Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Traditional Roast Turkey with Chestnut and Wild Mushroom and Oat Stuffing

The holiday season is finally upon us and with three days to go it is time to start finalising shopping lists and beginning to prep for the feast.

I'm often asked what meat we have as a family on Christmas Day. The turkey has become the traditional bird to be eaten at Yuletide in the UK. Many years ago it was the goose with all of its rich dark meat and perfect roast potato making fat. The turkey was introduced to our shores from the Americas and due to its large yield in meat and value for money it fast took over the goose as the bird of choice.

It is worth having a change now and again and most game, such as pheasant and grouse, is more than suitable for the Christmas table. Duck and a top quality chicken or even a decent piece of beef are great replacements but this year I’m going for the good old turkey. With a superb supplier of the famous Kelly Bronze just down the road from where I live it would be foolish to not go for this great bird.

The turkey does have a reputation for being dry. There are so many different tips and techniques for supposedly keeping the bird moist but my foolproof technique is simple and non-fussy. The majority of the fat is on its back so roasting the bird at the same temperature on breast down should guarantee succulent meat. A traditional stuffing containing a little sausage meat, wild mushrooms and the turkey liver will add moistness to the bird.

Merry Christmas everybody and best of for 2010. x

Traditional Roast Turkey with Chestnut and Wild Mushroom and Oat Stuffing

Serves 8

1 quality oven ready turkey weighing approximately 6kg
1 onion, peeled
Salt and pepper

For the stuffing
1 tbsp olive oil
25g butter
1 shallot, finely chopped
150g wild mushrooms, finely chopped
A handful of fresh thyme, leaves stripped from the stalks and finely chopped
The liver of the turkey, finely chopped
300g prepared chestnuts, finely chopped
150g pork sausage meat
1 egg
100g oats
Nutmeg
Salt and pepper

1 – Ensure your turkey has sat at room temperature for 2 hours before cooking. Pre-heat the oven to 180C/GM4.
2 – To make the stuffing, heat the oil and butter in a frying pan. Add the shallot, mushrooms and thyme and sweat for 5-10 minutes until the water has evaporated from the mushrooms.
3 – Tip into a mixing bowl then combine with the remaining ingredients, seasoning with a little grating of nutmeg and salt and pepper. If the mixture looks too wet, stir in a little more oats a handful at a time until it stiffens.
4 – Stuff the neck of the turkey with the stuffing by loosening the skin around the neck and pushing the stuffing up towards the breast. Secure the skin with a couple of cocktail sticks or a skewer.
5 – Season the turkey all over with salt and pepper and place the onion into the cavity. Place breast side down in a roasting tin.
6 – Cook the turkey for the allotted cooking time (2 hours for a 4kg bird, adding 15 minutes per kg) turning the turkey breast side up for the final 30 minutes to crisp up the skin. To be on the safe side, buy a good meat thermometer and check the thighs of the bird for the correct temperature as per the thermometer.
7 – Remove from the oven and rest for 30-45 minutes. To make a simple gravy, skim off the excess fat from the roasting juices and add a glass of white wine. Bring to the boil and taste for seasoning.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Spiced Orange and Chocolate Stars

Is it just me or is time flying by faster than ever? It seems like only a few months since last Christmas. The cupboard is now teetering with gifts that Santa has kindly left for us there, the cake is maturing in the cupboard, the turkey is ordered and the Stilton takes up a large part of our fridge. So it's a good job I love this time of the year.

What I love about Christmas is it is the one time of the year that we can indulge with a great excuse. It is refreshing that in this current world of 'celebrity' chefs, as well as health 'experts' who claim to know it all on our televisions telling us what we are doing wrong with our bodies, we can gorge to our hearts content without being tutted at.

I for one will be pigging out as usual and facing the consequences in the New Year when sensibility returns. It has already started if truth be known and at the weekend it was time for the nipper and I to get the pots and pans out and begin making jams, chutneys and edible decorations for the tree including Marron Glace and sugar almonds.

Some little orange and spice biscuits, thickly covered in chocolate and decorated with silver balls, now speckle our modest tree and make for a tempting treat each time you see it. Like anything edible sitting around the house, the difficult part is not eating them too early. But I reckon you could be forgiven for this. After all, it is Christmas. Go on, just the one...

Spiced Orange and Chocolate Stars
Makes lots

125g plain flour
50g rolled oats
125g butter or margarine
75g caster sugar
A pinch of baking powder
Zest and juice of one orange
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
A pinch of fresh nutmeg
100g dark chocolate
100g milk chocolate

1 - Pre-heat the oven to 180C/GM4.
2 - Tip the flour, oats, sugar, spice and orange zest into a large bowl.
3 - Melt the butter in a pan then stir into the dry ingredients thoroughly along with the orange juice. If it seems too sticky add a little more flour but you want a very soft dough.
3 - Roll out the dough until approximately 1cm thick. Using a star shaped biscuit cutter, cut out the biscuits and place onto a greased baking tray.
4 - Bake on a high shelf for 8-10 minutes or until the biscuits are golden brown and slightly risen.
5 - Cool on a wire rack.
6 - Melt the chocolates in an ovenproof bowl in the oven. Stir thoroughly with more zest of orange. Using two forks, gently toss each biscuit into the melted chocolate then drain on a wire rack until dry.
7 - Cover each biscuit in foil. Thread the biscuits with a needle and thread, form loops and decorate your tree.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

The Best Christmas Cake

Each year around this time in the calendar we have approached that most sacred of tasks of making the Christmas cake. And each year I post about it.

I'm a sucker for a good fruit cake. Whether with tea, coffee or something a bit stronger, it almost seems like the healthy option of the cake world and I fool myself that I can have huge slabs of it without any poundage being added to the waistline. The Christmas cake however can sometimes be a step too far for the cake lover, often being accused of being too rich, too heavy or too boozy.

Some years back I tweaked around with a recipe to come up with something that would suit the whole family: rich, but rich with succulent fruit; heavy, but heavy with mysterious spice, orange and cocoa; boozy, but boozy enough to just give you a hint of sharp brandy or whisky.

We all stir it, we all prod it, we all lick the spoon. And this year we went all traditional and threw in 3 silver coins. If my slice puts that pound back in my pocket I would still swap it for another slice. Thank the heavens that Christmas is almost here...

The Best Christmas Cake

200g dark muscovado sugar
100g honey
250g butter
100g each of raisins, currants, sultanas, dried figs and dried prunes, roughly chopped
1 espresso cup of coffee
A large splash of brandy or whisky
Tablespoon of mixed spice
Zest and juice of an orange or 2 satsuma, tangerines or clementine
1 tbsp of cocoa powder
3 large eggs
100g plain flour, sifted
150g ground almonds
Teaspoon of Bicarbonate of Soda
Salt

1 - Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C, GM3. Grease and line a 22cm spring form cake tin.
2 - Melt the butter and sugars in a large pan then add the fruit, coffee, brandy or whisky, spice and honey. Zest and juice the oranges and add along with the cocoa powder. Stir until dark, caramelised and fragrant.
3 - Beat the eggs and add to the mixture along with the flour, ground almonds, bicarbonate of soda and a pinch of salt. Fold in thoroughly until not a trace of flour is left.
4 - Pour into the prepared cake tin and bake on the middle shelf for 2 hours. If the top looks like it is catching, cover with baking paper.