Everyone has turkey at Christmas. The supermarkets are full of it, frozen or fresh, whole bird or crown. It’s so much the celebration bird that I noticed this year turkeys were being advertised at Easter too.
In my family, since we’ve taken over as the generation with income and houses in which to host, we have started cooking Christmas dinner.
My dad is not a big turkey fan – in fact poultry overall is not really his thing – as a student he had a summer job in a local chicken soup factory which even 40 years on rather puts him off. On the other hand my grandfather quite looks forward to turkey and on his own has little other opportunity to have it.
My husband and I had a smallish single oven in our last flat which limited the size of bird that would fit in anyway. So as neither of us are particularly fond of it (although we both appreciate its low fat nature), so we started to experiment.
Image from www.farmfreshduck.co.uk/menu.htmlImage from www.bbcgoodfood.co.uk
Four years ago, we cooked a duck with an orange and apricot stuffing and a piece of venison for my parents and in-laws. This turned out to be a very good alternative to turkey, with a lot more flavour from both dishes and pleasing the craving for variety that seems to form part of a really good christmas dinner.
Image from www.ifelix.net/timetoeat/?p=597
Last year, we went for a three bird roast, or bird-in-bird-in-bird (I think it was partridge and duck in turkey but I can’t quite remember). It was amazingly good, but quite expensive – so this year we were looking for something different.
We’ve moved out of London, and one of the things that we love about living out here is the availability of good local food (actually we tried to support local food in London too – www.northcoterd.co.uk is the website of Northcote Road in Battersea near Clapham Junction which gets its own chapter in the good food guide to London…).
So this year we’ve gone to a local deli – the lovely Rachel’s deli at Mersham le Hatch – and ordered a small goose, a jointed turkey with cranberry stuffing, and some pigs in blankets. I’m so looking froward to this… the goose was apparently in a field in a village four miles away until last week, and the turkey was in a different field five miles in the other direction (I don’t know where the pigs were but they were also within a ten mile radius of our house – that’s the joy of realising that local really means local).
In case you are wondering – no I don’t intend to be a vegetarian at any point (and yes I’ve eaten foie gras too!) but I think if you are going to eat meat, you should not anonymise it – you need to know where it comes from and that it was treated in a good way when alive (that’s why last year we had faux gras instead…)
Image from www.gourmet.com
We mentioned this to my grandfather who will be joining us this year. He said that he’d had goose at Christmas as a child but I rather got the impression that he felt he’d moved on to something better by having turkey, hence why we’ve gone for two meats rather than one. Oh and buying local means that the price has been very reasonable too – cheaper than we’d expected after the bird-in-bird-in-bird last year.
We’re doing a spice rub on the goose and an apple stuffing. Here’s the recipe if you are interested… (I’m indebted to Caroline65 of www.allrecipes.co.uk for this one).
Buy one local goose sized to feed 4-6 people.
Pinch up the skin and stab it all over with a big fork – this will help the fat drain out and make the skin crispy. Mix together a quarter teaspoon of all spice, half teaspoon of cinnamon and some freshly ground black pepper. Rub over the goose skin.
In a frying pan, frybatches of apple slices (I’m using a mixture of Bramley cooking and Royal Gala eating apples, about 8 in total I think) to a golden colour, sprinkling with cinnamon and adding up to 6 tablespoons of brandy (can be Calvados but I’m using the same brandy as I’ll be using for brandy butter which is always better homemade). Once fried, put inside the turkey body cavity and sew up.
Sit goose on a trivet in a big roasting tin – this will help the bird to not spend its time wallowing in fat.
Cover goose legs in streaky bacon and cover the lot in a tent of turkey foil, making sure to fold the foil double over the legs so they don’t burn or dry out.
Cook at 200 degrees for 15 mins per lb (450g) plus 20 mins, baste every half hour and uncover the breast (but not the legs) 45 minutes from time. It needs to rest for 20-30 mins outside the oven. Roast potatoes take 30-40 minutes in goose fat if they’ve been parboiled first, so you’ve still got time to cook them as the meat rests.
You should get loads of goose fat – this is fab if fattening for cooking roast potatoes – we’re going to try to remember to put some into jars as it’s selling at 2 quid a can in the supermarkets at the moment!
So hopefully Christmas dinner will run smoothly and it will all be lovely. And Rachel’s just let me know that I’m getting a free organic veggie box too with my meat order – so I’m very happy and we should have enough food to see us through the next few days!
Happy Christmas to one and all.