What we had for Christmas Lunch

I blog about what we eat for Christmas lunch, mainly to remember things that worked well and for those that didn’t, not to repeat that mistake. This post is a little later than I planned, but it’s here now.

This year we ordered two Christmas roasts from Tesco. I was a little concerned as the night before the day I was going to collect the order I got a phone call from my local Tesco saying that part of my order had not been delivered to the store and offered a replacement. I wasn’t too happy with this, as it was quite short notice. In the end they had a late night delivery so I got my order in the end.

The main one was a part-boned turkey with chestnut stuffing. This was really nice roasted the chestnut stuffing was really nice too, with who chestnuts within it.

The second was a three bird roast, comprising a duck stuffed with goose and turkey. I remember once spending a lot of money on a Marks and Spencer four bird roast, which though very nice was mainly a big turkey with some duck, goose and chicken. So was a little bit of a disappointment, I blogged about that here, which reminded me not to go down that road again.

Along with the roasts we had roast potatoes, these I cooked in my usual way, which is as follows. I used Maris Piper potatoes, the type of potatoes I find is critical for getting crispy roast potatoes and a fluffy centre. I peel the potatoes and then par-boil for about ten minutes. Whilst they are in the pan of boiling water, I place the roasting tray in a hot oven with some sunflower oil (and I also add a splash of olive oil for flavour). This means once the potatoes are drained they are added to the pan which is pre-heated and has hot oil in. This speeds up cooking time and ensures a crispy roast potato.

I also did my regular dish of brussel sprouts pan fried with chestnut smoked bacon lardons and chestnuts.

brussel sprouts pan fried with chestnut smoked bacon lardons and chestnuts

I did roasted parsnips. Along with them I did some festive carrots, I followed a Jamie Oliver recipe for carrots. I took a frying pan, this I filled with evenly cut carrots, either whole or halved in the main. I then covered them with boiling water. To this I add a large knob of butter, a splash of white wine vinegar, the juice from two clementines (or similar citrus fruit, or one orange) and some dried mixed herbs. Then let the carrots bubble away on the stove top for about 40 minutes. Once the eater has evaporated, the carrots should caramelise in the remaining sweet and sour mix.

We had a selection of stuffings and pigs in blankets.

Overall we were very happy with the meal, it was very tasty.

Three plus Two Bird Roasts

I usually document what we had for our Christmas dinner in December, in the main so that I can recall what we had and when, what we liked and what we wouldn’t get again.

Our plan was to go with the Three Bird Roast from Tesco, however when we went to order it, they had sold out. So our second choice was the Three Bird Roast from Marks and Spencer. This was a combination of turkey stuffed with chicken, duck and a pork, plum and sloe gin stuffing,

It looked a little smaller than we expected, so I quickly picked up a Two Bird Roast from the shelves. This was some duck stuffed with guinea fowl, and a pork, pheasant, bacon and apple stuffing.

Different roasting times meant that I had to plan the cooking quite carefully. Along with the vegetables and all the trimmings

I have found that with these multiple bird roasts (as they are quite solid and son’t have bones) they can be easily over-cooked so care has to be taken.

We served our roasts with a selection of traditional accompaniments. We had roast potatoes, roast vegetables. Some steamed vegetables along with pan fried brussels sprouts cooked with chestnuts and pancetta.

The Three Bird Roast was very nice and tasty. There wasn’t a huge amount of duck (or chicken) in there, but yes it was a tasty festive roast.

Three Bird Roast Christmas

The Two Bird Roast was smaller, but just as tender and tasty. You could certainly taste the duck and guinea fowl in there.

Two Bird Roast Christmas

Overall we were pleased with the meal and it was enjoyed by all, probably enjoyed too much, as there wasn’t many leftovers for meals later in the festive period. So next year we may go for something larger.

Our Christmas Dinner

I usually document our Christmas dinner in December, in the main so that I can recall what we had and when, what we liked and what we wouldn’t get again.

In 2014 we went with an Aldi Four Bird Roast and though we enjoyed it, I wanted to have something different in 2015. Due to a range of reasons we didn’t pre-order any thing for lunch, so in the end it was a quick trip out to the local Morrisons. I bought a small turkey and a duck.

These were roasted in the over, taking about two hours. The flavour was pretty good and I managed to not over cook (or under cook) the roasts.

They were served with some traditional accompaniments, such as pigs in blankets and a range of stuffings.

The brussels sprouts were peeled and halved. These were then pre-cooked for a couple of minutes in boiling water. As we neared the serving time, in a hot frying pan I added a small amount of olive oil and fried off some pancetta. I then added the brusels with some pre-cooked chestnuts.

Overall a really nice festive meal.

Reindeer Cupcakes

Reindeer Cupcakes

These are the Reindeer cupcakes we baked last year, we are intending to bake them again this year. Lots of fun to make and the salted pretzels add a little something different.

The first stage is to make some chocolate cupcakes, I have a simple recipe that I use for cupcakes and the quantity can be increased quickly and easily simply by increasing the number of eggs.

The recipe is based around a single egg.

Ingredients

One egg
Same weight of self-raising flour, butter and caster sugar
One tablespoon of cocoa powder

Cream the caster sugar and butter together until smooth.

Add the egg and a little of the flour. Mix until smooth and then fold in the remaining flour and the cocoa powder.

Place spoonfuls of mixture into cupcake cases and bake in a medium oven for ten minutes. Once cooked, cool before decorating.

The cakes are covered in chocolate buttercream icing. Pretzels are used for the antlers and marshmallows for the eyes, spotted with black icing. The noses are homemade biscuits with a giant chocolate button, except for Rudolph who has a red icing nose.

Christmas Four Bird Roast

I usually write a blog post about our Christmas lunch, in the main when it comes to the following year I can remember what worked well and what was less of a success.

A few years ago I spent over a hundred pounds on a four bird roast from Marks and Spencers. It was nice, but was very much a turkey with a little bit of goose, duck and chicken.

The Sainsbury’s version of the four bird roast is a goose stuffed with turkey, duck and guinea fowl. I will say that this is basically a stuffed goose; it’s 62% goose, 9% turkey and there is 8% duck and 8% guinea fowl. Like the Marks and Spencers’ roast it wasn’t cheap, but was half the price of the Marks and Spencers’ version.

This year I would have been tempted to get it again, however Sainsburys weren’t doing it this year. In the end I went with the Aldi Christmas Four Bird Roast again, which we had enjoyed last year.

Christmas Four Bird Roast

The Aldi four bird roast was a little skimpy on the goose and duck, but I did expect that for a ten pound roast. It was simple to cook, but I did let it rest for thirty minutes which seemed to help with carving and the meat was very tender and moist.

It was quite tasty, stuffing wasn’t anything to write home about, but I did supplement it with some homemade stuffing, as well as bacon wrapped sausages.

Overall a success and good value for a tenner.

Brussels with Chestnuts and Pancetta

brussel sprouts pan fried with chestnut smoked bacon lardons and chestnuts

I once again cooked this accompaniment to the Christmas roast we had this year. It is very simple to cook, has festive overtones and really adds something special to the humble sprout.

I peeled and halved the sprouts, now I know some people will think that what is he doing, sprouts are supposed to be whole! Well what I want in this dish is for the sprouts to be a similar size to the chestnuts. The sprouts were partially cooked in advance, by placing in simmering water for about five minutes, drained and plunged into cold water and left to one side. You can do this earlier in the day so freeing up hob space for other things.

When you are close to serving time, in a hot frying plan, add a splash of olive oil and add the pancetta. I went for smoked pancetta, as I much prefer the stronger flavour and it goes well with the similarly strong flavour of the sprouts. Cook the pancetta until is just going crispy. The add the partially cooked sprouts and the chestnuts. I used the cooked and vacuum packed chestnuts from Merchant Gourmet. These are already prepared and cooked and are quick and easy to use. Next year I might use fresh chestnuts and prepare them myself. You can season with some black pepper, but no need to add extra salt, as the pancetta bacon adds the saltiness to the dish.

Toss and saute the sprouts and chestnuts with the pancetta and serve with your favourite festive roast.

French Sausage at the German Market

Birmingham's German Christmas Market

I have been to a few German markets in my time, but have to admit I rarely buy anything from them, usually it’s time, sometimes it’s price and other times what on earth are they selling!

Most German markets I have been too have had some beautiful Christmas decorations and bits, but there are also lots of food stalls.

Birmingham's German Christmas Market

On the odd occasion, though I make a purchase, this time I went with what was described as a French Hot Dog. They looked really quite nice cooking on the griddle.

The blackboard was chalked with £4 each or £6 for a double. What you actually got was a split sausage for £4 and the £6 was for a whole sausage.

It was served in a split section of baguette, along with grated cheese and french mustard mayonnaise.

So what was it like? Well to be honest it was a bit of a nightmare for street food. The sausage was fine, but the skin was really tough, making it very difficult to bite through. I also thought the sausage was rather too salty. The cheese was nice, strong flavoured, but the mustard was a little harsh. Overall a bit of a disappointment, and I thought for £4 was somewhat overpriced.

Cooking the Turkey

Well the Christmas dinner was a real success this year, really pleased with the end result. I like to write about it so next year I can remember what we had, what we liked and what I should avoid.

We had a fair few extra people around so I cooked two roasts, one was the four bird roast from Aldi (which costs just £10) and a more expensive roast from Morrisons, comprising turkey breast wrapped around a smoked pork tenderloin and then covered in pork crackling.

Both roasts were simple to cook and were both full of flavour. Turkey can often be dry, but I managed to avoid that, but that was probably much more down to the style of the roast, it wasn’t a whole bird.

The Aldi four bird roast was a little skimpy on the goose and duck, but I did expect that for a £10 roast. The stuffing was okay, but was slightly overpowering and could probably have down with less herbs.

Alongside the main dish I served a range of vegetables, including a brussel sprouts with chestnuts and pancetta. Timing I find is quite critical with this kind of meal, so I had done a fair bit of preparation in advance, so things went smoothly. For example I had made and prepared my stuffing the night before, I had already trayed up the pigs in blankets and cocktail sausages.

Overall the meal was a success and enjoyed by all.

Four Bird Roasts

Over the last few years we have had our main Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve.

There are many reasons for this, the main is that we have found it makes the meal so much more enjoyable. The children enjoy it more, it feels that Christmas lasts longer.

Last year we went with the four bird roast from Sainsburys, which I really enjoyed, it was easy to cook, looked great and was quite tasty. The Sainsbury’s version of the four bird roast is a goose stuffed with turkey, duck and guinea fowl. I will say that this is basically a stuffed goose; it’s 62% goose, 9% turkey and there is 8% duck and 8% guinea fowl. I really enjoyed the roast, it was what I wanted, though I would like to have more of the other meats alongside the goose.

Four Bird Roast, Goose, Turkey, Duck and Guinea Fowl

We had the four bird roast from Marks and Spencers in 2009, it was basically a stuffed turkey, the chicken, duck and goose only comprise 17%, but with 66% turkey it’s way too much turkey and at £120 is a little expensive for what is a stuffed turkey.

Though we enjoyed the roast, I did find that it contained a bit too much turkey, which is fine if you enjoy turkey, but as a result I do think at £120 it is a little expensive for what is basically a stuffed turkey. It isn’t a “proper” four bird roast, as in a turkey stuffed with a goose, stuffed with a duck and then a chicken. No, it’s a turkey stuffed with portions of the other birds.

According to my blog in 2010 we had a three bird roast, which to be honest I don’t remember.

So what are we doing this year? Well the plan is still to eat the main meal on Christmas Eve, but what will be the centrepiece? Haven’t yet made a decision.

What are you having?

Seafood Platter

For New Year’s Eve we decided to have a fish and seafood platter. It was an opportunity to cook and eat some great food. However one problem, as you may recall New Year’s Eve is not only part of Christmas, it’s also a Monday. As a result it was virtually impossible to find any fresh fish or seafood. Generally the fishing fleets don’t go out at weekends and I suspect that they certainly wouldn’t go out over a weekend during the festive season. As a result we went with frozen seafood, not my first choice, but with what we wanted it was better than nothing.

We got some frozen king prawns, scallops and squid from Sainsbury’s as part of their Taste the Difference range. One of the key things to do when using frozen seafood is to defrost and defrost safely. If you cook frozen seafood from frozen, generally what happens is that you overcook it and it becomes very rubbery. You need to take care when defrosting to avoid food poisoning. The best way to defost is in the fridge, but this takes time. If you do defrost at room temperature, make sure you move the seafood to the fridge once it has defrosted.

The prawns I cooked on my griddle, whilst the scallops were cooked very quickly on a hot flat frying pan, as were the squid rings.

scallops, prawns and squid rings

The scallops were perfect and I was really pleased with how I cooked them. They were browned on each side, but were only just done on the inside. As a result they were melt in the mouth tender, and full of flavour. The prawns were very good, and served with some lemon were delicious. I was less impressed with the squid rings. In the past when I have cooked squid, I have bought frozen whole squid from Tesco and cut it into pieces of squid. I much prefer using this way of preparing squid, usually scoring one side to ensure even cooking and browing of the edges. The squid from Sainsbury’s comes ready sliced into rings. It cooked fine, but it lacked the depth of flavour I have had in the past with squid from Tesco. Why didn’t I get my squid from Tesco, well they’ve seemed to have stopped selling it.

Alongside this plate of seafood I also grilled some giant tiger prawns in their shells. These were placed under a really hot grill, after they were fully defrosted and brushed with some olive oil. The main reason for these prawns is twofold, one is the visual impact, secondly was flavour. They were delicious, though of course were quite messy to peel.

Taste the Difference Whole Giant King Tiger Prawns

We also had some dressed crab, these were small crab shells filled with a crab pate and white crab meat. They looked really nice, but lacked the depth of flavour I would liked to have. This was served with some fresh crusty bread.

Dressed Crab


Another successful dish was some clams. I got a pack of frozen Big and Juicy clams from the Big Prawn Company which I mananged to buy at Waitrose.

Big and Juicy clams from the Big Prawn Company

Again the key was to ensue they were properly defrosted before cooking, well they’re cooked already, all they really needed was heating up. I did this in a pan with some freshly chopped garlic and parsley. I thought they were delicious and very good value at £3.29. I think they would also work with linguine if wanted pasta and seafood.

We also cooked some salmon, this was roasted in the oven with a little olive oil.

Overall this was a delicious meal, we served it with some fresh salad and I also made a paella.