My Perfect Christmas dinner – sides

My perfect Christmas Dinner – sides

My perfect Christmas Dinner – Sides. A perfect Christmas roast turkey dinner isn’t a perfect Christmas dinner for me without the stuffing, gravy, roast potatoes, and the rest of the sides. Honey roast parsnips, buttered carrots and today’s recipes braised red cabbage, Brussel sprouts and of course cranberry sauce.

My perfect Christmas dinner -Braised Red Cabbage

Braised red cabbage is a beautifully versatile accompaniment to a host of winter dishes pies, casseroles and stews, seasonal roasts such as venison and game birds. You can adjust / experiment with the recipe and adapt it to suit whatever you are serving it with.

My perfect Christmas Dinner – Sides – Braised Red Cabbage
You can experiment and add a large grated cooking apple to your recipe and braise in cider, replace the redcurrent jelly for cranberry sauce or add a small handfully of raisins to the pan at the start of cooking.

Stir Fry Brussel Sprouts

We all love Brussel sprouts and I am sure you will too if you follow this simple recipe.
If you bought your sprouts are on the stalk, twist each one off. Remove any discoloured or damaged leaves. Next, trim the base and cut an larger ones in half. Wash and drain.

My perfect Christmas Dinner – Sides – Brussel Sprouts

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and add the Brussel sprouts. Remove after five minutes and plunge into cold, iced water. This stops the brussels over cooking. Drain thoroughly. To serve heat two heaped tablespoons of butter in a large, heavy-bottomed frying pan with a splash of olive oil. Toss the brussels in the pan over a medium-high heat for three to four minutes until thoroughly heated but still a little crunchy. Season well, top with a few toasted flaked almonds and serve.

My perfect Christmas dinner – cranberry sauce

My perfect Christmas Dinner – Sides – Cranberry Sauce

This is my go to recipe for a delicious homemade Cranberry sauce. It may seem quite a lot but it goes just as well a roast chicken or in a cold turkey sandwich.

You can experiment and add a large grated cooking apple to your recipe and braise in cider, replace the redcurrent jelly for cranberry sauce or add a small handfully of raisins to the pan at the start of cooking.

the Perfect Christmas Roast Turkey Dinner

The perfect Christmas roast turkey dinner. Most families in the United Kingdom traditionally sit-down on Christmas afternoon for their festive Christmas Dinner. Today you find the centerpiece is usually a roast Turkey served with stuffing, sausages wrapped in streaky bacon ( pigs in blankets ), crisp roast potatoes, parsnips, Brussel sprouts and lots of other vegetables, and cranberry sauce. This is followed by Christmas pudding and brandy sauce, maybe sherry trifle and mince pies. But how have we got here?

The perfect Christmas roast turkey

A bit of Christmas Dinner history

‘If he is to get on in life, he must get on umbly, Master Copperfield!’ In medieval England, if you were very rich you might have eaten venison for Christmas. Killed in your hunting grounds and the bits or umbles – the heart, lungs, liver, tongue, and kidneys would be chopped, mixed and baked in a pie to be given to the poor. The original [h]umble pie. Down the pecking order ( sorry ) you might find goose or woodcock covered in butter and saffron and roasted. For dessert, you would find frumerty a thick, spiced porridge. This was made with currents and enriched with egg yolks. Alternatively there might be a boiled plum pudding. The ancestor of today’s Christmas pudding made with suet and dried fruit. It would be flavoured with clove, ginger, and cinnamon. Plum is an old term for raisins.

A boar’s head would be the centerpiece of the Christmas feast for a Tudor nobleman. It is believed that the tradition is centuries-old. It came from pagan celebrations of the Norse god of the harvest. If you could not get hold of the highly prized head, you would have a ham which is now a staple of many Christmas meals. Sugar, spices, and nuts were considered highly exotic and very expensive. Highly decorated marzipan sweetmeats were a sign of your wealth and importance.

Gingerbread Men

Christmas Traditions

‘My name is Sherlock Holmes. It is my business to know what other people don’t know.’
During the 17th century, turkeys started to become part of the Christmas feast. Although goose would remain the most popular roast well into the Victorian era. It was common for goose “Clubs” to be set up, allowing working-class families to save up over the year towards buying a goose. Sherlock Holmes solves a tricky case involving the theft of a precious stone the blue carbuncle when it is found in a Christmas club goose.

Gingerbread has an incredibly long history, near to a thousand years. Originally it was often sold in monasteries, pharmacies, and markets. Gingerbread was prized for its supposed medicinal properties and was used to aid digestion. It became so popular its manufacture was highly regulated in Germany and supervised by a guild. The guild lifted the restrictions on who could bake gingerbread at Easter and Christmas. By Victorian times Gingerbread men were baked and hung on the Christmas tree.

A dickens of a christmas

In the 18th and 19th century, Twelfth Night, the fifth of January, was one of the most important dates in the festive calendar. Twelfth Night was the last feast of the Christmas celebrations ( Epiphany ). The centerpiece of the parties, which involved eating, drinking and playing games was a cake. A forerunner to today’s Christmas cake it evolved from an enriched fruit bread to a more familiar fruit cake decorated with almond and sugar pastes. A dried bean was included in the recipe. Whoever found it was crowned ‘Lord of Misrule’ or ‘King of the Bean’ and presided over the festivities.

The perfect Christmas roast turkey dinner

When Queen Victoria came to the throne in 1837, the turkey was still an expensive choice, only for the very rich, for Christmas dinner. A famous Christmas dinner scene appears in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, where Scrooge sends Bob Cratchit a large turkey. In northern England, roast beef was commonly served on Christmas Day while in London and the south of England, a goose was still the favourite. Those too poor to afford beef or goose made do with rabbit. However, by the end of the 19th century, most people feasted on turkey for Christmas dinner.

Mince Pies

Mincemeat was from Tudor times, when chopped meat mixed with dried fruits, sugar, and spices. This recipe continued right up to the Victorian era when less and less meat was included in the recipe. The mince tart you eat today is filled entirely with dried fruits, sugar, spices, and suet to keep it moist. Most premade mincemeat mixtures now use vegetable fats rather than the traditional suet in keeping with mincemeats origins.

Today’s Recipe

Traditional Roast Turkey Dinner

So today’s recipe is for the Christmas centerpiece a roast turkey. I have memories of my mum getting up at 6am to put the oven to prepare a monster of a turkey for the family. As in popular legend, it did seem that we ate turkey leftovers for days after. You should never put stuffing into a turkey cavity as it will not cook properly and could be a health risk but I do like to stuff the breast end of the bird which helps keep the meat moist. I have included my favourite stuffing recipe.

So today’s recipe is for the Christmas centerpiece a roast turkey. I have memories of my mum getting up at 6 to put the oven to prepare a monster of a turkey for the family. As in popular legend, it did seem that we ate turkey leftovers for days after. You should never put stuffing into a turkey cavity as it will not cook properly and could be a health risk but I do like to stuff the breast end of the bird which helps keep the meat moist. I have included my favourite stuffing recipe.

The Best Garlicky Roast Chicken

Parchment Roast Chicken
Delicious parchment roast Garlicky Chicken

Now I am a chef who loves his Sunday lunch and I cannot place the thinnest spatula between beef, lamb, and pork but as a family, we have a clear favourite, the great roast chicken. I am picky however and for the best taste, I prefer a nice free-range bird the skin crisp, the meat moist and succulent. In the depths of wet, windy Channel Island winters I love all the wonderful, traditional garnishes to go with the said roast. Bread sauce, sage and onion stuffing, bacon and chipolata rolls with mounds of fluffy potatoes roasted in duck fat and lashings of gravy.

But this glorious very hot summer and we are looking to our nearest neighbour, remember France is only a few miles away and serve up the roast chicken with some herbs and garlic, sauté potatoes and crisp green salad. Simpler, quicker and next time I must remember the chilled French wine or Normandy cider to serve with it! I stuff the cavity with a big handful of fresh herbs tarragon, parsley, thyme and lots of oregano, add a lemon, then sprinkle with Jersey sea salt and a good twist of fresh black pepper from the mill and add lots of sliced garlic.

Parchment Chicken

Garlic Roast Chicken                serves 4

The big secret is cooking the whole chicken in a baking paper parchment to keep it incredibly moist and flavourful. This method of cooking is called ‘en papillote’ and the poultry or fish is sealed in parchment or foil with herbs and other aromatics and cooks in its own steam.

4 lb ( 2 kg ) free-range Chicken from a reputable supplier

A handful of mixed, fresh Herbs, washed and dried

A couple of large knobs of Butter

A fresh Lemon cut in half

6 cloves of Garlic, peeled in sliced

Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper

Preheat your oven to 375 F / 190 C / Gas Mark 5. Place a large sheet of baking paper into the middle of a roasting tray. The parchment must be large enough to fold around the chicken and seal. Place your chicken on the paper, fill the cavity with herbs and lemon halves, rub the butter over the skin, cover with the sliced garlic and season generously. Fold the parchment over the chicken and fold to form a loose parcel.

Place in oven and roast for one hour and a half to two hours depending on the size of your chicken or until the leg juices run clear when pricked with a small sharp knife. ( A meat thermometer inserted into thickest part of the thigh should reach 180 F ). Remove from the oven and cover in a T towel and rest for twenty minutes before carving. Simple.

Wine

What to Drink? Continental style Pilsner larger or bitter, hoppy I.P.A ale is a great match with the garlic chicken if you prefer wine try a classic White Burgundy or sparkling Rose wine.

 

Allergens in this recipe are;

Milk

Please see the Allergens Page

Crispy oven roast Potatoes

Christmas Dinner -Potatoes

Whatever roast Turkey, Ham or Beef you have chosen for your Christmas Dinner you will need some potatoes to help mop up the delicious gravy and I am going to give you three recipes. The first is guaranteed to give you a plate full of Perfect Roasties to serve up on the table. The second is for luxurious butter and stock braised Fondant Potatoes, packed full of flavour, and the final recipe is for my new favourite that doesn’t even need peeling and are really, really, crisp. You need a fluffy, floury potato such as a King Edward or Desiree for the first two recipes and Charlottes are perfect for the third.

Crispy oven roast Potatoes
Classic roast potatoes

Perfect Roast Potatoes

Some people will consider it a tragedy to put anything on a roast potato to make it crispier, but I have tried both flour and cornmeal and you do get an extra crunchy texture. The greatest heresy is however what you cook the potatoes in. I am from the North of England and only Beef Dripping will suffice, the chef’s choice is Duck or Goose fat. There is a sensible reason for both of these choices, the high temperature both of these fats can reach without burning helps achieve an excellent crisp potato. You can, however, achieve perfectly satisfactory results with a quality vegetable oil.

1 kg Potatoes, peeled and halved or quartered if very large

2 tablespoons Flour or fine Cornmeal ( entirely optional )

6 -8 tablespoons Beef Dripping or Duck Fat

Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper

Heat your oven to 220 C / 425 F / Gas Mark 6-7. Put the potatoes in a large saucepan, cover with water and to the boil. Cook for five minutes, then remove from the heat. Drain the potatoes well, then return to the pan and shake in order to rough up the edges a little. Sprinkle with some salt and freshly ground pepper and the flour or cornmeal if you or adding it. Place the dripping or duck fat in a large roasting tray and heat in the oven until it is hot ( about five minutes ).

Remove the tray from the oven and very carefully add the potatoes, stirring with a wooden spoon to make sure they are totally covered with the fat. Roast the potatoes for fifty to sixty minutes then give them a stir and cook for around another fifty to twenty minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon, drain and serve.

Allergens in this recipe are;

Flour

Please see the Allergens Page

Butter and Stock Fondant Potatoes
Delicious braised potatoes flavoured with butter, thyme in garlic

Fabulous Fondants

Fondants are often cooked totally in butter and are very indulgent, this recipe uses a mixture of butter and stock to give the finished potatoes a lot of flavour. This recipe is flavoured with garlic and thyme but you can use fresh rosemary, sage and bay leaves.

4 medium sized Potatoes, peeled and cut into barrel shapes

150 gr Salted Butter

100 ml quality Chicken or Vegetable Stock

2 Garlic cloves, peeled, slightly crushed

2-3 sprigs fresh Thyme

A grate of fresh Nutmeg

Sea Salt flakes and freshly ground Black Pepper

Heat your oven to 220 C / 425 F / Gas Mark 6-7. Heat the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over a medium heat. When the butter is starting to foam, add the potatoes and fry on one side until deep golden-brown, then turn and cook on the next side. Continue until the potato is golden-brown on each side, do not be tempted to move the potato whilst it is browning as it may stick.

Remove from the heat and carefully pour in the stock, then add the garlic cloves and thyme sprigs. The fat will spit, and splutter so make sure your arms are covered when you do this. Generously season and place in the oven. Cook for around thirty-five to forty minutes or until the potato is soft when pierced with a skewer or small sharp knife. Carefully transfer to serving bowl or plate.

Allergens in this recipe are;

Milk

Please see the Allergens Page

Crushed crispy baby potatoes
Crispy crushed baby potatoes flavoured with garlic.

Crunchy Crushed Spuds

This recipe is flavoured with garlic and thyme, but you can use fresh rosemary, sage and bay leaves.

2kg New Potatoes

A good Slug of Olive Oil ( around 4 tablespoons )

A large knob of Butter

6 Garlic cloves, unpeeled and bruised

A small sprig of Thyme

Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper

Preheat the oven to 200 C/ 400 F / Gas Mark 6. Place the potatoes in a pan of salted water, and bring to the boil then simmer for ten minutes until just tender. Remove from the heat and drain. Heat the oil and butter in a roasting tin in the oven until the butter has melted and it is starting to bubble in the meantime lightly crush the potatoes with the back of a wooden spoon or a fork. Carefully remove the tray from the oven and add the potatoes, garlic, and thyme and turn in the hot oil and butter. Sprinkle with sea salt and plenty of black pepper and roast for twenty minutes until golden and crusty, then turn the potatoes and roast for a further twenty minutes. When the potatoes are crisp remove with a slotted spoon, drain and serve.

Allergens in this recipe are;

Milk

Please see the Allergens Page

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Perfect Roast Beef and British Roast Dinner Week

Roast Dinner Week

My waistline will attest that I love food and I adore eating almost anything, apart from desiccated coconut and the dates you get in those little wooden boxes at Christmas. Feed me Chinese cuisine, Italian cooking, sticky-icky smoky barbecue food and I’m a happy chef but the food I think I love most and would be my death row last meal choice, although at this moment in time that is not an option I’m considering, is the classic British roast. Succulent roast chicken with crispy skin; chunks of tender lamb flavoured with garlic, rosemary, and anchovy; melting, fatty pork with salty crackling or medium rare roast beef with rich red wine gravy, it is very difficult to choose which I prefer most.  Which is your favourite? Which is the most popular roast in the country? Well, the roast that everyone worldwide knows is as British as roast beef, well is er….. roast beef.

Roast Beef - Copy.jpeg

So if the king of the British roast is a joint of beef, in my humble opinion it is the equally aristocratically sounding Sirloin* that is the best beef to roast. There are moderately cheaper joints such as a corner cut topside that make for an excellent roast, if you can afford it a rib on the bone is perhaps the most show stopping roast to present at a table, but I prefer is the sirloin. The meat itself is very lean, however, that lovely layer of fat will help keep the meat moist when cooking. The taste is terrific, there is a minimal waste and it is fantastically easy to carve at the table if you feel like impressing your guests.

*You are perhaps aware of the story that an effusive monarch was so taken with his beef dinner he knighted the remains of the joint on the spot. It has been attributed to Henry VIII, Charles II and the host of English kings in between and was so popular it was referenced by Jonathan Swift and Samuel Johnson, but the origins of the word sirloin are much less regal. The old English word would be originally written as ‘surloyn’ or ‘surloine’, and was derived from French word ‘surlonge’, sur meaning over and longe meaning loin, the sirloin was then quite simply a cut of beef taken from above the loin. Interestingly most of our words describing cuts of meat or the name of the meat are from French origins, the names of animals or livestock are more often of Anglo-Saxon descent.

Now as a family we sit down about one o’clock for a traditional roast on a Sunday, just as I did with my parents and grandparents, this week, however, is National Roast Dinner Week* encouraging you to eat a roast when and where ever and I am all for that. I have posted the recipe for Yorkshire Pudding, the classic accompaniment to roast beef previously, so here is my recipe for the perfect roast beef. A good local butcher will be able to provide you with a great piece of beef from a reputable, quality supplier. If you can find grass fed, mature beef, hung for three weeks it will be simply delicious, and I promise you won’t be disappointed.

 *I have a theory about space and time and alternative universes that postulates the somewhere in a never-ending series of multiverses it will always be a named something day or week, Free the Herring Day, Shred more Paper Week alternatively this is just the creation of canny marketers to get you to purchase something you neither want or need.

Roast Sirloin of Beef and Rich Red Wine Gravy         serves 6-8

1 ½ to 2 kg center cut Sirloin, rolled and tied

( Ask your local butcher to do this )

250 gr Beef Dripping or Lard

1 tablespoon fresh Thyme leaves

½ tablespoon English Mustard Powder

1 teaspoon Salt

¼ teaspoon ground Black Pepper

For the gravy

350ml red wine

200ml beef stock

75ml port

1 small White Onion, peeled and roughly chopped

1 Carrot, peeled and sliced

1 stick of Celery, washed and sliced

1 clove of Garlic, peeled and crushed

2 tablespoons of Vegetable Oil

1 heaped tablespoon Plain Flour

1 Bay leaf

A few sprigs of Thyme

Heat your oven to 400 F / 200C/ Gas Mark 6 and weigh your joint of beef. Put the dripping into a roasting pan and place in the oven. Mix the thyme, mustard, salt and black pepper and rub all over the beef and when the dripping is melted and hot, place in the beef fat side down and return the roasting pan to the oven. Roast the beef for thirty minutes, then remove from the oven and turn the piece of beef over before placing back in the oven.

Turn the heat down to 360 F / 180C / Gas Mark 4. For every 450 gr of raw weight, cook your joint for ten minutes per 450 gr for a rare piece of beef and for fifteen minutes per 450 gr for well done. When the beef is cooked to your particular preference, take it out of the roasting pan, cover with foil and allow to rest somewhere warm for thirty minutes.

To make the red wine gravy, place the roasting tin on a high heat with the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, bay lea, and thyme. Fry the vegetables for a couple of minutes then add the flour, cook for a couple more minutes stirring continuously. Pour in the port, scrape with a wooden spoon to loosen any debris from the tin and add the red wine. Continue to simmer and reduce by three-quarters before adding the stock. Bring to the boil, reduce by a quarter and season to taste. Pour any juices from resting the meat back into the tin, warm and pour the gravy through a sieve into a warm jug. Carve the meat and serve with the gravy and Yorkshire puddings.

National Yorkshire Pudding Day and My Perfect Yorkies

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Let’s call Yorkshire pudding
A fortunate blunder:
It’s a sort of popover
That turned and popped under.

Ogden Nash

The Yorkshire pudding it is said can only successfully be made by someone from that august county of England. My mum is from Yorkshire and makes wonderful Yorkshire’s and perhaps the skill is inherited because I am pretty proud of most of my attempts. A Yorkshire pudding is made from a milk, egg and flour batter which was originally poured into a tin set under the roasting joint. The pudding cooked in the hot meat fat and absorbed any juices from the roast. A large slice was served to each dinner with meat gravy before the main course. The meat and vegetables then followed usually served with a parsley or white onion sauce.

In 1747 in ‘ The Art of Cookery made Plain and Easy ‘ by Hannah Glasse, one of the first English female cookery writers, there is a recipe for Yorkshire pudding. This is the first time a batter or dripping pudding is recorded with the name, although a flatter less aerated dish had been cooked for many years previously. Traditionally any leftover pudding could be eaten as a dessert with sugar and perhaps orange juice.

The Yorkshire pudding recipe popped over to America ( excuse the pun ) and the first recipe for a Popover is recorded in ‘ Practical Cooking ‘ published in 1876 by M. N. Henderson. Popovers may be served either as a sweet, topped with fruit and whipped cream for breakfast or with afternoon tea or with meats at lunch and dinner. Popovers tend to be individually baked in muffin tins and often include herbs or garlic in the recipe other popular variation replaced some of the flour with pumpkin puree. The name popover originated from the fact that the cooked batter swells or pops over the top of the baking tin.

You can fill your fancy popovers or Yorkshires with just about anything that takes your fancy, here are a few ideas from some I made in Jersey today; Chicken Liver Parfait and Red Onion Marmalade, Goats Cheese, Rocket and Balsamic, Vanilla Ice Cream, Raspberries and White Chocolate Shavings and Apple Crumble and Custard.

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In 2008 the Royal Society of Chemistry held a competition carried out to create a vouchsafe Yorkshire Pudding recipe and decided that a true Yorkshire Pudding cannot be less than four inches tall. They examined the effects of temperature, ingredients and even altitude in the search for perfection. My knowledge of chemistry is limited to an ancient ‘ O ‘ level but quite simply the heat causes the two raising agents, the egg and beaten in air, to expand the batter mix. My tips for success are simple are make sure all the ingredients are at room temperature and get the fat in your baking tray smoking hot.

Individual Yorkshire puddings can be cooked after your joint while it is resting before carving.

Perfect Yorkshire Puddings

90 gr Plain Flour

1 Fresh free-range Egg

240 – 270 ml half Milk / half Water

¼ teaspoon Salt

A good pinch of freshly ground White Pepper

1-2 tablespoons of Beef Dripping

Preheat your oven to 220C/425F/Gas mark 7. Place a damp cloth on your work surface to stop your mixing bowl slipping. Sieve the flour, pepper and salt into your bowl, make a well in the middle and add the egg. Start to beat together then gradually add the milk / water. Continue adding the milk/ water until the batter is smooth and the consistency of pouring cream. Leave the mixture to stand for ten minutes. While the mixture stands divide the beef dripping into Yorkshire Pudding tins and place the tins in the oven until the fat starts to smoke. Give the batter a final stir and pour quickly into the tins. Put them back in the oven and cook until well risen and golden brown, this will take about fifteen to twenty-five minutes depending on the size of your tin.

For the full Royal Society of Chemistry press release

http://www.rsc.org/AboutUs/News/PressReleases/2008/PerfectYorkshire.asp