Food cooking and eating – stories and ideas from a passionate foodie

This is the main event, and some bits to go with…

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Christmas Dinner in 67 Words

I had a panic text from a family friend last year, on Christmas morning.  Claire was helping her daughter to cook Christmas lunch – and they had not a single recipe book in the house with the advice on how to cook the turkey.  I managed to send them the entire recipe by text!.  If you can text a recipe, then it can’t be so difficult – can it?  Here it is, in its entirety:

“Turkey – 14lb, for serving at 1.45, cooked by 1.15, rested before carving. Start at 8.15 with bird at room temperature.  Loads of butter and strips of bacon on the breast.  First 45 minutes at 220C or 200C for fan oven.  Lower to 170 (160 fan).  Foil off / peeled back at 12.30.  Then lots of basting (every15 mins) to 1.15.  Usually takes longer than you think.”

67 words must be a record for a Christmas Turkey recipe! But at least with these timings, you can be confident of the main attraction being OK?


Cranberry Sauce – enough for Christmas Dinner and Leftovers

300g Fresh Cranberries

Zest and Juice of one Orange

½ Teaspoon each of powdered Ginger; Cinnamon and Ground Cloves

200g caster sugar*


Gently heat cranberries in a saucepan with the orange, spices and sugar.  Stir until they ‘pop’ (like popcorn) and the sugar is dissolved. Leave to cool slightly and then add 2-3 Tablespoons of Port.

*Cranberries are bitter and this has a sharp, ‘adult’ flavour so you may wish to add more sugar.

This can be made in advance as it freezes well.

and there they are - boiling away!


Brandy Butter – serves 8 (approx.)

250g Unsalted Butter

250g* Sugar – this can be light or dark soft brown; caster; or icing – or a mixture

5 Dessertspoon of Brandy (or Rum)


Cream the butter by hand with a wooden spoon, electric whisk or food processor until white-ish. Add the sugar a little at a time. *You may find you need less than the suggested amount.  I used a mixture of light and dark soft brown sugar and found 200g was sufficient.  Add the brandy a spoonful at a time. Add more to taste but not too much as it may separate.  If this happens, add more sugar.

This will keep 2-3 weeks in the fridge and also freezes well.



Next – stuffing!!

Stuffings – on Christmas Day

Get the kettle on at 7, and take your turkey out of the fridge.  Kettle is for your well-earned cup of tea for getting up early on Christmas Morn.  You should have taken the plastic bag containing the giblets out of the turkey, but check again just in case!  These bits are excellent to boil up for stock to make real gravy.  As you know, I always prefer to do most things from scratch, rather than using too many convenience foods (like gravy browning or stock cubes and the like). It feels easier to control salt, sugar, E numbers, antioxidants, and all the other additives that are in most convenience foods by doing this.  It tastes better too.

I have two favourite stuffing’s – Sage and Onion and Apple and Chestnut.  I will start with the second one – which may be surprising as you may think chestnuts could be a problem?

  • 1 pack chestnuts (Whole ones are good)
  • 1lb of pork sausage meat
  • 1 large cooking apple (Bramley is best)
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 beaten egg
  • Salt and ground white pepper (seems to be better than black peppercorns at not causing problems)

I think this is easiest to make in a food processor, because it will chop the onion and the apple very finely.  Peel the onion and apple first and chop them a bit to put into your food processor, and wiz for 10 to 20 seconds to chop them very finely.  Add the sausage meat a bit at a time and blend between each addition (say in 5 or 6 portions).  Then add the chestnuts,  whizz until they still have a bit of texture, then add the egg (which helps to bind it together) and the salt and pepper.

If you prefer Sage and Onion stuffing – here’s how to do that:

  • Two pieces of white bread
  • 1lb sausage meat
  • 1 dessertspoon of dried sage
  • 1 peeled onion
  • A squeeze of lemon juice
  • Salt and ground white pepper

Again, a food processor helps.  (This isn’t just to help with getting everything finely chopped to help prevent blockages – I think it helps with flavour enhancing and making a much better gastronomic experience).

If the following sounds too fiddly or tricky – then cook the stuffing separately… but this is how I do it

The best and safest place to cook the stuffing is the breast end of the bird, not the main body cavity.  This helps it to cook well – stuffing the body slows everything down. The breast is kept moist by the fattiness of the sausage meat.  You need to ease the skin off the breast itself, and you do this easily by easing the skin away from the breast with your fingers and pushing gently You will find it comes apart easily.  The middle bit of skin between the two breasts is slightly more of a sinew, and you will need to hook your finger to pull this apart.  You can then spoon your chosen stuffing into this cavity. Push it right in and pat it down, making a nice rounded end.  Not too tight or skin may crack open. You should seal the end by pushing a couple of cocktail sticks though the skin flaps (but remember to take them out at the end so no-one eats them!)  If there is some left over after stuffing the bird, you can put this in an oven proof dish and cook it with foil on top for the last hour before serving.


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