Sunday, December 26, 2010

I love Christmas

Everything about it.

From our traditional champagne breakfast, to the pressies and all the wrapping paper strewn across the floor, to preparing the veg, cooking the meat, choosing pretty things to scatter across the table to flopping on the sofa for a game afterwards.

And yesterday was another great Christmas, spent with good friends.

Our menu for our final Christmas day of 2010 was:

Selection of starter nibbles including olives, a meat platter, tomato and mozzarella.

Slow roasted leg of Ernie Bastard (also known as lamb), roast turkey and garden vegetables.

Selection of cheeses

Chocolate mousse served with Chantilly cream.

Once again dinner took a number of hours, another thing that has become quite traditional for our Christmas, I aim for a course an hour now, which is one of the reasons that we have a starter selection, we sit and drink and nibble for an hour, then eat the main, then usually go off and play a game, I get a chance to clear the table (and a sneaky Christmas cigarette) then we have cheeses (before the dessert in the French fashion) before finally finishing off with some dessert and choccies.

I have bowed to family pressure this year and not served any brussels sprouts, in fact I did not even grow any this year.  But I did make chestnut stuffing.  Another thing that once upon a time I would never have done from scratch, out would have come the box of Paxo and I would have considered it job done, but with chestnuts in plentiful supply every autumn (over 5 kilos this year thank you Brendan!) it has become another tradition.

Chestnut and potrine stuffing.

Potrine is what we have in place of smoked bacon, it is a thick smoked slab of pork belly, and very yummy.

In a food processor, whizz up a couple of handfuls of cooked chestnuts  - cook and peel these then freeze prior to Christmas and this way you are not doing fiddley bits at the last minute, just take them out of the freezer the day before and allow to defrost.

Add a couple of slices of smoked bacon or potrine, cut into lardons.

Add a medium peeled onion, salt, pepper, and a couple of teaspoons of dried sage leaves.

Toast 4 thick slices of bread, or dry in the oven and crumble into the food processor.

You should now have a gloopy mix that does not quite stick together but is a bit wet due to the lardons.

To stick the stuffing together either add butter, or as Brendan does not eat butter I add a little bit of grape seed oil (flavoured with sage).  Add it to the mix while it is whizzing around drop by drop until the mix sticks together into a big ball.

Flour your hands and roll the mix into little balls on the palms of your hands, spread out on a baking dish and pop in the oven alongside your meat for an hour.

This year's Christmas main meat was a lamb leg from last year's hogget, Ernie - or to give him his full name, Ernie Bastard.  

To cook the leg, once defrosted I removed the thicker layers of fat from it because I don't think that the fat is particularly nice on lamb, then scored the meats, seasoned and studded with whole cloves of garlic unpeeled and sprinkled with some dried rosemary.  

I put the bits of fat I cut off in the bottom of an oven dish, then put a grill above it and placed the meat on the grill.  This way the fat cooks and helps to keep the meat moist without flavouring it.

Loosely cover with tin foil and cook on a low heat (in my Rayburn that works out to about 120°C to 150°C) for about 4 hours, don't turn or baste or anything else, just leave it in the bottom of the oven for a long time to slowly cook.  The leg was so tender, the meat was falling off the bone.  Just uncover the studded top for the last 20 minutes to brown the meat off slightly on the top.

Now it is Boxing Day, Brendan is pleased that no more snow fell so he gets to lie in bed rather than drive the snow plow around, I'm off to work shortly, and then going to try out my new Kindle.

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