Forget the high-pressure Christmas Day lunch with all the bells and whistles, Alex Rushmer loves the relaxed vibe of Boxing Day feasting
It’s always about Christmas Day. I suppose there are many obvious reasons why food articles at this time of year focus on crafting the idealised feast for your loved ones to enjoy round a laden table, crackers popping and a fire burning in the inglenook as a burnished turkey is brought to the table and carved by a smiling (and sober) father figure. But the reality is often not quite as Nigella-esque and the pressure it can put on even the most experienced cook is phenomenal. No wonder the first bottle of sparkling perry gets opened before 9.30 in the morning and cream sherry becomes so appealing before the turkey has even defrosted.
This year I’m shifting my focus to the day after; the neglected opportunity to feast that is the vastly underrated Boxing Day. As a child I loathed Boxing Day. It represented the precise point in the calendar when it was the longest possible wait until the next Christmas. All the presents had been opened and much of the excitement had dissipated. The grown-ups were always tired and a shade tetchy, and I was never allowed to go shopping. As I grew up my attitude shifted, quite significantly: there is little or no ceremony to Boxing Day, the expectations are far more relaxed, the laziness is welcome, the relief is almost as palpable as the pile of new gifts, and the food is heaving with potential.
“While a sandwich is a natural choice, sometimes it is necessary to go beyond the obvious”
Clearly, any discussion of Boxing Day food must revolve around leftovers. My brother rarely waits until the clock has ticked over to the 26th itself to make a legendary BDS (Boxing Day Sandwich) which must contain all the savoury items from Christmas lunch, only cold, between two enormous slices of bread but with extra sauces, pickles, chutneys and other ‘moist makers’.
Whilst a sandwich is a natural choice for the Boxing Day gourmand, sometimes it is necessary to go beyond the obvious. Sprouts and roast potatoes can be fried up into a stonking bubble and squeak which, topped with a fried egg or two, makes for a formidable breakfast. Add a couple of slices of that leftover ham and you are well set up for a lengthy and bracing walk, perfect for blowing away the cobwebs and priming you for a well-earned hot toddy or mulled wine.
If you are feeling the need to be a little more virtuous, all other leftover vegetables can easily be turned into a soup with extra stock and a gently sweated onion – blend until smooth and top with shredded meat or crumbled cheese for a great early evening supper to enjoy in front of a movie.
Finally, when it comes to the sweet parts that inevitably don’t get finished on Christmas Day there are always options there. Although not quite as wholesome as a vegetable soup, pieces of Christmas cake or pudding can either be set into a bread-and-butter pudding and baked or lightly battered and deep fried to act as a vehicle for any brandy sauce that remains. Naughty, but very nice indeed.