Tag Archives: christmas

Why the world gave us truffles

I haven’t had many relationships in my life and as a consequence, I’ve had few break ups. That said, apart from one of them, they all have one thing in common: a single moment when something changes from being ever-present to being non-existent. Few things in life are as abrupt or fundamental in how they alter your day to day existence (apart from those events far too sombre to cover on this blog).

It’s something I suspect none of us are really well equipped to deal with – shifting from having someone with whom you conduct a steady stream of communication with about your every day experiences and aspirations, to nothing. And the speed with which this change occurs is breathtaking – all it takes is a single conversation. Rather odd isn”t it?

Anyway, the good news is that the world is an expert in balancing life’s ups and downs, and that’s almost certainly the reason it gave us truffles, possibly the most exciting little cat-turd shaped foodstuff known to humanity. And so it was that on Christmas eve eve, I was in a department store in London looking for a gift for my father when I happened upon a counter selling Italian white alba truffles. I had to have one. And what better excuse than cooking dinner for my family on Christmas eve. So here it is – fifty quid’s worth of the most beautiful smelling ingredient you will ever use:

Trfulle

And here’s (in my opinion) the best way to cook it:

White Alba Truffle with Linguine

This could not be easier. And that’s the point. When you have something as special as this, you must keep it as simple as possible to ensure maximum enjoyment of its unique flavour.
(It will serve 6 people as a starter).

Take a pack of linguine and put it in a large pan of salted boiling water with a little olive oil. Then take another small pan and in it, very gently heat a finely chopped clove of garlic with lots of olive oil (the best you can get your hands on), a big knob of butter and about a fifth of the truffle, sliced very thinly and broken up into the pan, infusing the flavours into the oil. Now finely grate a couple of handfuls of parmesan (not too much – you don’t want it overpowering the truffle) and chop a handful of flat leaf parsley – set them aside for now.

Once the linguine is perfectly cooked, throw it into a warmed bowl, add the heated oil mixture, season with a little salt (not too much as you have the saltiness of the parmesan) and plenty of pepper. Add more oil if required and the chopped parsley then gently mix it all together. Finally throw over the parmesan and shave the rest of the truffle on the top of the pasta, finishing with a last splash of olive oil.

Serve it up and receive great praise. I think this is the most exciting meal I have cooked in years…

Truffles and Linguine

 

What’s bad for the goose…

…is good for our Christmas lunch

It’s six fifteen and it’s all over bar the shouting, the arguments over monopoly (my nephew is a slippery little bugger), doctor who, indigestion and falling asleep during It’s a Wonderful Life (I don’t know what it is about that film, but I’ve tried three times to watch it and I’ve failed every time).

I’m not feeling at all inspired creatively at this moment, so I fear that all I’m going to be able to manage is to document the cooking events of the day that have taken this family on a journey from hunger to light inebriation, food ecstasy and utter fulfilment, where we stayed for a brief moment, before plummeting into overindulgence, fatigue and mild sickness (all, as ever, with no regrets).

Roast goose

This may take a while, but I want to get it down for the record (even if only to refer back to next year).

We’ll start by concentrating on the goose. Remove the giblets and any excess fat and set aside. Now prick the skin of the goose all over, rub with olive oil and season really well with salt and pepper (and five spice if you wish). Put it in a large roasting tin on top of a selection of roughly chopped carrots, onions, celery and a garlic bulb cut in half. You’re going to cook it for 30 mins per kg and then let it rest for 30 mins, so time it accordingly.

Take the giblets (not the fat) and put them into a pan with an onion chopped in half, a bay leaf, some peppercorns, a carrot and water. Heat the water and boil for 30 mins then set aside to cool – this is your stock.

For the stuffing, finely chop a large onion and two cloves of garlic, add to four large handfuls of breadcrumbs, a small handful of chopped sage, seasoning, a beaten egg, olive oil and 300g of sausage meat. Mix it all together and put a few balls of it into the goose. put the rest into a shallow wide ovenproof dish (you want the maximum surface area exposed) and rough it up a little so there are plenty of rough edges to get nice and crispy.

Preheat the oven to 220c and when it’s ready put in the goose for 30 minutes, then take it out, turn the heat down to 180c, remove the excess fat in the bottom of the pan, cover the legs in foil and then put it back into the oven for the remaining cooking time.

When your time is up, take the beautifully cooked goose out of the oven, cover it in foil and a few tablecloths and leave it to rest. After about 10 mins, drain all the juices from inside the carcas into the roasting tin and transfer it to a large warm plate, keeping the foil and tablecloths over it to keep the residual heat it. It can now sit for another 20 mins before you carve and serve it.

Now, everything else you do needs to work around this timing. What I have done for years is start with when you want to eat and work backwards with each step above along with the appropriate timing, then slot in all the other things you have to do and when you have to do them. Then you have your plan for the morning – here’s one I made earlier, complete with goose fat…(don’t worry about the upside-down bits)…

Now for everything else. We had the following – naturally I’d recommend them all:

Roast potatoes and parsnips, peas, carrots and leeks, shredded sprouts with bacon, bread sauce, cranberry sauce, sausages wrapped in bacon, red cabbage, stuffing and gravy. So here we go:

The red cabbage is best done the night before – chop a whole red cabbage, an onion and a few cloves of garlic very finely and put them in a large saucepan with a large block of butter and a couple of peeled and chopped apples. Add a few large tablespoons of berry jam, a glass of port and season well. Let it cook on a low heat for a couple of hours stirring from time to time. Now all it needs is reheating when you need it.

Now prepare all your veg – peel and chop the spuds, parsnips and carrots and leave them in cold water until you need them, also finely shred the sprouts and blanche them for just a few minutes and refresh in cold water before setting aside.
Next you can kick off the bread sauce: Chop an onion into four and put it in a saucepan with 6 cloves, 6 peppercorns , a bay leaf and a 500ml of milk. Bring it to just below simmering point for ten minutes and then set it aside for later.
Then, take a load of cocktail sausages, wrap them in streaky bacon rashers cut in half and pop them in a roasting tin.

For the cranberry sauce, take an onion and chop it finely along with a quarter of a chilli (no seeds) and a clove of garlic. Fry in plenty of butter and then add a bag of cranberries and a glass of port. season well, add two tablespoons of sugar and cook it gently on the hob until the berries pop, creating a semi smooth sauce, while maintaining a decent level of texture. Now taste for sweetness and add more sugar if necessary. Season with salt and pepper and set aside in a serving dish – it’s done.

About an hour before you’re going to eat, drain as much fat from under the goose as you can without throwing it around the kitchen and save for later use (putting the goose straight back into the oven and turning it up again to 220c). Take some of the fat, pour it into a roasting tin and place in the oven to heat. Par boil the spuds in boiling salty water for about 8 minutes, then drain off the water (into the saucepan with the parsnips), rough the spuds up in the saucepan with the lid on and then put them into the roasting tin with the hot fat, roll them around, season them well with salt and pepper and straight into the top of the oven. Put the dish with the stuffing in now too.

Now par boil the parsnips for about 5 minutes, drain them (keeping the water again) and set them aside.

By this time, the goose will be ready to take out of the oven, so take it out and replace it with the parsnips in a roasting tin with boiling hot goose fat (not too much by the way) and seasoned as with the spuds. Now’s probably a good time to put in the sausages too…

Right. So the goose is out of the oven wrapped in foil and tea towels, the spuds and parsnips are cooking nicely, the stuffing is in the oven and the cranberry sauce is sitting on the table ready – you’re nearly there…

Bread sauce – drain the infused milk into a fresh saucepan and add 4-5 handfuls of white breadcrumbs, and a very large knob of butter grate in a quarter of a nutmeg and pour in 200ml of double cream. Season and then heat it gently, adding more cream if necessary until you get the consistency you like (I know how personal the desired consistency of bread sauce can be so I’m not going try to tell you how it should be) bearing in mind that it will thicken up when it cools.

Nearly there…

Gravy – remove most of the fat from the bottom of the goose’s roasting tin, take all the vegetables that were roasting under the goose and put them into a saucepan with a couple of tablespoons of flour. deglaze the roasting tin with a large glass of red wine or port making sure you get as much of the juices from it as you can and into the saucepan. Mix in the flour well and put in the hob along with the goose stock. Bring it to the boil and reduce and season if necessary. This will give you the most beautiful gravy.

Finely chop a leek and fry in a saucepan in butter for a few minutes before adding the carrots, then a little of the water from the spuds to steam the carrots. Season with pepper (no salt as it was already in the water). After five minutes add the peas (which you defrosted by putting them straight from the freezer into a bowl of hot water).

Sprouts – finely chop 6 streaky rashers of bacon and two cloves of garlic and fry in lots of butter until the bacon starts to crisp a little. drop in the shredded sprouts and some of the buttery water from the carrots and heat for a few minutes…

Phew – I think that’s it. Serve. Enjoy. Receive praise. Eat too much. Feel sick. Fall asleep on the sofa. (oh and Happy Christmas)

 

(this one has the bread sauce and gravy added…)

Christmas Day

I’m not sure going into this in great detail makes sense, so I’ll just talk about what I cooked – The method was not revolutionary so I’ll assume you can wing it if necessary – and if you can’t then all you have to do is ask…
Roast the goose with a pork, sage, onion and apple stuffing (put in both orifices in little balls and then put back in the oven to complete cooking after the bird is taken out of the oven)
Roast Spuds and parsnips – par boiled before going into the oven (if you do this they will be soft inside and crunchy on the outside. If you don’t they will be dry and horrible)
Sprouts – par boiled for 5 mins until al dente then plunged into freezing water. Fried in butter, salt, pepper and garlic just before serving.
Carrots, peeled, cut into discs and sweated in butter with salt and pepper, peas (defrosted) 2 mins before serving to heat them through.
Bread sauce (do NOT buy ready made bread sauce – it’s disgusting) – onion and bay leaf in milk, heat up, strain into another saucepan, add breadcrumbs, add cream, add butter, nutmeg and seasoning – seriously – what could be easier??
Gravy – made from boiling the giblets with an onion and a carrot, straining, adding flour, butter, the liquid from par boiling the veg and all the lovely sticky bits from the bottom of the gooses roasting tin (with as much of the fat drained off as you can – greasy gravy is yuck) – then add wine or port and season.
Cranberry sauce, made with fried onions, cranberries, a shot of port and seasoning
I think that’s pretty much it – make sure you rest the bird for 20 mins before scarving – this is when you can turn up the oven to max heat to make sure your roast veg are nice a crispy!
One tip – for something like this where you have to serve up a load of different dishes all at the same time, I find it useful to put together a list with timings so you know when to prepare what, put what in the oven, on the hob, etc etc (I know, another list – but believe me it works)