in a warm place. Pour off any excess fat then place the pan back over the heat, pour in the red wine and deglaze.

Add the ginger, rosemary and star anise, bring up to a simmer, then reduce the heat, whisk in the jelly and allow to bubble down for a few minutes until reduced by half. Strain over the chops and serve.

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