Perfect turkey: Quick, unstuffed and upside down

The proof: Perfect turkey

There was a lot of scepticism around my friends and family when the ‘mini cookbook’ was retrieved from the rather lavish box the turkey was handed over in.

A 5kg turkey that cooks in two hours 15 mins??!!!

Queue tales of food poisoning, of people eating Christmas lunch at 5pm or getting up in the middle of night to ensure it started early enough.

Over the past few weeks I’ve received all sorts of advice – stuff with sausage meat, rub with goose fat, a strange brine bathing ritual, wrapping in foil, place on celery sticks and put water in the pan et. etc. but it was all in vain. I ignored them all.

In the end it was simple and here’s what I learned.

  1. Cook without foil.
  2. Put the bird upside down until the final 30 mins.
  3. Only stuff the neck end – I used chestnut puree.
  4. Put a peeled onion in the other end.
  5. Rest it a good long time. I wrapped it in foil and tea towels and rested for about an hour.

The resulting bird was moist, cooked all the way through, hot and delicious!

Thanks to the farmer at Burtree House Farm for the excellent Kelly Bronze bird and these reliable cooking tips. I will not fear the Christmas lunch again.

Also quick thanks to other providers; Carricks fishmongers for the salmon, cheese from various locals providers but especially Hunter House Farm, Teesdale for the exceptional fresh goat’s cheese and finally, for the elegant table settings complete with sparkly table confetti.

That’s it for another year then, a lesson learned. How did your big lunch go?

links for 2009-12-20

links for 2009-12-18

  • You too can help in this endeavour by buying the book and/or spreading the word about it. There is so much of poverty in the world and whilst this book will not resolve every problem, the money raised is a tiny step forward towards our underprivileged fellow beings’ welfare. One day, who knows, those tiny steps will become giant leaps one day. So please help in this endeavour and promote the book in any way you can. And I emphasise once again that 100% of the proceeds from this book will go towards the World Food Program (the United Nations frontline agency) called School Meals.

Free range turkey in demand despite credit crunch

Despite the fact most people in a recent survey claim they would be eating a free range or organic turkey this Christmas, it’s possible that there might not be enough for sale on the shelves to satisfy demand.

Earlier this week, Farmers Weekly Interactive reported a survey which claimed a whopping 86 er cent of those polled would be forking out for premium birds.

And I’m told that supermarket buyers have been caught on the hop believing that Britons would be having credit crunch Christmas lunches and turning their back on the more expensive poultry.

One turkey farmer in the north east of England told me that buyers have taken to ringing round organic and free range farmers across the UK to buy up any birds left over after failing to put in sufficient orders when the hatching began at the start of the year.

The survey of 1,791 was carried out by and its findings welcomed by a spokeswoman for ChickenOut, the campaign to promote free-range and organic poultry production.

“Obviously, in the present climate a big concern is people cutting back on their spending and considering free-range or organic to be too expensive” she said.

While the average price difference between an organic turkey and a standard turkey is between £15 and £20, the survey results suggest this is a price most are willing to pay. Of those asked, 62% only buy organic meat all year round, the remaining 24% are prepared to spend the difference at Christmas, but not throughout the year.

What do you think? Is the higher price worth it?

Christmas dinner extras

One of the best things about Christmas lunch is all the extras so I thought I’d get prepared and gather together some of the recipes for all the accompaniments for the main course.

First mince pie done, now for the cheese board

First mince pie of the year. Warm, crumbly with a splodge of clotted cream………..mmmm lovely! In a couple of weeks time, the words, “would you like a mince pie with that?” will no doubt take on a daunting one-more-mint overtone and induce an inward groan, but the very first one of the year still retains the  promise of a magical Christmas.

This first mince pie came courtesy of another of those festive traditions – a hamper full of goodies. There’s something special about getting a hamper through the post, opening it to see what’s packaged within so I’d like to say a big thank you to the people at Interflora for sending this Christmas Festivities Hamper

Well what is inside?

At first view this looks like a parcel for the sweet-toothed. Alongside The Old Chapel mince pies there’s a whole host of sweetie goodies (see the full list below) but digging a little deeper and there’s also some savoury treats – Duchy rosemary and thyme cheddar cheese nibbles and Bromley’s sticky onion chutney.

As most of my expected Christmas lunch guests are big cheese fans, I’m still making up my mind on what cheeses to offer.

While everyone expects the usual Stilton, brie and cheddar, North Yorkshire is blessed with plenty of fantastic regional cheeses and I’d like to introduce them to guests coming from across the UK, so in the name of research, today I re-visited a couple of old favourite’s which will most certainly make it onto the final cheeseboard.

The fresh, flavour of semi-hard, unpasteurised  Cotherstone which hails from a small dairy in the nearby Teesdale village of the same name is quite a complex cheese. It’s not of the strong or stinky variety, instead it has a lightness which is almost the essence of the grasslands.

The other (in the green rind) is the well-known Wensleydale from the Hawes dairy. This was the mature version – dense, deeply flavoursome and crumbly – a complete contrast to its northern cousin.

The acidity and sharpness of the sticky onion chutney made a perfect companion for the Wensley although was perhaps a little too strong for the delicate Cotherstone which is better with no relish.

A plate heaped up with the Duchy nibbles (which are just that – little bite sized nibbles which are too cheesy to be topped with cheese) provides a fragrant rosemary kick which can liven up the cheese board.

It’s these little extras which I think make receiving a hamper a pleasure, there’s quite a few things in there which I wouldn’t have thought to have put on the shopping list, but thinking up different ways to incorporate them is part of the festive excitement.

Plus I’m a bit of a sucker for wicker baskets – and now I’ll have something left over which can hold its own on picnics next year.

* The other items in the Interflora Christmas Festivities Hamper (£70) were; Twinning tea selection, two bottles of wine (a white Macebo 2008 and red Tempranillo 2006), clotted cream fudge, clotted cream biscuits, fruit cake topped with sugar crystals (Maxwell and franks), choc chunk shortbread, Foxhill strawberry jam and cranberry sauce, milk and dark selection of chocolates from Beech’s and of course – Christmas pudding (Maxwells & Franks).

(Note: The cheese, salad and Devon clotted cream pictured are my own additions. The hamper was supplied free-of-charge for review purposes).

links for 2009-12-11

  • From Christmas cake to cranberry sauce, nearly all of our uneaten food can be frozen and served up later (if you’d like some more advice or reassurance on this, visit the arctic aunt on the Love Food Hate Waste website). And when you think that collectively, in the UK we’re throwing away £12billion worth of food and drink annually (and in doing so creating 20million tonnes of unnecessary carbon), this is clearly a very worthwhile option.
  • The picture from the rest of restaurant land is vague, not least because it always is at this time of year. Even the worst hit businesses usually find a way to stagger on until Christmas, in the hope that the uplift in business which comes with office parties will give them enough of a cash injection to boost them into the New Year.
  • The award means that Cornish sardines have become the UK's 40th food name protected under the EU protected food name scheme, joining Stilton cheese, Melton Mowbray pork pies, and Scotch beef and lamb. The scheme ensures food names are legally protected on the basis of their link to a specific geographical area or because they are made to a traditional recipe.

links for 2009-12-08