Friday, 30 December 2011

Roast Goose Risotto with Squash, Thyme & Chestnuts

What to do on the third day of using up leftover roast goose (or turkey or chicken)? Make a risotto of course! Easy leftover using-up strategy.

The prep is key here, so start by roasting a peeled and cubed squash until soft along with a handful of chestnuts, and chopping up your goose meat into small peices. 

If you have leftover squash then use that, you could also use half of a vacuum pack of pre-prepared chestnuts if you like. Depends what you've got handy! Keep them hot in the switched-off oven if making the risotto right away, otherwise be prepared to reheat them before adding to the risotto.

As with so many recipes, kick off the risotto by finely dicing an onion, a couple of celery sticks and a fat clove of garlic or two. Warm up a splosh of oil and a big hunk of butter in a deep frying pan and gently saute them until soft.

At the same time, put a pint / 500ml stock in a saucepan on the heat to stay hot.

Add half a bag of risotto rice, about 250g, (to serve 4 people or 2 with leftovers) stir it in and let it sizzle for a few minutes before adding a wine glass of vermouth (or white wine). Stir until all the wine has been absorbed. Then, a ladle at a time, add the stock to the rice, stirring and stirring each time until it's all been absorbed into the rice. One thing I've found is that this goes much faster and works better if you keep the pan pretty hot, the stock should bubble a little when you add it to the pan.

Just as you finish the last ladleful of stock, add the squash, chestnuts, goose and lots of thyme leaves. Stir through to mix and then grate a load of parmesan into the dish, along with a few knobs of butter, some fresh chopped parsley, a squeeze of lemon juice, ground pepper and salt if needed.

Serve with a smile of satisfaction at thriftiness well executed.


Thursday, 29 December 2011

Christmas How To... Bubble & Squeak

Bubble and Squeak is a traditional British dish eaten on Boxing Day (26th December). It basically means leftovers...

More specifically, it's leftover meat and vegetables from the day before, pan fried until cooked through and served with mustard, chutney and pickles.

In my case, the meat has been steeped in gravy overnight which makes the dish moist rather than crunchy. A different variation is to add mashed potato and form the veg into patties before frying; with those you serve the meat cold on the side though, rather than mixed in.

Cut the leftover vegetables into small chunks and pop into a frying pan heated with a little oil, mix in any bread sauce or mashed swede left overs, as well as the shredded meat and, if necessary, a drizzle of stock or gravy. You can add any extras you fancy, such as chopped chilli or a fried egg.

Cook through until piping hot. Easy, filling and good for a hangover! 

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Christmas Dinner: The Biggest Feast of the Year

I'd be lying if I said I didn't get disproportionately excited about christmas and christmas food. I've been hosting xmas at my house for 3 years and cooking the food for several years prior to that, having inherited the duty due to my enthusiasm for the task. I haven't had any disasters but I don't think anyone would disagree if I said that each year I'm getting a bit better at it. 

The ideal is to get the entire meal to the table, hot, before 3pm and without a single frustrated outburst or stress-induced teary argument. Difficult, but not impossible.

This post is to tie together all the other ones, each relating to an element of xmas dinner or xmas in general. You might think there are a few things missing, each family has their own traditional accompaniments, but partly that's because we had a small scale xmas this year so I didn't bother with stuffing or redcurrant sauce. I bought the pigs-in-blankets ready made too.

Spicy Glazed Ham 
Roast Goose
Rich Gravy
Perfect Roast Potatoes
Bread Sauce
Bubble and Squeak

I've got my inspiration from various cookbooks, from my family, friends and just from doing it year on year. Below is a list of the books I've turned to time and again in recent Christmasses:

Nigella Christmas ~ Nigella Lawson
The Good Housekeeping Cookbook (1998)
Sunday Lunch ~ Gordon Ramsay

Christmas How To... Cook the Accompanying Veg

Christmas dinner isn't complete without a full array of delicious, seasonal vegetables. These are really easy, hardly a recipe at all, but I know I'm often interested in what other families cook for their dinner so I thought I would include them. 

I also know there is interest from people new to the UK, who would like to create a British style christmas dinner for the first time but aren't entirely sure what it involves - so I thought I'd be comprehensive in my xmas posts!

Seasonally speaking, root vegetables such as carrots, parsnips, beetroot and swede, plus brassicas like brussel sprouts, as well as broccoli are all at their lovely best right now. I'm particularly fond of parsnips myself, my Mum loves beetroot, my Dad loves carrots and my husband is a broccoli fiend, so each and every one has to make it onto the christmas table.

Unlike a lot of other families, I haven't messed around with our veg too much. Partly this is because my Mum absolutely hates sweet flavours in savoury food, so the traditional honey or maple glazes are right out, and she's frankly not fond of nuts like almonds, pine nuts or chestnuts either, so souped up brussels wouldn't be popular.

I also don't want the veg to outshine the goose or the gravy, they are supporting actors and showering them in gifts of honey / cumin / sesame seeds / balsamic vinegar or any of the other common props won't help the stars of the show to shine!

I think the most important bit is the cutting - trying to make the parsnips and carrots fairly uniform in thickness before roasting them, to avoid burned tips or undercooked tops.

The beetroot needs to be pre-boiled in a large saucepan of water for a good hour until tender, before skinning and slicing into wedges. 

Roast the beetroot in a separate tin if you can, to avoid the colour bleeding into the parsnips and carrots, which can go in together. Season with salt and pepper and coat in olive oil, mixing with your hands to ensure good coverage. 
These root veg all take about 45 minutes to an hour until they're ready, but keep an eye on the beetroot; remove it and cover in foil if it looks like it's going to burn.

Swede needs to be peeled and chopped into inch square cubes, then boiled until soft and mashed with plenty of butter, salt and pepper.

Sprouts and broccoli only need the lightest of steaming or boiling with a small amount of water, keep the crunch - it's lovely.

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Christmas How To... Make Perfect Roast Potatoes

The holy grail... perfect roast potatoes: crisp and crunchy on the outside, light and fluffy on the inside. Worth fighting your Dad for!

If you're cooking goose for lunch, take all that excess fat, pop it in a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper and shove it in the oven at least half an hour before you intend to put the potatoes in. 
You can also buy goose fat in jars or simply cook your roasties in another fat, such as olive oil.

While the fat is heating up, cut up your potatoes into thirds or quarters, depending on their size. Allow at least four potato peices per person, five to be on the safe side and six or seven if you want leftovers. Put them in a large pan and parboil them for about 15-20 minutes until fairly cooked on the outside but still firm inside.

Drain the water from the pan and sprinkle semolina over the potatoes. Put the lid on and give them a gentle bashing, to rough up the edges.

When the fat is hot, put the roasting tray on the hob, with the heat on if your kitchen is cool, and place the potatoes into the fat where they should start to sizzle.

Bung back in the oven for about 45-mins to an hour, turning them halfway through and draining off excess fat if necessary.

Roasties must be hot, so pre-warm the serving dish and keep them hot in a low oven until you're ready to eat.

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Christmas How To... Make Bread Sauce

Even my Dad eats this and he usually hates bread sauce. For me, a roast dinner isn't complete without it and I certainly wouldn't be happy if christmas dinner didn't include it. The trick is to leave the milk to infuse for a very long time.

Pop a pint of milk (about 500ml) into a saucepan with a small, halved onion (or two quarters of a large one) with a clove pushed into each peice. Add a bay leaf, a peice of mace and a few white peppercorns. Put on the heat and bring almost to a boil, but not to boiling point. When you see bubbles starting take it off the heat and leave. Just leave it alone, for hours.

Strain the milk into a bowl full of torn bread, preferably a bit stale. The best part of half a loaf will do the trick, just remember to take off the crusts. Pop in the fridge and leave until you are almost ready to eat it.

When you're ready, decant the milky bready mixture back into a saucepan with several knobs of butter and a splosh of double cream. Heat up gently and season with salt, pepper and grated nutmeg. Delicious.
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Christmas How To... Make a Rich Poultry Gravy

Mmm, gravy. You could use granules. You could use a pot or sachet from the supermarket. You could rely on deglazing the pan with stock made from a cube. But this is christmas and the absolute best thing to have on the table is lots and lots of rich, deeply flavoured, piping hot gravy, made from scratch (and from happy birds).

Hopefully, you've got some giblets from your goose / chicken / turkey / other christmas birdie. Take the liver out and put aside, you can eat it separately pan fried on toast but it makes gravy bitter so don't include it (it looks like this). 

Along with the giblets, put a few chicken wings, necks or even just old carcasses, into a large saucepan. Most butchers will sell you wings and necks for gravy, abel and cole also sells them, I also keep a load of bones in the freezer for use in stocks.

To these, add a quartered onion, a couple of bay leaves, some parsley stalks, a couple of broken carrots, a couple of broken celery sticks and about 10 peppercorns. Cover with cold water (a couple of pints / a litre) and pop on the hob. Bring to the boil then turn down and simmer for a good couple of hours. Keep tasting it, and don't take it off the heat until it has reduced down and has a good flavour (remembering that there's no salt in it yet though, so don't expect it to taste "finished").

Strain it into a jug and either skim off the fat or use a fat separator jug - I found one in the kleeneze catalogue and found it really useful. Leave it to cool and pop in the fridge, covered with clingfilm, until ready to make your gravy.

When you get your bird out of the oven and put it aside to rest, pop the roasting tray on the hob and add the stock to it (if it's been in the fridge it will be jellified, that's a good thing!). To this add a slosh of wine (red or white, your choice) and a spoonful of redcurrant jelly. Get it bubbling and burn off the booze, scraping the bottom of the tin to get all the caramelised bird juices into the mix. Result = awesome gravy. 

Serve piping hot in a really twee gravy boat.

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Christmas How To... Roast a Goose

Both turkeys and geese have featured as traditional British Christmas fare, at least for those who could afford to eat them, for about 500 years. I'm not a big fan of the turkey myself, I mean, it's ok but it's not quite delicious enough for me to consider it an amazing treat. It's the goose that makes me dribble in anticipation, and so it's the goose I prefer to cook for our feast.

Unlike turkeys, which really do require brining and all the other associated work to ensure their moistness, goose is easy to prepare as it requires so little fussing. I ordered a "small" goose. Hahaha. Small means around 13 lbs /  5.5 kgs and would happily have fed six or more hungry guests, even without an extravagant number of side dishes.

For the perfect roast goose, here's what you need to do:

  • Leave your goose out to come up to room temperature for a couple of hours.
  • Pop her in a big baking tray on top of a trivet and preheat the oven to 200 degrees.
  • Trim off any excess fat and put to one side (for your roasties).
  • Use a fork to prick the skin all over.
  • Dribble a tiny amount of olive oil over the skin, sprinkle salt over and then massage in with your hands.
  • Tightly wrap the legs with tin foil.
  • Loosely wrap the whole bird with tin foil.
  • Bung her in the oven for 15 mins per lb (450g) + a further 15 mins. Drain off some or all of the fat about halfway through, and take the main peice of foil off for the last 15-30 minutes.
  • Take her out of the oven and leave to rest, covered in foil, for at least half an hour and preferably for a full hour (though not longer) before taking to the table as a glorious centerpeice.
  • Make the gravy.

A final tip: after the christmas meal get someone to remove all the meat from the carcass and store this in a shallow dish with the leftover gravy, topped up with stock if needed. Overnight the juices keep the goose really moist, giving you the best bubble and squeak the next day.

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Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Christmas How To... Make a Swiss Roll

Ok, so I'll admit that swiss roll doesn't immediately spring to mind when you think of Christmas, however it is an essential part of my trifle, so it has to be given a place.
It's a sort of sponge cake cooked in a very specific way, to ensure that it is light and flexible enough to roll without breaking. You will need an electric whisk for this.

Measure out 125g of caster sugar into a basin, pudding bowl or other heatproof vessel. Crack in 3 eggs and get out your whisk. Boil a saucepan of shallow water with a low trivet in and place the bowl over the top. Whisk and whisk and whisk until the mixture is pale and extremely light and fluffy looking, almost overflowing the bowl.

Remove from the heat and whisk for a bit longer, letting it cool down a bit. Measure out 125g of plain flour, seive it into the eggy mixture and gently fold it in, followed by a tablespoon of hot water.

Line a shallow baking tray with greaseproof paper, sprinkled with a little sugar, and pour the mixture in. Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes at 200 degrees, depending on the thickness of your baking tray. Check on the poor thing: don't let it burn!

Lay a damp teatowel onto your worksurface with another sheet of greaseproof paper on top, again sprinkled with a little sugar. When the cake is done, quickly upend the cake onto the paper on the teatowel. Peel the used paper off the bottom of the cake (now the top).

Heat up some your favourite flavour jam in a saucepan, this will make it nice and easy to spread. Spoon or pour it onto the cake and use a knife to spread it all over. Since my Dad is diabetic, technically he shouldn't eat any swiss roll at all. However, that would be what happens in fantasy land, in the real world he will inhale it until the whole family shout at him, so I have used a bare scraping of jam to try to minimise the damage.

Roll the cake up towards you, using the teatowel to help grip it firmly and taking care not to break the sponge. The centre should be tightly rolled, the outer layers less so. Leave to cool, if you can, before eating slices off the two ends. The rest, at least in our house, belongs to the trifle.

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