Christmas lunch 2015

Well, for a change we had turkey, which is a rare occurrence chez nous. It wasn’t a whole bird, because I really do not want to have the problems of cooking a breast to juicy tenderness which takes a lot longer than roasting the legs. What we had was a boned, stuffed and roasted turkey breast joint, which was huge, but about a third of it ended up in the freezer before I even started preparing it for cooking on the 25th.

I made a sausagemeat, grated apple and chestnut stuffing, flavoured with thyme, parsley and slowly sautéed onions. The breast was then stuffed and tied up, wrapped in foil and refrigerated until required. I covered the top of the turkey with strips of faty streaky bacon and bacon fat and roasted it for around 2 or so hours in a 180C oven, on a rack in a roasting pan filled (and periodically refilled) with boiling water. I covered the skin with foil for the last 45 minutes and reduced the oven to 160 to prevent it from burning or drying out. I knew that it was cooked when the juices ran clear when I stuck a skewer into the thickest part of the meat.

To accompany this monstrous piece of meat I made a light gravy in the roasting pan, potatoes roasted in duck fat, roast parsnips, buttered carrot batons and Brussels sprouts sautéed in butter with roasted chestnuts. The charring on the sprouts was deliberate (honest!). There were also the inevitable pigs in blankets.

I do say so myself, but this was a decent piece of turkey breast. Not dried out and tasteless, but soft, juicy and with a melting quality. Well done me.

OK, so it is basically just a roast dinner, it isn’t haute cuisine and it’ll never win Masterchef, but that isn’t the point. It is Christmas lunch and the best thing about it is the cold meat for eating on Boxing Day and afterwards.

We drank a superb wine with lunch. It was a bottle of 2005 Château Musar, which is an almost legendary wine from Lebanon. The red is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Cinsault from vineyards in the Bekaa Valley, which were first planted in the 1930s. The grapes are harvested from mature vines, often 40 years old. The proportions of each grape in the blend varies from one year to another, so the wine itself is different in some way each year. It is a marvellous wine which needs bottle ageing to bring out its best qualities.

You really don’t want much dessert after this, certainly not Christmas pudding. I made a simple orange posset, scented with Grand Marnier. It was made in exactly the same way as a standard lemon posset, with the liqueur added to the cream as it was heated. I used 400ml of double cream, two tablespoons of Grand Marnier, 1 tablespoon of caster sugar and the juice of two oranges.


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