Tag Archives: roast

‘Pigs in Blankets’

This is a UK favourite at Christmas time and has more or less become an intrinsic part of this special meal.  ‘Pigs in Blankets’ are simply chipolata sausages, wrapped in streaky bacon. 

So easy to prepare, for 8 people you will need:

 8 regular-sized pork chipolata sausages (allow 16 if you’re buying the usual cocktail size Christmas midgets)

8 rashers of streaky bacon strips

Olive oil


Preheat the oven to 220C / 425F / Gas mark 7  (200C for a fan oven, approx 400F)

Put a slice of streaky bacon on a flat surface and stretch and flatten it by gently pulling the back of a knife or palette knife over it.

Take a chipolata and roll the bacon strip around it to make a ‘pig in blanket’.  (If you’re using the mini sausages that are usually around at Christmas you’ll find that half a strip of bacon will do for one little sausage).  Repeat until all sausages are wrapped.

Sprinkle a little sunflower or olive oil in the bottom of a shallow oven proof dish.  Lay the pigs in blankets on top with the loose ends of bacon facing downwards and drizzle a little more oil on top.

Cook in the oven, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

Drain on kitchen paper if you are concerned about them being too fatty.

Preparing ahead:   On the day before these are needed you can roll the sausages in the bacon and store, covered, in the fridge.


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Cider Roast Turkey

SERVES 8 with leftovers.  PREPARATION TIME 15 minutes.   

COOK approx 4 hours for a 4.5 – 6 Kg (10-12 lb) bird.

Moderately easy recipe

Choose a free-range bird for the best flavour – they’re more expensive, but well worth it for a special occasion.  Here in the UK I’ve found KellyBronze has a good flavour.


4.5 – 6kg (10-12 lb) turkey, giblets removed and kept

450g / 1lb stuffing

2 leeks, trimmed and halved

2 carrots, halved

50g / 2oz butter, softened

300ml /1/2 pint of dry cider


300ml /1/2 pint dry cider

600ml / 1 pint of chicken or home made turkey giblet stock

2 tbsp quince or redcurrant jelly (cranberry jelly would also work well as an alternative if you can’t find quince or redcurrant)


Heat the oven to 190C / 375F / Gas 5 / 170C for a fan oven (approx 365F).

Wash and dry the turkey, removing any feathers.  Pull out the giblets and the neck, then set aside.  Lift up the skin that covers the neck opening, then stuff the stuffing up and under the skin, securing it tightly underneath with a skewer or two cocktail sticks.

Weigh the stuffed turkey (you may to use bathroom scales to do this), then calculate the cooking time, allowing 40 minutes per kg (20 minutes per pound).

Put the leeks and carrots in the bottom of a roasting tin in a single layer – this makes a trivet for the turkey to sit on, keeping it out of the fat that pools in the bottom of the tray and also adding flavour to the gravy.  Take the neck from the giblets you had set aside and add to the tin (again for flavour).

Sit the turkey on top of the layer of carrots and leeks and coat the breast all over with butter.  Pour in the cider, cover with foil, then roast according to your timings.  Keep checking the tin every 20-30 minutes and if the vegetables look like they’re burning, add a splash of water or cider.

At 30 minutes before the end of cooking, remove the foil and season generously with salt and pepper.

To test if the turkey is ready, pierce the thigh through its thickest part – the juices should run clear.  Take the turkey out and leave to rest, covered with a clean tea towel. 

Leaving the bird to rest is essential in order to allow the fibres of the meat to relax again and for the residual moisture to redistribute in the flesh.  You can leave the turkey to rest for up to an hour.


Drain the fat and juices from the tin into a jug, discarding the veg and the neck.

Place the tin over a flame then pour in the cider, scraping up the flavour filled crusty bits with a wooden spoon. 

Reduce the cider by half, then strain into a saucepan (this will save you hob space later).

You should find that by now the juices you poured out of your roasting tin into a jug will have separated out – the fat floating to the top.  Carefully tip off this excess fat, then add the remaining juices to the reduced cider and pour in the stock.  ***Reduce over a high heat for about 10 minutes until slightly thickened.  Stir in the quince jelly, taste and then season if necessary – if you’re using commercially pre-prepared stock be warned that this usually contains a lot of salt so your gravy may only require a little cracked black pepper by way of seasoning. 

Pour the gray into a serving jug or gravy boat, any resting juices that have come out of the turkey should go in now too.

***If you prefer a thicker gravy, mix 1 tsp cornflour with a splash of cold water, then add to the gravy, stirring constantly until smooth and glossy.


This recipe has been slightly adapted from one  that appeared in the December 2007 Christmas edition of BBC Good Food magazine.  All photos from the same article.

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Gravy – two options

There are two methods for making gravy – either will work for roast turkey, so here are both options.

Method 1: De-glazing the pan

At the end of cooking, once the bird is removed, tilt your roasting pan slightly.  You’ll see the fat sitting in a layer above the precious meat juices.  Pour or spoon off most of this fat, leaving about two tablespoons.  Use a wooden spoon to scrape the sides and base of the pan to release as much of the stuck on goodness as you can.  With the pan over a fairly low heat start to briskly whisk in a rounded tablespoon of plain (all purpose) flour.  When you have a smooth paste, start to add hot turkey stock, a little at a time.  You’ll find that once you have added some liquid any stubborn bits will come away from the pan and you have effectively de-glazed it.  You can either continue in the same pan, or transfer you liquid to a small saucepan if you find that easier (I usually do).  Now continue to add hot stock and maybe a glass of wine until you have the consistency that you are happy with.  How thick or thin you like your gravy is entirely up to you.  In general terms, 1 pint of liquid is good for each rounded tablespoon of flour.  Leaving the gravy on a gentle heat will reduce its bulk and make it thicker.  If it’s too thick for your liking add a little more liquid.  I’d advise checking seasoning and adding more only at the end of this process as it’s way too easy to mis-judge the intensity of those cooking juices and end up with salty gravy.  (This can be ‘repaired’ …see my page here).

Method 2: De-glaze and use beurre manie to thicken

As above, at the end of cooking, once the bird is removed, tilt your roasting pan slightly.  You’ll see the fat sitting in a layer above the precious meat juices.  Pour or spoon off most of this fat, leaving about two tablespoons.  Use a wooden spoon to scrape the sides and base of the pan to release as much of the stuck on goodness as you can.  Now start to add you hot stock, scraping any remaining goodness from the sides and base.  Once the sauce is bubbling, add beurre manie to thicken.  (I never bother with gravy browning …. what is that stuff anyway?!)  Again, don’t add seasoning until you have checked what your gravy tastes like.

These two methods produce tasty gravy for all roasts – just use a stock that is appropriate to your joint of meat.

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Turkey Roasting Times

Hey, I'm ready! The safest way to cook turkey and stuffing is to cook them separately as a stuffed bird may not cook as evenlyCook the stuffing in a separate little casserole dish therefore. 

If you’re going to ignore me (!) and stuff the bird anyway, you’ll need to calculate cooking times by weighing your bird after it’s stuffed – you might well have to use bathroom scales in order to do this.  There is a cooking chart below but as an example, for an 8 – 12 pound bird allow 20 minutes per pound (40 minutes per kg) at 170C (325F), gas mark 3. 

Remember that if you are usng a fan oven, cooking temperatures are generally lower (usually 20C lower than in the conventional oven…consult your manufacturer’s manual).  

If you don’t have a meat thermometer, the way to test whether the bird is cooked is to pop a knife into the area between the turkey body and leg (drumstick).  If the juices coming out look clear and not pink or bloody then the bird is done.  

If it isn’t ready yet, return it to the oven for 20 minutes and test again.

A good meat thermomter will show when the meat is cooked.  Latest guidlines state that the minimum safe temperature is 165F. Check the temperature by placing the thermometer probe in the thickest part of the inner thigh.

The folowing chart is for a whole turkey cooked at 325F / 170C. In all cases the temperature of the meat (if you have a meat thermometer) will be 160 – 170 degrees.

4 – 8 lbs……….325F / 170 C ………2 – 3 hours

8 – 12 lbs……..325F / 170C ……….3 – 4 hours

12 – 16 lbs…….325F / 170C ………4 – 5 hours

16 – 20 lbs…….325F / 170C ………5 – 6  hours

20 – 24 lbs …… 325F / 170C ……..6 – 7 hours

There are some great recipes available for cooking the turkey.  If you don’t have one don’t be scared by the whole prospect of doing one just because it’s The Big Day. 

For the novice cook – remove the bag of giblets from the body cavity (these make wonderful stock but now may not be the time to be telling you that)!  Now just think of the turkey as a large chicken that you have to roast.   Maybe loosely pop some pieces of raw onion,  and herbs (say, thyme) in the body cavity, rub the outside of the body with butter, season with salt, pepper and perhaps a further sprinkling of herbs and then put the bird in the roasting tin (I tend to roast my birds on a base of root vegetables – onions, carrots etc).  Cover loosely with foil to stop the breast burning.  Cook for the required time (chart above), removing the foil for the last 20 minutes to allow the bird to brown. 

All roast meat benefits from ‘resting’ for a period after being taken from the oven.  This allows some of its juices to be re-absorbed back into the meat. Turkey is no exception. If you can manage to tip the bird to drain any juices from the body cavity into the roasting tin then do so (enlist someone’s help if you can).  Put the bird on a warm plate, cover loosely with foil and let it sit while you finish off things like the roast potatoes and gravy.  You can leave it like this for 30-60 minutes.  

There are some helpful notes here and charts here

Happy Christmas!


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Bird? What bird?

roadr_coy1What size of bird (turkey) should you buy for you and your guests?  Aim on 1 pound of turkey for each adult guest (1-1/2 if you’re aiming to have leftovers).  Many people just go ahead and buy a great behemoth of a bird, regardless of this calculation – it’s no wonder they get sick of the sight of the thing by day two!  (A simple ‘What size turkey to buy’ chart is posted at the end of this article for quick reference).

If you only have a small group to cater for, you may like to consider an alternative.  Nowadays you can buy just a ‘turkey crown’ – this is literally just the turkey breast meat, so if you don’t like the brown meat anyway, this may suit you better.  Disadvantages: You’re unlikely to find it complete with giblets so you won’t easily be able to make your own turkey stock for the gravy (normally well worth doing), it won’t look as impressive if you usually take the bird to the table to carve (!) and it won’t cook in the same way.  Nevertheless, it’s a simpler option for a smaller family get together.

Steering away from turkey entirely, did you know that a growing number of people in the UK are opting for chicken on Christmas Day?  There is absolutely no reason why you can’t still do all the traditional trimmings  like ‘pigs in blankets’ to serve alongside the humble chicken. 

If your group is too big for a single chicken but too small to warrant an entire turkey, there is a kind of half-way-house option of a capon.   A capon is basically a castrated cockerel, the meat of which is succulent and tender.  They are, unfortunately, hard to find and big poultry producers use hormones to induce caponization (never something I’m happy with).  If you’re lucky enough to find a small supplier, and like me you’re bothered by hormones in food, check whether the bird has been surgically or chemically castrated.  You may find capons available through small, quality butchers or farm shops.

If you pick the ‘chicken option’ don’t feel you are cheating your family by the way.  I, for one, far prefer the flavour of chicken to the rather bland and often dry turkey.

Moving away from chicken and turkey, on continental Europe goose is the traditional choice in many countries.  It’s moist, tasty and has the added advantage of rendering a supply of fat to use for delicious roast potatoes and veggies.  See chef Gordon Ramsay’s roast goose recipe here.  (Cook the goose on a raised rack in the roasting tin to keep it out of the fat …not mentioned in this recipe).

Those are the most obvious bird alternatives for your Christmas meal.  No rule book says, however, that you need a bird at all.  A tasty roast of beef or pork would be very nice and judging by the number of hits I’ve been getting to this site lately for ham cooked in coke, I’d say that if that takes your fancy then you’d be in good company!


If you’re going down the turkey route, here is a quick reference chart to tell you what size turkey you’ll need to buy:

5 lb / 2.25 kg                    serves 4 – 6

8 lb / 3.6 kg                       serves 6 – 8

10-12 lb / 4.5 – 5.6 kg   serves 10 – 12

20 lb / 9 kg                        serves 12 – 15

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Herb Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals (particularly vitamins A and C) and they are higher in complex carbohydrates than ordinary potatoes, so as well as helping to regulate blood-sugar levels, they will also make you feel fuller for longer.  …Could be good news for dieters therefore (not that any of us are thinking about diets right now)!

Herb Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Makes 6 – 8 servings


4 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-1/2 inch thick rounds

3 tablespoons of olive oil

4 garlic cloves, minced

4 tablespons of fresh thyme leaves or a healthy sprinkling of any dried herb you fancy – I suggest ‘mixed’ herbs or oregano

Half a teaspoon of salt

Half a teaspoon of red pepper flakes (if you can’t get these you could substitute paprika)

Set the oven at 230C  / 450F  / Gas mark 8


Pre-heat the oven.  In a large mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients and toss.  Arrange the potato slices in a single layer on a heavyweight, rimmed baking sheet or in a 13×9-inch baking dish.  Place on top rack of oven and roast until tender and slightly browned – about 35 – 40 minutes.

Serve warm or at room temperature, garnished with thyme sprigs.

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Roast Potatoes, like Mum used to make

Mmmmm....For me, roast potatoes can either make or break a good Sunday roast.  We’re coming up to the time of year when every other household will be preparing a roast turkey so I thought it a good time to share the recipe for perfect roast potatoes, especially as these can be partially prepared ahead of time and frozen, if that suits you better.

Perfect Roast Potatoes


Your chosen quantity of ‘floury’ potatoes (King Edward, Desiree, Romano or Cara) – thinly peeled and cut to about the size of large chicken eggs/ duck eggs.  Leave any small ones whole.  As a guide to quantity, about 2kg or 4lb 8oz serves 8 people

Goose or duck fat in absolute preference.  Sunflower oil will suffice if all else fails (but trust me, they just won’t taste anywhere near as good)!

Sea salt 

You will also need a roasting tin with a solid base – one that is big enough to take the potatoes in a single layer, a pan for boiling the potatoes that has a lid and either kitchen tongs or a long handled slotted spoon

Preparation time less than 30 minutes / Cooking time 30 minutes to 1 hour


Oven temp: 200C   /   400F   / Gas Mark 6

1. First you need to ‘par-boil’ the potatoes:  Put the potatoes in a pan and pour over boiling water from a kettle, just to cover.  Add a little salt and cook them in the gently boiling water for 7 – 8 minutes.  Take them off the heat when they start to yield when you poke them with a fork – but they shouldn’t be cooked right through. 

2. Drain.  You now need to roughen up the outside of the tatties (this helps to give them that wonderful crunchy, crispy exterior).  Put a lid on your pan of drained potatoes and holding it down with something like a tea towel to protect your hands, jiggle the pan around – up and down, side to side – so that when you take the lid off you’ll see that the outer surface of the potatoes is roughened.

3. Pre-heat the goose/duck fat in a separate roasting tin – you’re going to want about half a centimetre or a quarter of an inch of liquid fat in the tin.  The fat needs to be sizzling hot.  Carefully add the potatoes (so that you’re not splashing boiling hot fat everywhere!) and either baste them or turn them to cover them in fat.  I find metal kitchen tongs very useful for this but a long-handled spoon would also work well.

4. Put your tray of potatoes in the oven and cook for the last 45 minutes or so of your joint’s roasting/resting time.

5. Drain well and keep in a warm oven, uncovered, and in a single layer (not piled up) until needed.

Season with sea salt before serving.


The recipes I share here are either my own or ones that I have tried and that have worked for me.  Last year I came across instructions for freezing partially cooked roast potatoes which as yet I have not tried.  However, according to others it works well and, given the time of year it’s definitely worth including here.  So …

Roast potatoes (for freezing)

Work the above recipe up to the end of step 2 then let the potatoes cool.  Line two baking trays or sheets with greaseproof paper.  Arrange the potatoes on the trays, making sure that none of them are touching each other, and place the trays in the freezer.  Once frozen you can save freezer space by tipping the potatoes into freezer bags.  They can be kept like this for up to a month.

To use:  Oven on at 200C / 400F / Gas mark 6.  Pre-heat some goose fat in a roasting tin (as above) for 4-5 minutes.  Add the frozen potatoes. Cook for 30 minutes, turn the potatoes and cook for a further 30 – 40 minutes, until golden. Season with sea salt. 

***Bear in mind that if you are adding a frozen food to an oven where you are already roasting items, it will make the temperature drop slightly.  Be prepared to adjust roasting times slightly***

If anyone uses, or has used this frozen tatty recipe, please let me know how you got on!


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