While I don't claim to be a Christmas dinner expert, I do know a thing or two about transforming festive leftovers into memorable meals, and my Leftover Turkey Curry recipe has been described as ‘unbeatable’. The trick here is to get ahead before the big day and make your Tarka Sauce (the quantities below will make more than you need and so you can freeze what you don’t use for another time: bonus!). Your prep will mean, come Boxing Day, you’ll have an incredible curry, ready in no time, with zero fuss.
For the tarka sauce:
6 tbsp vegetable, sunflower or rapeseed oil
3 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
4 large onions, peeled, halved and very finely sliced into half moons
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
2 tsp garam masala
400g canned plum tomatoes
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp sugar (optional)
1 tbsp lemon juice (optional)
Finishing the curry:
500g leftover cooked turkey (or chicken) cut into bite-sized pieces
500ml pre-made tarka sauce
Salt, to taste (optional)
1 tsp garam masala (optional)
3 tbsp single or double cream (optional)
Your choice of rice, nan bread
Handful of fresh coriander, chopped
2-3 days before: make your sauce
Place a large, heavy-bottomed non-stick frying pan over a medium heat and add your oil. Once hot, add in the roughly chopped garlic and the mustard and cumin seeds. Allow the seeds to sizzle, pop and infuse in the oil for about 30 seconds, being very careful not to burn either the seeds or the garlic.
Add the onions and salt to the pan and stir thoroughly to coat them in the oil. The salt will help the onions break down and form the base of your curry sauce, which is what you want. Fry them over a medium-low heat for about 5 minutes, stirring regularly, so they don’t catch or burn. After the 5 minutes, add your ginger-garlic paste, stir and continue to fry for a minute.
Next, add the garam masala, give the mixture another stir, then cook for about 20–25 minutes over a low heat. Every now and then, add a splash of water to the pan and bash the onions with a wooden spoon to break them down. The water will evaporate as you cook and you will begin to see the oil emerge again. You may need to adjust the heat throughout this process, turning up the heat a little when adding the water to get the pan and contents sizzling again.
Eventually, your onions will turn into a thick paste-like consistency: this is when you will know they are done. Next, add the canned tomatoes, breaking them up with the spoon, along with the chilli powder and turmeric. Stir thoroughly and cook for a further 15 minutes. You can add a little sugar and lemon juice here for extra flavour.
Let it cool, then pop it into the fridge or freezer so that you can easily reheat when the time comes.
On the day
When you are ready to cook, add your tarka sauce to a large saucepan and slowly bring to a simmer.
Next, carefully stir the turkey into the sauce. Return to a very gentle simmer and cook like that for 10 minutes, or until the turkey is warmed. The sauce will naturally thicken, so add a little water if you prefer a thinner consistency.
Taste and adjust the seasoning by adding salt if you think your curry needs it. You can also add a little more garam masala at this stage if you think the sauce needs an extra boost of flavour. For a festive decadent treat, you can also stir in some cream (use what you have – single or double) to give your curry a lovely rich finish.
Enjoy with rice or naan, and the freshly chopped coriander scattered on top.