Posts Tagged ‘chesnut stuffing’

Game for an alternative bird?

Sunday, December 21st, 2008

If you are looking for a last-minute festive alternative to the traditional turkey or goose, this recipe is easy to prepare, yet never fails to impress. Pheasant is available from good quality butchers all over the country between November and February. In order to prepare for this recipe, ask your butcher to wrap the pheasant with streaky bacon and truss it for you.

Although pheasant is a game bird, young pheasant does not have a strong gamey flavour. As with a lot of fowl, slow cooking yields the best flavour -but be careful not to overcook it, as it tends to dry out. The bacon ensures the bird retains moisture during the cooking process, as it has very little fat content of its own.

Fresh chestnuts are a wonderful seasonal accompaniment to the dish.

Pot roast pheasant with chestnut stuffing, serves four

1 pheasant
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion (finely chopped)
2 shallots (finely chopped)
100g (4oz) mushrooms (cleaned and finely chopped)
100g (4oz) goose fat 500 ml of good quality chicken stock
Quarter tablespoon dried mixed herbs
Quarter tablespoon fine sea salt
Freshly milled pepper
3 tablespoons Madeira wine
3 tablespoons cognac
12 chestnuts
6 or 7 streaky rashers


1. First, heat the oil in a pan, add the finely chopped onion and shallots and brown slowly, stirring often. Add the mushrooms and cook over a high heat stirring with a wooden spoon all the time. Season with a pinch of salt.
2. Allow the goose fat to soften and place it in a bowl. Add the mushrooms, onions and shallots, salt, mixed herbs, Madeira and cognac, and beat well with a wooden spatula until fully mixed.
3. Peel and place the chestnuts in a pot with a little chicken stock and cook over a medium heat for about 15 minutes (or until the chestnuts are soft, though still whole). Remove from heat and mix with the mushroom mixture. Stuff the cavity of the pheasant with the mixture.
4. Heat the oven to 150C (gas mark 2). Season the pheasant and the chest cavity, and lay streaky rashers along the top of the bird, ensuring the breasts are fully covered. Truss the bird (if not already done by your butcher) and place in a large casserole dish with a ladleful of chicken stock.
5. Cover the bird and cook in oven, allowing 40 minutes per pound. Turn and baste the bird every 15 minutes during cooking. For the last ten minutes of cooking, remove the casserole lid and turn the heat up to 200C.
6. Remove the pheasant from the oven and allow to rest for ten minutes. During this time, make a gravy by placing the casserole dish containing the juices over a medium heat and adding the remaining chicken stock. Bring to the boil and remove from heat. Pass the liquid though a strainer into a clean pot and return to heat. Bring to the boil and simmer until the sauce has reduced by three quarters. Whisk in a knob of butter and remove from heat.

Rise to the turkey challenge

Sunday, November 30th, 2008

Cooking the perfect turkey is often perceived as a challenge. If it is overcooked, the family faces eating dry turkey for days to come. If it is undercooked, everything else will be ruined by the time it has caught up.

But it doesn’t have to be like that. To make the task seem less daunting, just think of it as a large chicken. Its legs can be cooked separately, confit style (the recipe for which I’ve given before), and I recommend cooking the stuffing separately.

I like to cook my turkey in goose fat,very slowly, legs first, followed by breast, which makes it tender and succulent. This method also gives you more control over different elements of the final dish, so it is easier to get everything cooked perfectly.

When choosing a turkey, it is better to choose a young bird that is plump and with a short neck, as its meat will be more tender. If the turkey is old, its feet will be reddish and scaly. Consult your butcher about what size bird you will need. Choose the best quality turkey you can source and afford (a true Bronze is best). Ask your butcher to pluck it and remove the sinews from the legs so that it is oven-ready for you. Retain the giblets for making gravy.

Clean your turkey the night before you wish to eat it by washing it thoroughly under a cold running tap. Ensure the cavity is well cleaned, then fully dry the turkey using a muslin cloth or tea towel.

The perfect roast turkey

100g soft butter
2 tsp sea salt
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
4.5kg (10lb) turkey, with giblets removed and cavity wiped clean
3 large onions, halved
Chestnut stuffing
3 shallots, finely diced
100g lightly smoked bacon fat, finely diced
1 turkey egg or free-range chicken egg
1 small bunch of flat leaf parsley
650g of old brioche bread crumbs
250g of braised chestnuts, finely chopped
50ml of turkey stock (or chicken stock)
5g of unsalted butter
Sea salt
Fresh milled white pepper

Turkey method

1. The turkey should be prepared the night before. Mix the butter with the salt and pepper, then season the bird’s cavity.
2. Rub the butter mix all over the bird. Fold a large piece of greaseproof paper to double thickness and lay over the breast the protect it during the cooking.
3. Leave it in the fridge overnight.
4. On the day of cooking, heat the oven to 220C/gas mark 7.
5. Take the turkey out of the fridge and allow it to come to room temperature while the oven is heating up.
6. Put the onions in a large roasting tray. Put the turkey on a trivet or wire rack in the tray.
7. Pour one cup of boiling water into the bottom of the tray, then cover the whole thing with greaseproof paper and two layers of foil, making sure it is sealed around the edges.
8. Cook for 20 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 200C/gas mark 6.
9. After 90 minutes, remove the foil and greaseproof paper.
10. Cook for a further 40 minutes and don’t open the oven door until the cooking time is up.
11. To test if it is cooked, insert a skewer or knife blade into the point where the thigh joins the breast – if cooked properly, the juice should run clear.
12. If it is pink, cook it for another 20 minutes and test again. Leave the turkey to rest in a warm place for at least 15 minutes before carving.
13. Strain the juice from the bottom of the tin into a large jug – the fat will rise to the top, leaving the aromatic turkey and onion juice beneath.
14. Skim off the fat and use the juices to make a gravy, or else serve it as it is.

Chestnut stuffing method
1. Sauté the shallots and bacon for a few minutes without colouring. Add the brioche crumbs and egg and mix well. Then add the chestnuts and stock, season and mix well.
2. Place mixture into a buttered pan. Cover with parchment paper and place it into a warm oven at 165C for about 45 minutes.
3. Serve the sliced turkey with the stuffing, baby brussels sprouts, fondant potato and your best gravy