Without going too far left of centre, Elaine Lavery offers suggestions to bring some extra magic to the Christmas table this festive season
Although Christmas may be hiding behind a thick smog of exams, it would be sacrilegious for Otwo to have a food section and not do a feature on Christmas food – after all, what is Christmas about, if not food? So save this copy of Otwo, with the stash we know you so guardedly keep, to return to in a couple of weeks, or try an alternative Christmas dinner with your friends before everyone returns home for the holidays. Here are some of our suggestions for Christmas dinners done differently.
People need to realise that a turkey is nothing more than a giant chicken and a giant dried-out chicken at that. It is difficult to get an evenly cooked, succulent bird due to their monstrous size, so they will invariably be overcooked. Most turkeys sitting on our plates at Christmas will be battery farmed, and many will have been slaughtered weeks ago and are currently sitting in a freezer in some warehouse, slowly losing any flavour they might have had.
A lovely alternative to a turkey is goose, pheasant or guinea fowl – still in the poultry family, just a little more gamey and flavoursome. Go this route and you won’t be forced to think up new ideas for turkey leftovers. There’s only so much turkey curry, pie and soup one can handle.
If you insist on turkey, opt for free-range where possible. Turkeys of the bronze variety are particularly recommended if you can get your hands on one, and they require much less cooking time so you should get a better overall result.
Instead of a leg of ham, confuse your butcher this Christmas and ask for a leg of lamb. A seemingly dubious choice perhaps, but one novice’s faux pas led to a delightful Christmas dinner one year. After two decades of Christmas dinners, a little variety won’t exactly do you any harm. If you don’t like it, you still have about sixty of the festive meals ahead – more than enough time to revert to tradition.
Brussels sprouts actually look quite cute and if cooked correctly, to an emerald green, can also look quite appetising. But have you ever heard the phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover”? Yes, looks can be deceiving. No matter what you do with Brussels sprouts – wrap them in bacon, fry them in grease, dip them in chocolate and roll them in sprinkles – the conclusion remains the same: nobody likes them. They are sulphurous balls of gag. One for tradition? No thanks!
What is a viable alternative that people might actually make room for on their plate, instead of making it a one hundred per cent meat feast? My suggestion is to make use of the heat from the oven, with all that roasting meat, and make some roasted vegetables. A tried and tested recipe with a special Christmas twist is Parmesan coated turnips. Peel and slice a bunch of turnips into batons, parboil and roll, while still hot, into a seasoned flour and parmesan mix. Roast in a little sunflower oil till cooked and crispy. Delicious.
Mince pies are a bit like Marmite. You either love them or hate them. Or perhaps a better analogy would be with blue cheese – they are an acquired taste. If you are one to consider mince pies a waste of calories, you can still get into the festive spirit with a bit of home baking. White chocolate and cranberry biscuits are particularly Christmassy, with the studs of ruby cranberries standing out like precious jewels. Or why not tempt your friends and family with some iced gingerbread men? In fact, any cookie recipe will go down well, especially if you stock up on a collection of cookie cutters (stars, bells, holly etc.) and ingredients for decorating – think icing, hundreds and thousands, chocolate and dried fruit.
Happy baking and merry Christmas dear reader!