Christmas is the one time of year when, Bird Box-style, we all collectively lose our minds and buy way more food than is humanly possible to eat. Rather than relegate your ham leftovers to the bin or flush your prawn shells down the loo this year, consider these tips from some of Australia’s top chefs for cutting down on food waste. Say sayonara to soggy ham sandwiches for lunch every day and konichiwa to nourishing salads, spectacular desserts and Boxing Day-friendly drinks.

Dave Verheul – Embla, Melbourne
“[As] it’s holiday time I would turn my ham into a cold, no-cooking-necessary salad. Chop the ham into batons and throw it into a bowl with fresh peas; broad beans; watercress; some cold, cooked rice; a small bunch of parsley; and a little thinly sliced shallot. Season well and dress with some good olive oil, lemon juice and a few shavings of parmesan.”

Nathan Sasi – Bar Copains, ex-Leigh Street Wine Room, Adelaide
“Every year there seems to be an excess amount of Christmas pudding left over, [but] personally I’ve never been a fan of it on its own. A guilty day-after pleasure, though, is to whip up one of the finest English desserts known to man, and make bread and butter pudding – Christmas-style. A healthy dose of eggs, cream and vanilla slayed over this Christmas dragon and you’ll be wanting this unwanted Christmas gift every year instead of using it as a doorstop.”

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Jerry Mai – Bia Hoi and ex-Annam, Melbourne
“I spend Christmas at my wife’s house every year, and we eat pretty standard Christmas dishes like roast turkey, sweet potato and prawns. After the big day, I like to make fried rice with the turkey and prawns. I chop up all the excess turkey into small pieces, cook some rice and add egg and any leftover peas and carrots, before seasoning with soy sauce. In the following days I’ll also make a broth from the turkey bones by roasting them in a pot with some root veg before adding water and reducing it down. I find it’s a relief to have a light broth after days of heavy eating.”

Jo Barrett – ex-Oakridge Estate, Coldstream
“It’s always fun to get a bunch of friends together in the days after Christmas so that we can pool our leftovers and have a big party. We always make a broth with leftovers by roasting off the used prawn shells and ham bones in a pan with some oil. Once the shells and bones have browned, pour over some water and let it simmer – add any fish bones that might be leftover at this stage, too. Season it with ginger, spring onion and chilli oil.

“Another tip is to make sure you have enough airtight containers to keep all your leftovers, and that you transfer everything to the fridge after you’ve finished eating, rather than leaving it out while you continue to party. This way you’ll ensure that nothing spoils and you don’t unnecessarily waste anything.”

Mark Labrooy – Three Blue Ducks, Sydney and Brisbane
“Make the best homemade ice-cream by churning leftover Christmas cake together with ice-cream you’ve already got in the freezer and some good whisky. A spin on the classic rum and raisin ice-cream.

“To make homemade fish cakes, simply grate your leftover roasted potatoes and fold in capers, herbs, roughly chopped dill and leftover grilled fish. Flour, egg and crumb them, then shallow-fry in half butter and half olive oil.

“Take your spent lettuce and chargrill it before putting it in a pickling solution. It will be perfect to serve with grilled fish, along with a delicious almond or macadamia cream to help cut through the acidity.

“Inspired by the delicious Swedish dish pytt i panna, take all the leftovers from your roast dinner (the veggies and meat) and dice everything into roughly two-centimetre pieces. Serve with bread-and-butter pickles and beetroot slices, and top with a fried egg.”

James Viles – ex-Emirates One&Only, Wolgan Valley; ex-Biota, Bowral
“Leftovers rule. Take ham, for instance: with the bone you can make a tasty soup, with the meat around the bone you can make some fritters or croquettes, or even roughly chop it and fold it through creamed eggs.”

Pip Pratt – Bistecca and The Gidley, Sydney
“There’s something beautiful about getting a standard chipolata sausage, wrapping it in bacon and baking it in the oven. Pigs in blankets are a quintessential part of English Christmas. With any leftovers, make turkey and pigs-in-blanket risotto with roast parsnip. I belted it out for a staff meal once on Boxing Day a few years ago and it was a hit.”

Max Sharrad – Nido, Adelaide
“Leftover lasagne is an excellent way to use up the bits and pieces that found their way back into the fridge after Christmas day. All you need to do is finely dice your leftover roast meat and use this as the ‘mince’ in your ragu. Once you start assembling your lasagne, add layers of thinly sliced leftover Christmas ham – you won't regret it.”

Noah Ward – Unico Zelo, Adelaide Hills
“Boxing Day might just be better than Christmas. The stress has all gone, and we can just relax, enter couch-lock mode and put on the cricket. But the day isn’t complete without two things: the most decadent toasted sandwich of all time (thanks to leftovers), and our Ultimate Boxing Day Spritz.”

Unico Zelo’s Ultimate Boxing Day Spritz
“Muddle a cube of watermelon (because of course everyone got too full for fruit skewers after lunch).

Add a small pinch of salt for good measure, then add ice.

Pour in 45 millilitres of Unico Yuzu (that some legend in your family bought for you) and 90 millilitres of Nanna’s leftover sparkling red. (Most likely a shiraz that’s maybe a little too flat – just chuck it in that brand new SodaStream. See this “instructional video”.) Add 30 millilitres of soda, garnish with one of the likely multitude of leftover olives, or even a cherry. Finally, add a sprig of mint (that you bought and forgot to turn into mint sauce for the lamb).”

This article was originally published on 16 December 2019. It has been updated to reflect new information.