Christmas food with Darina Allen

CHRISTMAS is coming, the geese are getting fat, please put a penny in the old man’s hat.

So goes the old nursery rhyme, so if we are lucky enough to be sitting down to a fine plump goose or turkey this Christmas, let’s give thanks to the Good Lord and Terra Madre and resolve to put our hands in our pockets for Simon or St Vincent de Paul.

It doesn’t necessarily have to be money — could be food or a few bottles of beer, wine, or lemonade to bring cheer during the festive season.

The delicious, buttery, herby stuffing I’m using here for the turkey would also be delicious in a free range chicken, pheasant or guinea fowl, the accompaniments are interchangeable but a few homemade potato crisps — called game chips when they are served with game — would also be delicious, if non-traditional, served with turkey.

Again the stuffing for goose or duck can be interchangeable.

Several local farmers, including Tom Clancy in Ballycotton, Robbie Fitzsimmons in East Ferry near Midleton and Eugene and Helena Hickey of Skeaganore in Ballydehob, West Cork rear delicious ducks.

Bramley apple sauce is  a delicious foil for the rich goose meat, but here I serve it with a simple Seville orange sauce.

Don’t forget to save the precious duck or goose fat — it’ll keep for ages in the fridge and produces totally irresistible roast potatoes.

For a starter, smoked and fresh salmon rillettes with dill or ruby grapefruit, with green grapes and pomegranate seeds is light and refreshing. Both can be made ahead, the rillettes several days ahead and the day before for the grapefruit starter.

The sauce for the plum pudding (see my recipe for this in the Examiner Saturday, November 26) keeps for weeks. Make more than you need, pop on a label and a ribbon and use the extra jars as presents.

Pick up a nice piece of spiced beef from your butcher, cook it according to the instructions, and serve it with some cucumber pickle, slices of avocado and flat-leafed parsley, a great standby for salads and sandwiches after Christmas.

Traditional mince pies have a pastry top and bottom, and delicious though they are we have had fun doing lots of twists on the original. We sometimes add a teaspoon of Bramley apple purée to each tart, or replace the pastry top with meringue or crumble with flaked almonds — delicious and less filling.

Sticky toffee pudding is a delicious alternative to plum pud — and cheaper. !Enjoy and many blessings for 2012.

Pomelo, Grape, Pomegranate and Ruby Grapefruit Salad

Serves 10

A deliciously refreshing starter before you tuck into the Christmas feast. If you can’t find a Pomelo, the giant of the citrus fruit family, then just increase the number of Ruby grapefruit.

1 Pomelo

3 Ruby Grapefruits

30 grapes

1 pomegranate

2 tbsp finely chopped mint

2 tbsp caster sugar or more if necessary

Peel and carefully segment the pomelo.

The segments are very large so cut into triangular shape pieces across the grain and put into a bowl.

Peel and segment the grapefruit in the same way but leave the segments whole and add to the pomelo.

Peel and pip the grapes and add to the citrus fruit in a bowl. Cut the pomegranate in half around the equator.

Hold it cut side on the palm of your hand, bash the skin side with the bowl of the wooden spoon, this will loosen the seeds from between the membrane, add to the fruit.

Sprinkle with sugar and mint. Taste, add more sugar if necessary.

Chill before serving in pretty white bowls or glasses with a sprig of mint on top.

Note: Sweeties, Ugli Fruit or ordinary Grapefruit may also be used in this recipe.

This cocktail is also delicious without the pomegranate.

Roast Turkey with Fresh Herb Stuffing

Serves 10-12

(4.5-5.4kg) 1 x 10-12lb, free-range and organic, turkey with neck and giblets

Fresh Herb Stuffing

170g (6ozs) butter

350g (12oz) chopped onions

400-500g (14-16ozs) approx. soft breadcrumbs (check that the bread is non-GM) (or approximately 1lb 4ozs of gluten-free breadcrumbs)

50g (2oz) freshly chopped herbs eg. parsley, thyme, chives, marjoram, savoury, lemon balm

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Stock

Neck, gizzard, heart, wishbone and wingtips of turkey

2 sliced carrots

2 sliced onions

1 stick celery

Bouquet garni

3 or 4 peppercorns

For basting the turkey

225g (8ozs) butter

Large square of muslin (optional)

Cranberry sauce

Bread sauce

Garnish

Large sprigs of fresh parsley or watercress

Cranberry sauce

Bread sauce

Remove the wishbone from the neck end of the turkey, for ease of carving later. Make a turkey stock by covering with cold water the neck, gizzard, heart, wishbone, wingtips, vegetables and bouquet garni. (Keep the liver for smooth turkey liver paté). Bring to the boil and simmer while the turkey is being prepared and cooked, 3 hours approx.

To make the fresh herb stuffing: Sweat the onions gently in the butter until soft, for 10 minutes approx, then stir in the crumbs, herbs and a little salt and pepper to taste. Allow it to get quite cold. If necessary, wash and dry the cavity of the bird, then season and half-fill with cold stuffing. Put the remainder of the stuffing into the crop at the neck end.

Weigh the turkey and calculate the cooking time. Allow 15 minutes per lb and 15 minutes over.

Melt the butter and soak a large piece of good quality muslin in the melted butter; cover the turkey completely with the muslin and roast in a preheated moderate oven, 180C/350F/regulo 4, for 2¾-3¼ hours. There is no need to baste it because of the butter-soaked muslin. The turkey browns beautifully, but if you like it even browner, remove the muslin 10 minutes before the end of the cooking time. Alternatively, smear the breast, legs and crop well with soft butter, and season with salt and freshly ground pepper. If the turkey is not covered with butter-soaked muslin then it is a good idea to cover the whole dish with tin foil. However, your turkey will then be semi-steamed, not roasted in the traditional sense of the word.

The turkey is done when the juices run clear. To test, prick the thickest part at the base of the thigh and examine the juices, they should be clear.

Remove the turkey to a carving dish, keep it warm and allow it to rest while you make the gravy.

To make the gravy: Spoon off the surplus fat from the roasting pan.

De glaze the pan juices with fat-free stock from the giblets and bones.

Using a whisk, stir and scrape well to dissolve the caramelised meat juices from the roasting pan.

Boil it up well, season and thicken with a little roux if you like. Taste and correct the seasoning. Serve in a hot gravy boat.

If possible, present the turkey on your largest serving dish, surrounded by crispy roast potatoes, and garnished with large sprigs of parsley or watercress and maybe a sprig of holly. Make sure no one eats the berries.

Serve with Cranberry Sauce and Bread Sauce (for recipes for both of these visit www.cookingisfun.info/saturdayletter/2007/12/01/christmas-dinner)

Traditional Roast Goose with Seville Orange Sauce

Serves 8-10

1 x free range, Irish goose, about 4.5kg (10lb)

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Seville Orange Sauce:

2 x organic orange

6 tbsp granulated sugar

5 fl ozs (126ml) red wine vinegar

5 fl ozs (126ml) red wine

1 pint (600ml) goose, duck or chicken stock (made from the giblets)

8 fl ozs (220ml) Port

1 — 2 tbsp Grand Marnier

Salt, pepper and a few drops of lemon juice

4 tbsp Seville orange marmalade

Watercress salad (optional)

To prepare the goose, gut the bird and singe off the pin feathers and down if necessary.

Remove the wishbone from the neck end and add to the giblet stock.

Season the cavity of the goose with salt and freshly ground pepper; also rub a little salt into the skin.

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4.

Roast the goose for about 2 hours or until the juices run clear.

Prick the thigh at the thickest part to check the juices.

If they are still pink, the goose needs to cook a little bit longer.

Meanwhile, make the sauce. Scrub the orange.

Peel the zest with a swivel top peeler and cut two thirds into fine julienne strips, blanch and refresh.

Boil the sugar and vinegar in a heavy bottomed saucepan over moderately high heat for several minutes until the mixture has turned chestnut brown coloured syrup. Remove from the heat immediately and pour in 1/4 pint (150ml) of the stock. Simmer for a minute, stirring to dissolve the caramel. Then add the rest of the stock, port, wine and juice of one orange. Simmer until the sauce is clear and lightly thickened; add the orange liqueur little by little. Add the blanched orange julienne. Taste, correct the seasoning and sharpen with lemon juice if necessary, leave aside. The sauce may be prepared to this point several hours in advance.

When the goose is cooked, remove the bird to a serving dish and put it in a very low oven while you reheat the orange sauce.

Carve the goose. Serve it with the Seville orange sauce and a watercress salad.

Hot tips

Christmas Markets

* Mahon Point Farmers’ Market has a Christmas market on Thursday, December 22 from 10am to 3pm, when the artisan food producers will be joined by crafts people.

* All-weather Christmas markets at the Milk Market, Limerick on Saturday, December 17, 2011, 8am to 4pm and Sunday, December 18, 2011, 11am to 4pm.

* Midleton Farmers’ Market Christmas market is on Saturday, December 24 from 9am to 2pm. Rachel Allen will be at the Midleton Farmers Market today from 11am to 12noon, to sign books.

* Douglas Farmers’ Market Christmas market on Saturday, December 24, outside Douglas Court Shopping Centre.

Mary Dowey’s weekend wine course at Ballymaloe House — Friday, March 2 to Sunday, March 4, 2012 — is the perfect gift for a wine buff. To purchase a gift voucher or to book, tel: 021-4652531 res@ballymaloe.ie; www.ballymaloe.ie.

A membership to Slow Food would be a welcome Christmas gift for a foodie friend: www.slowfoodireland.com. Give someone special a subscription to Food and Wine magazine, foodie news and great recipes for a whole year: www.harmonia.ie.

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