December 2, 2004
What to do with leftover turkey...

turkey curry.jpgFor those of you in the US, it has now been one week since Thanksgiving. Maybe, if you are lucky, you have already finished up the last of your turkey. In our household, however, we generally get a turkey at least twice as large as we need. For the Critic, this satisfies some strange primal urge that I have never entirely understood; for me, it just means lots and lots of good material for creativity. I hope you have been vigilant in saving turkey bones and made yourself some soup stock. (Our bird was bigger than our stock pots, and even broken down had to be simmered in two!) On the day after Thanksgiving, you may have made yourself the obligatory turkey sandwich. You can also make a nice turkey and dumpling stew, substituting the meat in this recipe. Alternatively, you can make a turkey pot pie, using this one.

And then, at some point, you start getting tired of the taste of turkey. This is when I turn to a recipe with pizzazz, one that will almost-but-not-quite hide that turkey flavour: a curry.

Actually, I got this idea from Helen Fielding's book, Bridget Jones' Diary, where Bridget is dragged to the traditional post-New Year's Eve turkey curry buffet by her parents. It sounded like an eminently intelligent thing to do with leftover turkey and so I scoured my English cookbooks for a good curry recipe. I found one, on the first try, in Nigel Slater's Real Cooking: A creamy, clourful, fragrant chicken curry (page 86).

This is an adaptation of the recipe, which Nigel describes thus: "A seriously unauthentic dish, this, but who gives a monkey's for authenticity? All that really matters is whether something is good to eat. And this is. It is neither Thai nor Indian. A few purists are going to be really pissed-off, especially about the crème fraîche." How can you not love this man? For me, he has his priorities firmly in the right place.

So here is my version, a Creamy, colourful, fragrant (spicy!) turkey curry. Courtesy of Nigel Slater. Serves 4.

1 1/2 cups chopped turkey meat, heavy on the dark meat (the original recipe called for chicken thighs only)
2 medium onions, roughly chopped
2 knobs of ginger, about two Tbs when finely chopped
3 plump juicy garlic cloves
a large bunch of coriander leaves and stalks, chopped
1 Tbs chopped fresh or frozen basil
1 Tbs dried chili flakes
2 tsp cumin seeds
10 green cardamom pods
1 Tbs ground tumeric
6 tomatoes, chopped
1/2 a small zucchini/courgette (optional - threw it in because I had one needing to be used)
1 pot of unsweetened plain yogurt
juice from half a lemon
4 heaped Tbs crème fraîche
salt to taste

Put a little oil or butter or both in a large deep frying pan and set the onion to soften. Add the ginger and garlic. In the meantime, open the cardamom pods and extract the black seeds. Crush these with half the cumin seeds with a mortar and pestle or (if you don't have one) in a plastic bag with a rolling pin. Add these and the rest of the dried spices to the onion mix and let it simmer a while, even if this means a bit sticks to the bottom of the pan. Chop the tomatoes and add them to the pan. As they give off their juice, use it to scrape up the bits of spice on the bottom of the pan. Add the coriander, reserving a tablespoon or so for garnish if you are that kind of person.

Add the chopped courgette and turkey and simmer for a while. Taste the sauce for spiciness. I originally added about half the amount of tumeric, and at this point mixed more with the yogurt before adding it to the starting-to-be-rather-full pan. Add the crème fraîche, lemon juice and basil. Simmer for about ten minutes or so and taste for spiciness and salt. Nigel's recipe did not call for any salt, but personally I found it needed a good helping of it and the Critic added more after I served it.

Put on your basmati rice to boil, give the curry a stir over a low flame and leave it to simmer. Pour yourself and/or your partner a glass of wine and wait for the rice to cook. Serve with fresh basil and/or coriander and enjoy!

As for the REST of your leftovers, I would recommend doing what I did: use your freezer to its capacity. When I made the turkey pot pies, I made enough for three extra pies and froze them. The fourth piece of pâte feuilleté will be used to make a turkey curry pot pie for the freezer. And I think I have about 2/5 liters of turkey stock in various Tupperware bins in the freezer, waiting for future stews and soups. We are down to our last pound of meat!

Weight Watchers Note: you can reduce the number of points per serving for this recipe to 2.5 (not counting the rice) by using 0% fat plain yogurt and reducing the single cream or crème fraiche to 2 tablespoons. Use only one tablespoon of oil to soften the onions and garlic as well. As for the rice, I was perfectly satisfied by a small serving (75g) when I laid a layer of steamed cauliflower over the rice before adding the curry. Cauliflower is wonderful with the flavors of this curry and fills you up just as well as rice at a fraction of the calories!

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at December 2, 2004 8:36 AM | TrackBack Print-friendly version

This looks delicious, but I have a questions...

Isn't curry supposed to be added to this curry dish? Or am I totally wrong here?

Posted by andrew on November 23, 2009 at 11:11 AM

Andrew, by curry I am assuming you mean curry powder? The Food Lover's Companion (available on the site if you are curious) defines curry powder as follows: "Curry powder is actually a pulverized blend of up to 20 spices, herbs and seeds. Among those most commonly used are cardamom, chiles, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, fennel seed, fenugreek, mace, nutmeg, red and black pepper, poppy and sesame seeds, saffron, tamarind and turmeric (the latter is what gives curried dishes their characteristic yellow color)." In fact, any curry dish will have a variety of Indian spices, as this one does. Or it can call for commercial curry powder. But as the flavor varies depending on which brand you buy (or your own personal recipe) it is safer to give the individual spice elements in a recipe. All the spices in my recipe are commonly found in curry powder.

Hope that helps clarify things!

Posted by Meg in Sussex on November 23, 2009 at 4:05 PM

Excellent helps in this recipe. I was stumped while trying to create my own Turkey Curry ensemble for the very picky chefs in my home and was fortunate to find your blog. Fabulous help in my time of need!

Posted by trish southard on December 9, 2009 at 6:20 PM

We have renamed this The Turkey Curry of Dreams. Made this recipe for my housemates post-xmas 2009 and it went down so well I have to make it pretty much once a month, though sometimes with left over chicken instead!

Really love that it comes out slightly differently each time, and we've adapted it to suit our tastes; slightly more chilli and less lemon, and usually a beer not wine mid-cook! So I just wanted to say thanks, for giving me my signature dish!

Posted by Aimee on September 27, 2010 at 9:05 AM
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