During an episode of the newest season of “The Great British Bake Off,” English baker extraordinaire Paul Hollywood mentions leftover Thanksgiving turkey curry.
Thanks to this brief aside, I can’t get the delicious idea out of my head.
That’s where the newest cookbook from the beloved British restaurant chain, LEON, comes in. Written by Rebecca Seal and LEON founder, John Vincent, “LEON: Happy Curries” includes recipes ranging from Japanese-style to traditional Indian curries, most of them plant-based. There are lassi drinks and fried sides, but almost all can make use of Thanksgiving leftovers.
Emily’s Amazing Birmingham Balti is a quick, warming curry that fits perfectly with Thanksgiving’s abundance of turkey leftovers. I made mine with the recommended roast chicken, but the recipe assures us that we are free to make a protein substitute. This was served over white rice and made amazing leftovers of its own.
Also, an easy make-ahead meal, you could pop the balti the slow cooker or Instant Pot for a refreshingly low maintenance meal — perfect after all those hours spent basting the turkey, peeling yams and worrying over your favorite gravy.
To keep in the theme of finding recipes for Thanksgiving’s bounty, while also breaking from its definitively traditional flavors, I decided on frying up some aloo tikki.
Aloo tikki are flavorsome potato cakes, which are soft inside with a lightly crunchy fried exterior. We enjoyed ours with LEON’s tamarind yogurt dip — a dip so good we intend to find many more uses for it in the future.
The recipes in “LEON: Happy Curries” don’t hold back, and flavors are bold and exciting. You’ll see frequent repeats in spices and ingredients, but each curry brings its own unique personality to the table. From African peanut curry to Udon noodle curry, the book’s only setback is in making it difficult to choose which to cook.
A small but packed cookbook, “LEON” is the perfect guide to enlivening my leftovers and making Black Friday’s dinner the tastiest post-holiday meal ever.
Emily’s amazing Birmingham balti
Named for LEON’s operations manager, Emily Hawkley, this curry works well with leftover Thanksgiving turkey. Just sub turkey for the roasted chicken. Serves 4 to 6.
3 tablespoons neutral cooking oil, plus extra for greasing
1 whole chicken, or 6-8 bone-in thighs (skin on or off)
3-4 onions (more if you want a less saucy curry), cut into chunks
3 cloves of garlic, crushed (or more to taste)
1½-inch piece of ginger, peeled and diced
1 large tomato, finely diced
2 teaspoons garam masala
1 teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon chili powder (or more to taste)
Generous pinch of salt
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
¾ cup water, or more as needed
Naan, to serve
Handful of fresh cilantro, to garnish
Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a roasting pan with oil.
Roast the chicken in the oiled pan, basting once or twice, until cooked through (40-50 minutes for thighs; 1-1½ hours for a whole chicken, depending on size).
Remove from the oven and let cool. Strip all the meat from the bones and refrigerate until ready to eat.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a heavy saucepan with a lid over a medium-low heat. Add the onions, garlic, and ginger and fry for about 10 minutes, until the onions are soft and translucent, but not browned. Add the remaining ingredients, except the water.
Stir and cook for 3-5 minutes, until everything comes together and begins to look saucy and oily. Add the water, bring to a simmer, and cook for 20-25 minutes, stirring every now and then.
For a quick curry, you can blend the sauce at this point, but ideally cook it slowly, covered with a lid, for several hours, or even all day over a very low heat (or in a slow cooker on low for 6-8 hours). Stir often, and add a splash of water if it gets too dry.
When ready to serve, you can leave the sauce as it is, or blend a little, or a lot for a smoother balti sauce. When you’re happy, add the torn cooked chicken to the curry.
If you have small metal balti dishes for serving, place them over a high heat and flash the curry in individual portions, to heat and thicken. If not, reheat in the pan and serve in well-warmed bowls, with breads on the side for dipping. Sprinkle with fresh cilantro and enjoy.
Leftover Thanksgiving potatoes? Turn them into aloo tikki. Just swap out mashed potatoes for the boiled potatoes in this recipe. Makes about 20.
All-purpose flour, for coating
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Neutral cooking oil or ghee, for frying
For the aloo tikki mixture:
2¼ pounds floury potatoes, unpeeled, cut into large chunks
1 tablespoon neutral cooking oil
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 large onion, very finely diced
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely grated
1 green chili pepper (deseeded or not, to taste), very finely chopped
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (½ lemon), or more to taste
3 tablespoons very finely chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Raita or cilantro or tamarind chutney, to serve
Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water for about 10 minutes, until only just tender. Drain and spread out in a colander to steam dry; this will ensure your patties are firm not squishy. When cool enough to handle, chop into smaller pieces, then place in a bowl and roughly mash — it doesn’t need to be smooth (we keep the skins in the mix).
Heat the oil in a small skillet over a medium heat. Add the mustard seeds and, when they start to crackle, add the onion and a pinch of salt. Cook for about 8 minutes, stirring, until the onion begins to brown. Reduce the heat, add the garlic, ginger, chili pepper, and ground spices and cook for 2 minutes, stirring. Stir this mixture into the potatoes, along with the lemon juice, cilantro, flour and some black pepper. Taste and add more salt or lemon juice, if needed — it should be very well seasoned.
Chill the mixture in the fridge for 1 hour (or in the freezer for 20 minutes).
Pour a layer of flour onto a plate and season well. Pour a 1-inch depth of oil or ghee (or a mixture) into a large skillet and set over a high heat until shimmering hot.
Shape mashed potatoes into the size of ping-pong balls, then roll them in the flour and gently squash flat with your palm, until about 1½ inches wide and ¾ inch thick. Dust off excess flour and carefully slide the patties into the hot oil. Cook for about 2 minutes on each side, until golden and crisp on the bottoms, then flip and repeat. Remove to drain on paper towel and keep warm while you cook the rest. Serve hot, with raita or cilantro or tamarind chutney.
This sauce is good for “dipping, drizzling and dolloping.” It tastes best after leaving the dip to rest in the fridge while you prepare the aloo tikki, allowing the flavors to meld. Serves 4.
2 teaspoons tamarind paste or concentrate
½ cup whole-milk plain yogurt (can be nondairy)
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh mint
Pinch of ground cumin
Pinch of salt
Stir all the ingredients together, then taste and add more salt, as needed.
— Reprinted from “LEON Happy Curries” by Rebecca Seal and John Vincent with permission from Octopus Books Publishing.