The team for The Gog give the low-down on seasonal produce to seek out this month
It’s a common misconception that the turkey has always been the star of the British Christmas dinner – in fact, it’s only been gracing our tables since the 16th century. The first turkeys are believed to have been imported from the American colonies in the 1500s by English landowner William Strickland, who bought the birds, native to Mexico, and sold their offspring in Bristol for tuppence apiece. He went on to make a fortune, allowing him to buy a mansion in Yorkshire and incorporate a turkey in the family coat of arms. Authentic British turkey breeds like the Norfolk Bronze are still related to these first six imported wild birds.
Historically, the goose had the starring role, but its popularity took a severe decline as the bird of choice largely thanks to Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, because Scrooge sent Bob Cratchit a turkey to replace his goose, making it a more luxurious choice. Part of the reason the turkey became desirable was due to its larger size – it came to be associated with feasts, celebrations and family gatherings. Henry VIII was reported to be the first King to feast on a turkey.
Whilst now a lesser sung hero, you can maximise the amount of meat and retain moisture in a goose by creating a ballotine – a piece of roasted meat which has first been boned, stuffed and folded or rolled into a cylindrical shape for cooking.
‘Whatever your meat of choice, there is a wealth of tasty accompaniments’
A roast goose and stuffing recipe makes the most of the flavour and texture of the bird. This requires first boning it, cooking it in a water bath and then roasting it. With this method, the meat remains juicy and moist. Boning a goose is easy when you know how, but it is time-consuming so make it easy on yourself and ask your butcher to do the job for you.
Whatever your meat of choice, there is a wealth of tasty accompaniments that are mostly interchangeable and all part of the traditional menu for a British Christmas.
In a recent YouGov survey to establish the most important ingredient in Christmas dinner, 85% said the roast potato was top of the list – don’t forget to use the goose fat to make the tastiest roasties – with stuffing and gravy ranking closely behind.
Despite the stereotypical disdain of the brussel sprout, 62% of people would have them as part of their ideal Christmas dinner, making them slightly more popular than pigs in blankets!
If brussels aren’t for you, try kale as an excellent alternative. It’s a wonderfully British vegetable, in season now and has a naturally sweet taste, as opposed to the slightly bitter flavour of sprouts. Simply boil the kale in water, adding a good helping of salt, remove from the boiling water after five minutes and place immediately in iced water, which will help to retain the crunch. Toss in butter, salt and pepper and perhaps add a touch of nutmeg for an extra Christmassy flavour.
A final top Chrimbo tip: you can cook your turkey, wrap it in old towels and store it in a cool box, where it will stay warm for eight hours, freeing up your time and oven to focus on the veg and all the trimmings. Winner, winner turkey dinner! l
The Gog, Heath Farm, Shelford Bottom, Cambridge CB22 3AD 01223 248352 | www.thegog.com/christmas
LEFTOVER PIE – HOW TO EAT IT
In the spirit of making things simple, our favourite tip is to capitalise on the pre-prep that goes into the main event and create a tasty leftover pie.
When you’re clearing up, simply pop all your leftovers, meat, veg and roasties into a roasting tray or nice dish and leave to cool.
Store in the fridge overnight.
When you’re ready for Boxing Day lunch, make up a fresh batch of extra thick gravy and whizz through the relevant condiments – horseradish for beef, apple sauce for goose, cranberry for turkey.
Give it a good stir and pop on a pastry lid of your choice; shortcrust or puff will both work well.
Pop it in the oven for 30 minutes until piping hot.
Serve it with seasonal veg on Boxing Day or cool and freeze until New Year’s Day.