Well, I’ve done it again. Each Christmas I go into battle with the turkey species and each year I come off the loser. Not good when it’s a supermarket turkey, much worse when it’s one that cost more than half the usual weekly shopping bill. It looked good, plump and firm with dark coloured thighs and a large cavity for stuffing. To me, stuffing is important, perhaps even better than the bird.
I’m not one for experimenting with stuffings. The tried and tested oatmeal one is what I use as it helps keep the bird moist and we all like its nutty flavour. Simplicity itself to make and forgiving as to ingredients and quantities, it’s merely the liver of the bird (if available) and/or a rasher or so of bacon chopped and fried in oil with a chopped onion, and a chopped mushroom or two if you want. Add a little soy sauce, add the oatmeal, mix together and hey presto that’s your stuffing. The amount of oatmeal can vary depending on size of bird, but the mixture should neither be too dry nor too wet. Spoon into cavity and enjoy with the cooked bird.
Knowing my annual joust with the turkey is fraught with pitfalls, this year I was determined to minimise the possibility of failure, the hefty price tag egging me on. I noted the times advocated by the numerous TV chefs who appear on the box to tell us how easy it is, that with a little bit of planning we can all enjoy a hassle-free Christmas day. Ho, ho, ho. Who are they kidding! To be extra sure I even dug out the instruction manual for my oven and memorised the times given for a goose or turkey being cooked in the fan-assisted oven.
Bolstered by this, and the information given on the packet containing the cooking bag (I hate cleaning ovens) I lavished care on the bird, smothering it with olive oil, garlic, herbs, rashers of bacon and a branch of rosemary from the garden. Stuffed and inserted into its bag, it was nonchalantly slid into the oven while I turned my attention to the cranberry and orange sauce (with a hint of cinnamon – vroom!) the stock for the gravy, the potatoes and the veg.
Husband checked how long the bought Christmas pud had to be steamed for. I gave up making my own years ago as everyone is always too full to eat it, but this year we thought we’d have another go. Two hours. Could I be bothered sharing the kitchen with hassle, a hot oven and a steaming pud? No. We’d have it another day. So husband set out to make cranachan, a traditional Scottish sweet.
The oatmeal (wonderful tasty pinhead oatmeal from a mill in Kelso) was lightly toasted in a dry frying pan to enhance the nuttiness. The whipped cream is sweetened with runny honey and the oatmeal added with a generous slug of whisky (you could experiment with brandy or some other spirit or liqueur), then raspberries are folded in. Our raspberries from a jar lacked the sharp sweet flavour of fresh, but the juice helped considerably to give a simple yet good Christmas sweet.
Now back to the blasted turkey. Being encased in a bag meant it was difficult to see how the bird was coming along. And the need to have a sit down on a comfortable chair with a glass of restorative wine and a few nibbles meant my eyes were off the ball. But I assured myself all would be well as so many sources had indicated that three hours was the required cooking time. Less and you ran the gauntlet of miseries from flesh that wasn’t properly cooked.
Horror of horrors, the beast was shrivelled, the meat falling from its bones. Once again, despite my best efforts, the Christmas turkey had beaten me. Still, I suppose when eaten with everything else and liberally smothered in gravy it was…acceptable. Just as well as we’ll be eating it for days.
Next year…? A friend tells me self basting goose is soooo easy. But somehow pasta seems a much better bet.