Yes, once again 'tis the season to stuff your bird and stuff your face.
We like a traditional goose for the Christmas bird in our house; lovely succulent meat, never dry.
Plus you get about a year's worth of beautiful fat for your roasties.
Anyway, if it was good enough for the Cratchits it's good enough for us!
Following our traditions I picked the stuffing and the starter.
I quite liked the sound of Nigella's gingerbread stuffing
so we went with that. We were slightly worried that it might turn out too sweet, so we replaced some of the gingerbread with regular bread,
but to be honest it was still a bit overwhelmingly sweet and sticky. I think I might go back to something a bit more traditional next year.
Unusually this year we also had a roast duck.
Since my brother decided to have himself a family we are now forced to get dressed
(get dressed! On Christmas day! The horror!
) and treck the mile upon mile
(yes: two miles) to his place for Christmas Dinner.
So fearing there wouldn't be enough leftover bird to feed two families for one entire day,
Mum and I decided to have a second Christmas dinner at home on Boxing day with a duck. We were taking no
For starters we made up some of Aidan's goats cheese parcels
which seemed to travel well when Aidan brought them around to my place,
but unfortunately Mum ignored all my careful instructions on how to cut up the cheese
and instead mashed it to paste before I got the chance to stop her.
So they were a bit soggier than I had hoped.
A couple of things I relearned this Christmas about making gravy:
- If you make sure to keep some water in the bottom of the bird's roasting tin you'll get a nice rich dark stock under the layer of fat
to make your gravy with.
Without the water you might just end up with a burnt crust and unusably bitter fat.
- Gravy thickens with between 1 and 3 tablespoons of flour fried in an equal volume of fat for each pint of liquid.
So a litre of gravy needs 2 tablespoons flour for thin and up to 6 tablespoons for extra thick gravy.
If you're using cornstarch then you'll only need about 2 teaspoons per pint.
- You can finish your gravy with a variety of flavours:
- orange or lemon juice, or zest
- port or red wine, Madeira, Marsala, white wine or even cider
- any other liquor or brandy
- Worcestershire sauce or mushroom ketchup
- spices, tomato purée or ketchup
- redcurrant jelly, jam, or other preserve
- garlic and anchovies
- marmite or bovril
- a whisk of butter to add a little gloss
- Apparently bird roasting times can actually be dramatically less than the standard 20 minutes per pound
recommended by cookery writers since the dawn of time.
Felicity Cloake even claims
to have cooked a 6kg turkey in just two hours - unlikely as that seems.
I have to say though, that the
low temperature roasting times
for our goose were pretty much as advertised.
And we used a meat thermometer and everything.
After our Boxing Day leftover goose fry-up,
many dinners of leftover cold goose,
and many lunches of leftover goose and leftover ham sandwiches,
we traditionally finish off the very last bit of bird in Mum's famous pilaf
It's a bitter-sweet meal - marking as it does the end of Christmas.
end of Christmas.
Nothing left after that but to start working on those leftover mince pies.
Our 6lb duck was just perfect after 2½ hours cooking,
with the last half hour at a slightly higher temperature to crisp it up.
- 1 duck
- herbs, garlic or fruit for stuffing
Pre-heat the oven to 220°C/425°F/Gas Mark 7.
Untruss the duck and remove the wing tips (if present).
Prick (or slash) the duck skin all over, at about 1" spacing.
Make sure to pierce through the skin into the fat layer, but don't penetrate the bird's flesh.
This is to make sure that the fat runs out and leaves the bird with a nice crispy skin, without losing any of the meat juices.
Rub the skin with salt and pepper and place the duck uncovered, breast up, on a rack over a roasting tin containing a little water (or wine!)
(to stop leaking juices from burning so you can use them to make a nice dark gravy).
Reduce the heat to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 after 15 minutes or so once the fat has started to crackle,
and cook the bird for about 20 minutes plus 20 minutes per lb, basting every 20 minutes or so
The bird is ready when the juices run clear when penetrated between thigh and breast
and the temperature of the thickest part of the bird reaches 75°C/165°F.
You can turn the temperature back up again for 20 minutes at the end to get the skin crispy and golden.
This makes an edible but very sweet, dense, heavy stuffing.
Fills 1 Goose
A bit too sweet if you ask me.
It might be worth trying with regular bread replacing some of the gingerbread,
but I think I'll be doing a different stuffing this time next year.
- 500g (3 medium-sized) onions
- 2 eating apples, peeled and cored
- 45g butter
- 1 x 15ml tablespoon vegetable oil
- 750g streaky bacon
- zest of 2 clementines/satsumas
- 2 x 400g gingerbread loaves (such as McVitie's Jamaica ginger cake), loosely crumbled
- 2 eggs, beaten approx.
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Using a food processor or by hand, finely chop the onions and apples.
Put the butter and oil in a large, wide saucepan over a medium heat and fry the chopped onions and apples until soft, about 10-15 minutes.
Finely chop the bacon in the processor, or by hand, and add this to the softened onion and apple mixture.
Cook everything, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes more.
Add the zest of the clementines/satsumas.
Take the pan off the heat and let it cool a little before mixing in the gingerbreadcrumbs. You can let this get properly cold now if you want.
Just before you want to cook the stuffing, add the beaten eggs and pepper,and use it to stuff the cavity of your bird,
or cook all of it (or what's left after stuffing your bird) in a buttered baking dish.
I don't stuff the bird but put all of my stuffing in a very generously buttered old Le Creuset terrine,
with internal dimensions of approx. 25cm x 9cm x 7cm deep.
Bake it in a hot oven (200°C/gas mark 6) with your turkey for about the last 45 minutes.
If the stuffing's going into a full oven - which it no doubt is - there should be no need to cover the dish.
If the oven is less full, and therefore hotter and less steamy, you could cover with foil for the first 30 minutes.
Let the cooked stuffing sit in its terrine for a good 10 minutes out of the oven before turning it out and slicing it.
Or just spoon from the dish if that's less stressful.
(I love a slice of this, cold, in a Christmas night or Boxing Day turkey sandwich.)
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