I still remember the first time I had a proper Christmas dinner with roast turkey – it was in my third year of university, where my flatmates and I decided to take the plunge and cook a turkey for the first time ever. And it turned out pretty well! I have fond memories of that dinner, mostly because I spent a fair bit of time decorating the table, and was really pleased when it turned out nicely!
My first ever Christmas dinner!
Since then, I’ve tried to cook a Christmas dinner every year. It’s lots of fun, and it creates a lot of leftovers – which I love.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a huge fan of the food channel, and I watch as many Christmas specials as I possibly can. My favourites are Nigella (because she’s Nigella), and Jamie Oliver. Rather dissapointingly, Nigella didn’t have a Christmas special this year, but thank goodness for reruns!
I normally cook the turkey in the traditional way – butter on the turkey skin, with some herbs stuffed in the cavity. However, Jamie had this interesting method of cooking his turkey, what he called the “self basting turkey” method. This simply meant he stuffed butter under the turkey skin, which helps to crisp the skin as well as keep the breast meat nice and juicy. What was even better was the fact that he used flavoured butter – which I thought looked amazing.
The bad thing about stuffing butter underneath the turkey skin is that the areas with the flavoured butter looked darker (and “dirtier”), due to the herbs in the butter. It still tasted delicious though, and the skin was amazingly crispy – the crispiest skin I’ve had on a turkey to date.
And of course, what turkey is complete without some stuffing? I like cooking the stuffing separate from the turkey, and usually cook them in individual “meatball” sized pieces. This year, I decided to do something different, and cooked it in a loaf pan – which made it look a bit like meatloaf! There are cranberries and walnuts in addition to the sausagemeat, which I enjoyed as they provided a nice contrast of textures.
The turkey “meatloaf” stuffing
There were also dishes served on the side…
Roasted potatoes with a twist – inspired by this recipe by Martha Stewart. There was just the right amount of lemony-ness in the potatoes, which I absolutely loved. I also liked that I got to use olive oil instead of something more sinful like goose fat. All I can say is, if you’re a fan of lemons, you’ll love the taste of these potatoes!
Brussel sprouts, with pancetta and chestnuts. This dish was inspired by the one and only Nigella – she cooked this on her show, and I thought it sounded really interesting. It turned out well, and I really enjoyed the various textures in the dish: the crunchy brussel sprouts, salty pancetta and sweet chestnuts. Can’t say I’m a fan of brussel sprouts though – I’ll eat it but I wouldn’t order it in a restaurant, let’s just say.
Cranberry sauce, a necessity for a Christmas meal (to me anyway!). This was cooked with orange peel and and a touch of cinnamon, which gave it a very nice “festive” feel. I didn’t like how bitter the cranberry seeds were, so decided to run the sauce to a sieve – and the sauce became much sweeter.
In all, I must say that I really enjoyed my Christmas dinner – and I still have some leftovers in the fridge, which is brilliant. I’m one of those people who enjoys turkey leftovers more than the actual meal itself, as it gives me the chance to create new dishes!
On another note, I can’t believe it’s already New Year’s Eve. Time has really flown by, and I can hardly believe how much has happened in the last year. I won’t go into it all as it would be a really long post, but all I can say is that I’ve enjoyed 2009 immensely.
So, here’s wishing all of you a very Happy New Year. May 2010 bring joy, good health and good food to you all! xxx
Inspired by this Jamie Oliver recipe
- 5 kg turkey
- 2 clementines
- 2-3 sprigs rosemary
- 200g butter
- 2-3 sprigs rosemary (chopped finely)
- 2-3 sprigs lemon thyme (chopped finely)
- 2-3 bay leaves (chopped finely)
- rind of one clementine
1. Make the flavoured butter: Mix softened butter with the grated clementine rind, chopped rosemary, chopped lemon thyme and chopped bay leaves. You may add dried cranberries to the butter, but I left this out as my stuffing already contained this.
2. Preheat your oven to as hot as it can go (for me, this was 220ºC).
3. Get your turkey, and use a spoon to work your way between the skin and the breast meat. Take care when doing this as you do not want to break the skin. Stuff the butter into the cavity you have just created. Rub any remaining butter all over the turkey.
4. Halve 2 clementines and pop them into the cavity with a few sprigs of rosemary. Jamie says that this is so the fruit will steam and flavour the turkey.
5. Put your turkey into the preheated oven, and immediately turn the oven down to 180ºC.
6. As a rough guide, each kg of turkey will need 35-40 minutes to cook. That said, each turkey and each oven is different, so just check on your turkey every 30 minutes and keep it from drying out by basting it with the juices from the bottom of the pan.
7. When the skin gets golden and crispy, the turkey should be done. To check on this, gently pull the drumstick outwards – if the juices run clear, the turkey is done. Alternatively, it is done when a meat thermometer (inserted in the thickest part of the breast) reads 65ºC.
8. Move the turkey to a platter then cover it with a double layer of foil to keep it warm while it rests for at least 30 minutes.
Cranberry and walnut sausagemeat “meatloaf” stuffing
Inspired by this recipe
- 400g dried cranberries
- 150g walnuts, chopped
- 1kg sausagemeat
- 4 shallots, finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 6 sprigs thyme, leaves picked
- 1 bunch sage, finely chopped
- 3 slices of proscuitto
1. Preheat your oven to 180ºC.
2. Mix all the ingredients (except the proscuitto) together, using either a spatula or your hands. Make sure all the ingredients are mixed up evenly.
3. Put the sausagemeat mixture into a loaf pan. Top with proscuitto slices.
4. Bake in the preheated oven for 45-55 minutes, until cooked through.
- 500g fresh cranberries
- 400g sugar
- rind of 2 clementines (I simply peeled the rind off, there is no need to grate it)
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- splash of red wine (ideally I would use port, but I only had red wine to hand)
1. Heat all the ingredients (except the red wine) in a pan over medium high heat. Once it reaches a boil, add the wine.
2. Turn down the heat, and simmer for 25-30 minutes.
3. If you like, you can sieve the mixture to get a silky smooth cranberry sauce.
Brussel sprouts with pancetta and chestnuts
See this recipe by Nigella – I followed it pretty closely (by my standards anyway!). Only changes I made were using red wine in place of marsala, and omitting the parsley.
Roast lemon potatoes
See this recipe from Martha – Only change I made was to use fresh herbs (which I used for the turkey) instead of dried.
* I’ve only posted the links for the last two recipes as there would be too many words in this post otherwise!