Before we put away the Christmas baubles and see the New Year in, I’d like to relish the Christmas turkey and all the trimmings a little longer. So until the cold cuts are quite eaten up and the fridge is bare again, I’m inviting you to join me for our traditional English Christmas dinner. Of course those of you on the other side of the Atlantic will still have memories of the Thanksgiving turkey and may even have relived it all over again on Christmas day.
First comes the turkey in all it’s burnished glory. There’s always the argument between those who like to ring the changes with a goose or even another roast like rib of beef, rather than stick to tradition. We did have goose one year but once the fat had all melted away it seemed a scrawny bird compared to the turkey. The worry with the turkey is always that it will be dry so we have to watch the cooking time carefully and perhaps employ a trick or too, such as cooking it for part of the time breast down, and an onion or lemon in the cavity for extra flavour.
The point of an English Christmas dinner is all the trimmings, to the point where the plates are groaning. I hope you appreciate my pretty presentation of the feast before it gets into such a jumbled state on the plate. There must be roast potatoes and parsnips of course, cooked in goose fat bought in a jar especially for the occasion. Then cranberry sauce – home made the day before in my case. I bought a punnet of fresh cranberries and cooked them gently in a pan with some cloves and nutmeg, sugar to counter the sour berries and some fruit jest of orange with the squeezed juice too.
My bread sauce is made with creamy milk heated through with half an onion and a few cloves, then thickened with white breadcrumbs. We must have brussel sprouts too, even though we wouldn’t countenance them at any other time of year, but we give the mini cabbages a bit of Christmas pazazz by stirring them with slivers of bacon and peeled chopped chestnuts. The stuffing is cooked separately and varies from year to year according to my fancy, but this year was made of minced pork, sweated onions and breadcrumbs, flavoured with some chopped dried apricots, lemon jest and juice and dried coriander.
As you can see from the photo, it does become rather a muddle on the plate but it tasted good (my food styling failed me for that photo). What’s for afters? Well, we have to stick to tradition with a small Christmas pudding although more than a mouthful is a bit too sweet and sticky. My mother generally brings the pudding from the supermarket although I do remember my grandmother making it herself when I was a child in a white glazed pudding bowl with the greaseproof paper lid tied over the top, and the lucky sixpences discreetly stuck in just before serving. We’ll stick some bay leaves or holly on top and flame it briefly for the full Christmas effect.
To keep the children happy though, we normally make an alternative, such as the trifle that we had this year. As long as you have all the component parts; the custard, cream, fruit and sponge cake, it’s a good one to ask your house guests to make. I hope you’re also impressed with the gingerbread house that was my sister in law’s contribution with jelly bean and marshmallow roof tiles.
So now the Christmas dinner’s over for another year, we can all look forward to the cold turkey sandwiches and plan our healthy eating regimes for the New Year.
More Christmas cheer
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