Archive for December, 2011

Mini Christmas Dinner

Posted on December 16th, 2011 in recipes | No Comments »

Our office Christmas lunch was booked at a local restaurant and they naturally asked us whether or not we wanted the Christmas menu. Equally naturally, we said we did want the Christmas menu, but on checking in online it seemed hardly Christmassy at all. It was just a different menu.

Stung by this, I offered Deborah a mini-Christmas dinner at home, so she invited two-or-three friends round and away we went.

Now, the point of the exercise was to indulge traditions, so that means roast potatoes, carrots and sprouts are all a must. Deborah insisted on parsnips, so in they go too. But what of the centrepiece? It hardly makes sense to cook a whole turkey for 4-5 people. But equally, I didn’t fancy one of those M&S turkey crowns. I opted to buy some turkey breast portions, stuff each one and wrap it in pancetta. That meant that bacon-wrapped chipolatas seemed like overkill, but I was happy to provide regular chipolatas. The major corner I cut was the gravy. If I’d had another day, I’d have bought some chicken wings, roasted them and then made stock with onion, carrot and leek. But as it was, I just bought a tub from the supermarket.

Here’s what I did and how I did it, with rough timings. Serves 6.

Mini Christmas Dinner – individual pancetta-wrapped turkey breast fillets with chestnut stuffing, served with roast potatoes, roast parsnips, glazed carrots, chipolatas and Brussels sprouts.

5:00pm Peel 2kg potatoes and cut into chunks. Peel 1kg parsnips and cut into pieces. Peel  500g carrots and cut into batons. Top and trim 500g Brussels sprouts.

Prepping the veg

5:40pm Make the stuffing. Dice two large onions and fry gently in butter and olive oil.

Starting the stuffing

When the onion is soft, add 500g sausage meat and break up in the pan. Blitz six slices of white bread to make breadcrumbs and add to the pan. Finely chop 3-4 cloves of garlic, zest one lemon, chop 8-9 sage leaves and pull the leaves off 3-4 thyme stalks.  Add to the mixture. Roughly chop 200g vacuum-packed chestnuts and stir them in. Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste and then add a beaten egg to hold it together.

The stuffing ready to go

6:20pm Put the potatoes into boiling salted water. Set a timer for twenty minutes. Turn the oven up high and divide a can of goose fat between two roasting tins. Put them in the oven.

6:30pm Prepare the turkey. Flatten each of the six breast portions by bashing it a few times with the heel of your hand. Cut a pocket in the underside. Lay three strips of pancetta on a board and put a torn sage leaf and a pinch of lemon zest in the middle. Put the turkey breast on top with the pocket uppermost and fill the pocket with a spoonful of stuffing.

Stuffing the turkey breast portions

Wrap the pancetta around the turkey and transfer to a roasting tin. Repeat for the other six. Add the zested lemon halves, sprinkle over the remaining zest and sage and drizzle with olive oil. Put the remaining stuffing in a small tray.

6:40pm Drain the potatoes and make sure they are dry. Remove the roasting tin from the oven and put it on the hob over the heat. Put the potatoes in the hot fat, turning them so every side is covered. Return the pan to the oven and finish the turkey.

Ready for the oven

7:00pm Add the parsnips to their roasting tin and again turn them to make sure every side is coated in fat.

7:20pm Put the tray of turkey breasts in the oven. Take the potato tray out and turn the potatoes. Put them back, then put the chipolatas in a roasting tray drizzled with a bit of olive oil and put them in the oven too.

7:30pm Put the sprouts into boiling water for five minutes. Check they are cooked through, drain and set aside. Put the stuffing in the oven (if you can find room).

7:40pm Pour the tub of gravy into a saucepan and when it heats up a bit, give it a taste. I added half a glass of white wine, two teaspoons of Dijon mustard and two teaspoons of cranberry jelly to mine. Put the carrots in boiling water for ten minutes with a few sprigs of thyme. Check on the chipolatas – I find that I often have to drain off some of the fat to get them to brown properly.

7:50pm Melt some butter in a wok with some olive oil. And the sprouts and stir-fry until they start to catch. Season with salt and pepper and scatter over flaked almonds.

7:55pm Drain the carrots, drizzle with honey and salt and pepper. Put the sausages in a serving bowl, drizzle with honey and scatter over torn mint leaves.

8:00pm Plate the turkey portions individually and transfer everything else to serving bowls. Tuck in!

Good enough to eat

December catch-up

Posted on December 13th, 2011 in Blah, Culture | No Comments »

Well, it has been a long time since I was here!

This has been for a couple of reasons, largely, we’ve bought a flat which we will be renovating in the New Year – expect lots of bloggy fun covering that. And also, I’ve been writing my first play with my good friend Robert Khan. Coalition had its first reading on 30 November and is currently seeking producers.

Let me do a quick cultural round-up to keep you all up-to-date. In recent weeks I have seen…

  • One Man Two Guvnors – a gloriously playful take on a classic farce, blessed with four stand-out performances from Oliver Chris, Tom Edden, Daniel Rigby and of course James Corden. A more purely joyful night at the theatre you couldn’t wish for. And a skiffle band too!
  • Matilda – I knew it would be good, I didn’t dream that it would be astoundingly good. Tim Minchin’s lyrics and music are heartfelt, delectably clever and roaringly funny, Bertie Carvell turns in an award-winning performance as Miss Trunchbull, the sets and lighting are perfect and Dennis Kelly’s additions to Roald Dahl’s story fit seamlessly. All this without mentioning Matilda herself – there are four in rotation, but if the one we saw is anything to go by, then they are all stars in the making. Go!!
  • Dave Gorman’s PowerPoint Presentation – Unfussy, unencumbered by a deadening theme, just an hour and a half in the company of one of the cleverest, most affable comedians on the circuit. A delight.

We also saw The Kitchen and Daniel Kitson both at the National Theatre. The former’s slight story is transformed by stunningly choreographed playing and the latter is his usual detailed, hilarious, heartbreaking self. But both have finished now, so you can’t go.

Come and see the next reading of Coalition instead though – 20-22 January, afternoons at The Leicester Square Theatre and follow the progress of the play on its new website.