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17 December 2009


You can't have Christmas dinner without some good roast veg. Potatoes are a must, and a little roast pumpkin and onion and garlic won't go astray either.

I also steam some green beans, just so there's something in the meal that isn't totally artery-clogging.

Let's start with potatoes. I par-boil them first (just peel and boil them in salty water for about 10 minutes). Then drain, and bash them around a bit in the pot with some salt, rosemary and a little semolina.

Now, there are two options.

1. When my turkey has been cooking for about an hour and a half, I pour off most of the juices from the dripping pan and save them for gravy and more basting. Then add the potatoes to the pan (with pumpkin if you like, but you don't have to parboil that), and let them roast while catching all that delicious turkey juice.

2. Pour a jar of duck-fat into the now-empty dripping tray, and let it heat up while the turkey does its last hour in the oven. When the turkey's out, crank the oven up as high as it will possibly go. When the fat is HOT HOT HOT, put in the potatoes. They'll need about 20 minutes each side. Duck fat has a higher burning point to other fats, so it can get REALLY hot. This will make them all crunchy and awesome on the outside, but it does mean resting your turkey for nearly an hour.

Either way, make sure your potatoes are the last thing you take out of the oven and serve at the table. They should be PIPING hot. Crunch crunch crunch.

15 December 2009


As I mentioned in the turkey post, I don't put stuffing in my bird. But that doesn't mean there is no stuffing. WHAT A TERRIBLE THOUGHT.

My stuffing recipe is pretty flexible and changes every year. But it usually goes a bit like this:

Fry an onion (or two), some garlic, and 3-4 finely chopped celery stalks in butter, in a reasonable sized pot. Then add:
-lots of parsley
-lots of sage
-a bit of rosemary and/or thyme if you have any
-more butter
-bacon, if you feel like it
-1 egg
-some kind of nuts - I like walnuts or pine nuts, although chestnuts are traditional.

Then chuck in about 300g of roughly cubed bread. I like to use a really seedy multigrain with a hearty rye flavour, but if you want to go more traditional you can just use white bread.

Add some chicken stock to keep the whole thing moist, then put into a baking dish. I usually do this the night before Christmas, so it has plenty of time to get tasty and flavourful. But take it out first thing Christmas morning so it'll be room temperature by the time it goes in the oven.

My oven is usually pretty full of turkey and veggies by this stage, so I just chuck it in as soon as the turkey comes out, uncovered, for 40 minutes, as high as my oven will go. It warms all the way through and ends up all crunchy on top.

12 December 2009

Bread sauce is one of those awesome traditional dishes that sounds disgusting until you actually eat it, and then it is the best thing ever. This is my grandma's recipe, spruced up a bit with additions from Nigella.

You will need about 800g stale white bread, so make sure you leave the bread out overnight if you've brought it fresh. Then cut or tear it into rough cubes (about 1-2cm square)

Then on the day, heat a pan containing 1/2 a litre of full-fat milk, and 1/2 a litre of chicken stock. Then add:
  • 1 finely diced onion
  • 4 cloves
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon peppercorns
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground mace
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg.
Heat it all up but don't let it boil. Remove from heat once it's almost boiling, cover with lid. The longer you let it sit and infuse, the tastier it will be. This is a good thing to do in the early stages of the day, when you've just put the turkey on.
When you're almost ready to serve (turkey is out of the oven), put the mix back on the stove over a low heat, and either strain or fish out all the cloves and bayleaves and peppercorns (this is optional, you don't have to). Then add the stale bread cubes and cook for 15 minutes.
Just before serving, stir in 30g of butter, and if you've still got a bit of time, pop it in the oven for a bit. Serve with turkey.

10 December 2009


Roasting a Christmas Turkey is a daunting task, but it's really not that hard. It just takes a bit of planning. So here are my tips.

1. Buy a turkey. A good one, free-range. It will make all the difference.

2. Brine your turkey for 24 hours before you cook it. This is this totally complicated scientific thing that I don't quite understand, but soaking a raw bird in salt water makes it retain its moisture and juiciness when it's cooked. Plus it's a good opportunity to add some FLAVOUR.

To Brine A Turkey
Get a bucket containing
  • about six liters of cold water
  • 2 quartered oranges
  • 250g Maldon salt
  • 3 tbsp black peppercorns
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tbsp caraway seeds
  • 4 cloves
  • 2 tbsp allspice berries
  • 4 star anise
  • 2 tbsp white mustard seeds
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 2 unpeeled quartered onions
  • 1 6cm piece of ginger, cut into slices
  • 4 tbsp maple syrup
  • 4 tbsp honey
  • stalks from a bunch of parsley (you will use the leaves for the stuffing)
  • a bunch of sage
  • a turkey (5-6 kilos, will serve around 10 people)

Doesn't it look pretty? Cover it all up with some gladwrap, and stick it somewhere cool and out of the way for 24 hours before you cook it (the turkey should be pretty cold and possibly frozen anyway, so you don't need to worry about it going off. Just don't stick it in the sun).

3. Don't stuff it. Stuffing means your turkey is denser, which means you have to cook it for longer, and the meat is dry and tough. I cook my stuffing separately in a dish, which has the added bonus of it going all awesomely crunchy on top.

4. Prepare your turkey.
After taking your turkey out of his briney bath, give it a good pat down with some paper towel, then rub it all over (inside and out) with a lemon and some squished cloves of garlic. Then make a glaze containing:
  • 75g butter
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • chopped sage
  • a few cloves of garlic.
Paint the turkey inside and out, then chuck a bundle of fresh herbs (parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme - really!) and your lemon carcasses in the turkey's front and rear cavities. I do not truss my turkey, because it takes longer to cook that way.

5. Cook your turkey. BUT NOT TOO MUCH.
Stick your oven on at 200C. Put the turkey straight onto the wire rack of the oven, breast up. You will not have to turn it. Put a pan below the turkey to catch the drippings. Chuck a cup or so of water into the pan, so the drippings don't burn. Baste the turkey with these drippings every half hour. Roast a 5-6 kg turkey for 2 1/2 hours. Yep. Two and a half hours. That's all. Then take it out and let it sit for AT LEAST 20 minutes, but ideally 40 or even an hour. The turkey will continue to cook when it comes out of the oven, and reabsorb all of the juices. Letting it sit also makes it easier to carve, and gives you a good opportunity to reheat your stuffing and bread sauce, and really CRANK your roast veggies to get them all crispy.
Here is last year's turkey, fresh out of the oven. So juicy! Such crispy skin on top! NOMMM. I'm about to tent a bit of foil over the top so he doesn't get cold.

And that's it! Not really that hard.

Next week, stuffing, bread sauce and veggies.

04 December 2009

The Words We Found

Be! You are the winner of last week's giveaway! Send me an email at with your address and I'll post you your shiny copy of The Words We Found.


02 December 2009

Christmas noms!

I'm not much of a baker from January-November, but come December, I'm all over it.

Last year I blogged my recipes for mince pies and Christmas pudding, and now here's my recipe for Christmas gingerbread cookies. And when I say "my recipe for Christmas gingerbread cookies", I of course mean "Nigella's recipe for Christmas gingerbread cookies.

(makes 35-40)

300g plain flour
pinch of salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
2 tsps freshly ground black pepper
(1 tsp ground ginger - Nigella doesn't have this, but I reckon it gives them a bit more kick)

Then slowly add
100g soft unsalted butter
100g soft dark sugar
2 large eggs, beaten with 4 tbsp runny honey

Make two fat discs of pastry, and wrap one in gladwrap and stick it in the fridge.
Preheat the oven to 170C.
Dust a work surface with flour, and roll out your first disc of pastry to about 5mm thickness, and cut them using cookie-cutters (Nigella and I use snowflakes, but you could do stars or trees or angels or whatever).
Repeat with the second disc of dough, rolling all the leftover bits together until you've used up every scrap.

(if you want to turn these cookies into hangable decorations, this is a good time to use an icing nozzle to cut a little hole at the top of each biscuit)

Arrange your cookies on lined baking sheets and cook for about 20 minutes. It's a bit tricky to tell when they're done, you might need to give them a bit of a poke. Just watch carefully because they go from being "done" to "burnt" very quickly. Transfer them to a wire rack and leave to cool.

Prepare your royal icing - I buy the instant stuff from a cake-decorating shop, because it's easier than making it from scratch, and also more hygienic what with egg-whites and all. You can colour it if you like, but I leave mine white. Make sure you don't make it up too thick, otherwise it'll be hard to get on the biscuits.

Ice your cookies! I use an icing nozzle to trace designs, and add a few silver cachous (you know those little balls, yeah, I didn't know they had a name either), but you could completely blanket each decoration in white if you wanted, or add all sorts of other edible sparkles and fancy bits.
And that's it! Either nom them as they are, or thread a bit of ribbon if you made a hole and hang them on your tree.

Later this month I shall blog my tips for brining and roasting a forreals Christmas Turkey, and recipes for bread sauce and stuffing. NOMMM.

01 December 2009

NaNoWriMo - finished


So I finished NaNoWriMo, with only two crying tantrums (thanks to friends and loved ones for hugs and patience) and most of my sanity intact. November is a hard time of year, particularly in Australia, when things are warming up and everyone is racing towards the end of term. I had about a zillion other things to do this month, and they all (more or less) got done.

I'm pretty happy with my 50 077 words. I mean, they're all rubbish, but it's a rubbish first draft that I think I can probably wrangle into something a bit better. First job though, is to stick it in a drawer for a couple of months and GET MY CHEER ON.