Tag Archives: traditional

‘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

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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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Sweet Lullaby

I love this piece of music.  It’s by French duo Michel Sanchez and Eric Mouquet (together forming musical group ‘Deep Forest’) and samples a traditional lullaby of the Baegu people in the Solomon islands.  The lullaby is called Rorogwela and is sung here by Afunakwa.  I find her singing hauntingly beautiful.

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Jersey Royals

jersey-royalsI bought my first batch of this year’s Jersey Royal Potatoes yesterday, from a little roadside stall that sells crops grown in their own south-facing cotils (a Jersey word for fields that slope on a hillside).   This shop was way out west in the wilds of St Ouens and trade was brisk, with bags of tatties being bought and taken away almost as soon as they were put out.

Jersey Royals are sold worldwide now and if you’ve tried them you’ll know that they are simply the best new potatoes you can buy.  Sadly however, unless you live in the UK you won’t have tasted what I’d call the ‘genuine’ article, i.e. those that are actually grown here in the island, because I do believe these are the finest tasting.  This is probably because of a combination of the Jersey soil which is traditionally fertilised by the addition of vraic (a Jersey word for seaweed) and the simple fact that like most veggies they are at their best when freshly dug.  Incidentally, here in the island harvesting is also often done by hand because those steep cotils are too difficult for modern machinery to cope with.

They are easy to prepare and cook:  Simply rub off the thin, flaky skin. Rinse and place in a pan of water that is already boiling (this seals in the flavour).  Boil gently for 12-15 minutes.  The length of time needed depends on the size of the potatoes.  Adding salt and even a sprig of fresh mint to the water is up to personal taste and preference.

These potatoes are tasty enough to enjoy just with a knob of butter melting over the top but if you’d like more recipe ideas, and for the history of this crop plus nutritional facts etc. please visit the official site here

You can also read more about my island home of Jersey by visiting my other site here.

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Hibernate

I woke up this morning to read that storms have wacked north and north western France, badly disrupting air and sea travel. I can believe it.  I was listening to the effects during the night.

When the wind blows hard around here a curious ghostly noise emanates from somewhere around our house, a sound like a sigh mixed up with a musical note.  It can be eerie and unsettling.

‘…wwOOOOOhh…   …wwOOOOOhh…’

As I lay curled up in bed last night, the ghostly groans began in the very early hours and continued over and over, repeating in a regular rhythm that made them sound animal in nature.  I snuggled down further, wrapping the quilt up around my head because the pulsing groans began to sound more like the sounds made by a great, slumbering beast that had slumped over and enveloped our house.  The winds increased and plant debris was hurled against our large windows, ticking and knocking for hours on end.  I can tell you that at that point I was curled up tight like a pill bug and burrowed deep down under cover, grateful to be cocooned in the warmth and safety of my bed.

I heard very recently that up until the 20th century Breton peasants would virtually hibernate during the winter months.  Not hibernate in the sense of a dormouse with physical bodily changes, but ‘hibernate’ as in staying in, all snuggled together, snoozing the cold winter months away and only awaking periodically to take vital sustenance. 

That strikes me as a very good idea.

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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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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!

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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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Totally yummy Bread Sauce

ClovesBread Sauce has been around for hundreds of years and is used as an accompaniment to poultry and game.  This recipe was part of a Roast Chicken meal prepared by a contestant on the recent ‘Britain’s Best Dish’ competition shown on UK ITV.  I can’t attribute it other than to say that because the ITV website, in their wisdom, haven’t included the contestant’s name. 

We tried this sauce at home as part of our Sunday roast and loved it so much that it has become an intrinsic part of the meal.  It would be equally good with the Christmas turkey and the advantage of this particular recipe is that it’s delicious yet a good deal  quicker to prepare than the usual sauce.

Scottish Bread Sauce

Serves 4

4 cloves of garlice, in their skins, wrapped in a little foil packet

1 medium onion, finely chopped

50g butter

White pepper and sea salt

500ml whole milk

8 cloves (you may find it handy to put these in a little muslin bag or an individual tea infuser to make them easier to fish out when you’ve finished with them)

30g porridge oats

50g dry-ish white bread, crumbed

1 tablespoon of double cream

200ml whole milk to add to the finished sauce if it’s too thick

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Put the garlic in foil in a dry frying pan and heat for 10 minutes until rubbery.  Allow to cool a bit then remove the skins.

Fry the onion in butter with salt and pepper until soft. Add the milk, cloves, garlic, oats and cream.  Cook on a low heat for 15 minutes.

Remove the cloves from the sauce mixture and blend with a hand blender.  Add the breadcrumbs and cook for a further 10 minutes.

Add some of the spare whole milk if you feel the sauce is too thick.

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