PERFECT ROAST TURKEY 

For many of us the festive turkey is the pride and joy of the Christmas table, but how many of us agonise over the best to buy, how big do I buy? the roasting of this nemesis and for how long? stuff or not to stuff? Etc etc!

Well panic not folks, to ease the pressure I’m going to share my methods for getting the most out of your Christmas bird! Just follow these few simple steps and take the pressure off your Christmas Day
So firstly, which turkey?? 

Ask your butcher for a turkey for the exact number of people you’re cooking for, There’s always too much food on Christmas Day, going large on the turkey really isn’t necessary, large turkeys take a long time to cook and if you’re not careful you’ll end up with a very dry and an extremely unforgettable dinner!

Always try to bring the turkey to room temperature before roasting, an hour or so should be plenty,remove the neck and giblets from the cavity and use these to roast your turkey on.

 

To stuff or not to stuff??

Definitely stuff! But stuff the neck cavity only as any stuffing inside the turkey will dramatically increase the cooking time and cause the breast to dry out.

 

Roast up or down?? 

The breast meat will dry out really quickly, I’d start roasting breast-side down, smear under the skin with butter, or if you just want to roast normally make sure you baste regularly.

Make sure you don’t waste the juices and crispy bits left in the tray these will all add fantastic flavour to your delicious gravy.

 

Rest or not to rest??

Always leave it to stand for at least an hour after cooking

 
Bacon on the breast meat or not?? 

Definitely Bacon over the breast meat, cook on a low heat this keeps the turkey as moist as possible. Increase heat for the last 20 minutes of cooking to crisp that bacon.

 

 

Whole turkey or boned out turkey?? 

For a nice juicy turkey I always bone out the turkey. This reduces the cooking time drastically, reduces waste, and makes it far easier to carve at the table. I then use the bones to make a stock for proper gravy, ask your butcher to do it! And don’t forget to ask for the bones!

 

 

Add vegetables and wine?? 

My mum used to cook it with veg in the bottom and a bottle of white wine then roasted it with a double layer of foil so it steams and was always juicy.

 
A QUICK AND EASY START TO FINISH COOKING OF YOUR TURKEY 

 
Put butter under the skin of your turkey and season the skin. Cover the breast with bacon.Place the giblets, bones and any vegetables into your roasting tray, Place the turkey on top, Cover with foil which you tuck under the turkey not over the tin!!.

Preheat the oven to 140C and then cook in the oven for 25 minutes per kg plus 2 1/2 hours This allows the turkey to cook gently ensuring a moist turkey at the end.
Half an hour before the end of the cooking time remove the foil and return to the oven to crisp the skin and bacon if you’re using.
Leave to rest for at least half an hour. This helps the meat to relax and moisten. If you wrap in foil, the turkey will stay warm for an hour. When you take your turkey out of the oven it will continue to cook.

 
How To check your Turkey is cooked 

Insert a skewer into the thickest part of the turkey thigh. If the turkey is cooked through the juices should run clear. If not cook the turkey for longer. Always check the turkey is cooked using this method Tip the turkey to let the juices run into the tin, use the juices to make the gravy, then place the turkey onto a warmed carving plate.
So there you go, not nearly as dramatic as you thought, follow my tips and you’ll have a fantastic delicious hassle free Christmas Day Turkey Feast

HAPPY CHRISTMAS
Jon

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LOIN OF VENISON, REDWINE, MADEIRA AND WILD MUSHROOM SAUCE 

I personally think that there’s something rather fantastic about a piece of venison, cooked till pink, served with a well reduced red wine sauce and earthy mushrooms 

If you’ve never tasted venison, try it, it’s totally delicious and not as strong and gamely as you’d imagine, if you don’t want to use venison, a good piece of beef fillet will be fine 

This recipe will serve 4 people 

SHOPPING LIST 

600ml red wine, a good full bodied red, if you wouldn’t drink it! Don’t cook with it!! 
80ml Madeira or dry sherry

80ml balsamic vinegar

6 shallots thinly sliced

1 fresh bay leaf

1 thyme sprig

500ml good-quality beef stock

40g dried chanterelle or porcini mushrooms 

1kg venison fillet, trimmed of the sinew, cut into 4 equal pieces 

1 splash of olive oil

30g butter

1 tablespoon plain flour

THE METHOD 

Firstly make the sauce, combine the red wine, Madeira, balsamic vinegar, shallots, bay leaf and thyme in a bowl and set aside for 30 minutes 

Place in a saucepan with jus or stock and bring to the boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until reduced by three-quarters (this will take about 20 minutes). Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 200°C.

Place the dried mushrooms in a small bowl, pour over a little boiling water and set aside to soak for 10 minutes.

 Season the venison pieces well with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a high heat and sear the venison on all sides.

 Transfer to a baking tray and roast for 10-12 minutes for medium-rare. Remove from oven, cover loosely with foil and set aside to rest for 10 minutes.

Drain mushrooms, reserving the liquid. Heat the butter in a frypan over medium heat. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring, for 1-2 minutes.

 Add flour to the pan and cook, stirring, for a further minute. Add red-wine sauce and reserved mushroom liquid, and simmer for 5-6 minutes until well-reduced. Season to taste.

7 Slice the venison, arrange onto 4 warm plates, spoon the sauce over and serve, accompany with some buttered greens, and potatoes of your choice 
Jon 
 

PAN FRIED HAKE FILLET WITH SAAG ALOO,ONION BHAJI AND CARROT AND CUMIN PURÉE 

Now I absolutely adore this recipe, or should I say recipes! Because it’s really several dishes brought together to make one fantastic meal, you can leave out whichever you want or bring them all together as I’ve done, the choice is yours 

This recipe will serve 4 people really well 

For the pan fried Hake fillets 

4 x 6-8oz Hake fillets with skin on 

To cook the Hake fillets 

Lightly coat the base of a non-stick frying pan with olive oil then place the pan over a medium-high heat,Once the pan is hot, season the Hake with salt and place it in the pan skin-side down,Cook for 2–3 minutes until the skin is nicely golden and crisp. Carefully turn the Hake fillets over and cook for a further 2–3 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillet or loin. The fish is cooked when the flesh becomes opaque. DO NOT OVERCOOK IT! 


For the saag aloo

Ingredients 

A good splash of sunflower oil

1 onion, finely chopped

2 garlic clove, sliced

1 tbsp chopped ginger

500g potato cut into chunks

1 large red chilli, halved, (leave the seeds in)and finely sliced

½ tsp each black mustard seeds, cumin seeds, turmeric

250g spinach leaves, well washed 
Method For the saag aloo

Heat the oil in a large pan, add the onion, garlic and ginger, and fry for about 3 mins. Stir in the potatoes, chilli, spices and half a tsp salt and continue cooking and stirring for 5 mins more. Add a splash of water, cover with a lid and cook for 8-10 mins.Check the potatoes are ready by spearing with the point of a knife, and if they are, add the spinach and let it wilt into the pan. Take off the heat and set aside. 
For the Carrot and Cumin Purée

Ingredients 

8 large carrots carrots peeled and roughly chopped 
A good splash of sunflower oil

1½ tsp. ground cumin

salt

¼ tsp. fresh-ground black pepper

1 tbsp. butter

100ml of double cream 

½ tsp. lemon juice
Method for the Carrot and Cumin Purée 

Heat the oven to 200c, In a roasting tin combine the carrots with the oil, cumin, 1/4 teaspoon salt and the pepper. Then roast the carrots until tender and lightly browned, about 20 minutes. In a food processor, puree the carrots with the butter, half the cream (add more if the Purée is too thick)lemon juice and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Transfer to a saucepan and set aside 

For the onion bhaji recipe 

Ingredients 

2 red onions, finely sliced 

1 green chilli, finely chopped, leave the seeds in if preferred

2 garlic cloves

A piece of root ginger, finely chopped

1 tbsp of butter, melted

1/2 tsp red chilli powder

1/2 tsp ground turmeric

2 curry leaves

6 tbsp of gram flour

3 tbsp of rice flour

A good bunch of coriander, chopped

1/4 tsp fennel seeds

salt
Method for the onion bhaji 

 Start by heating your deep fryer to 180˚C
Method for making the onion bhaji 

In a mixing bowl, mix together the sliced red onion, chilli,garlic, ginger, curry leaves and the melted butter 

Add the chilli powder, turmeric powder, gram flour, rice flour, chopped coriander, fennel seeds and salt to taste. Sprinkle with water and mix well so it is thick enough to hold its shape, but not to watery 

Check the temperature of the oil by dropping in a small spoonful of the mixture,it should sizzle and float, With moistened hands, drop tablespoon sized portions of the mixture into the hot oil,Stir gently and fry until evenly golden.Repeat the process in small batches until all the mixture is used. Drain the fried onion bhajis on kitchen towel. Set aside. 
To assemble the Hake dish 

Make sure all of the elements are hot, Spoon a good amount of the Carrot Purée into the centre of 4 warm plates, now take some of the saag aloo and gently place this onto the Carrot purée, place a Hake fillet on top of the saag aloo and scatter the onion bhaji around, sprinkle with some freshly chopped coriander and serve immediately 

This dish smells delicious, looks stunning and tastes devine 
Jon 

BAKED HAKE WITH FENNEL AND ORANGE 

One of the dishes I love to cook is Hake grilled with fennel fronds. That’s the inspiration for this Baked Hake dish. You can use any firm white fish fillets,cod,halibut,bass or mullet etc, I’m baking them in the oven with the fennel stalks trimmed from the bulbs on top. I serve them with the fennel bulb cooked in orange juice. 

This recipe will serve 4 people 

SHOPPING LIST 

4 Large bulbs of fennel with fronds still attached 
2 good splashes of extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion,or preferably a 4 spring onions finely chopped 
2 garlic cloves, crushed 
600ml of orange juice 
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

4 x 6-8 oz firm Hake fillets, (or other white fish of your choice) 
METHOD 
Trim the stalks and fronds from the fennel, and set them aside. 

Quarter the bulbs, cut away the cores.Chop the fronds and keep the stalks to one side.

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large, nonstick pan and add the onion. 

Cook, stirring, until the onion begins to soften, about three minutes. 

Add the fennel and a generous pinch of salt. 

Cook, stirring often, until the fennel mixture is tender, about 10 minutes. 

Add the garlic and orange juice,stir together and cover the pan with a lid.

Turn the heat to low, and continue to cook 5 to 10 more minutes until the mixture is very soft and fragrant. 

The fennel should be soft and tender.

Stir in the chopped fennel fronds, and remove from the heat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Now for the Hake 

While the fennel is cooking, preheat the oven to 195c

Oil a baking dish large enough for the fish to fit in a single layer. 

Season the Hake fillets with salt and pepper, and arrange in the baking dish. 

Cover with the fennel stalks you set aside. 

Cover the dish tightly with foil, and place in the oven. 

Bake 15 minutes. 

Place the cooked fennel on a warm individual plates, top with the Hake fillets, spoon some of the orange sauce around the Hake and fennel and serve.
Jon 

#eatmorefish

MARINATED HAKE WITH PAK CHOI 

I love the versatility of the wonderful Hake, one moment delicate, and the next able to stand up to bold flavours, this recipe I’m sharing with you here is a simple way of marrying the Hake with great flavours 

The Hake will definitely benefit from being left in the marinade for around 12 hours 

This recipe will serve 4 people 

SHOPPING LIST 

300 ml of honey

150 ml light soy sauce

100 ml toasted sesame seed oil

100 ml apple cider vinegar

1½ tsp freshly ground pepper

1 tsp freshly chopped ginger

1 whole red chilli, finely chopped 

1 bunch of fresh coriander chopped 

4 x 6oz Fresh Hake fillets 

4 heads of pak choi to serve 

METHOD 

Combine all ingredients (except for fish) in a medium-sized mixing bowl. 

Add the Hake fillets and marinate for 24 hours. 

If possible turn the Hake halfway through marinade time to allow even flavor distribution.

To cook the Hake 

Preheat oven to 190c degrees

line a baking dish big enough to hold the Hake fillets with parchment paper.

 Remove Hake from marinade, place in the baking dish and bake on the center rack for 7-9 minutes, until the Hake is opaque and flakes easily.

For the pak choi

Cut each pak choi in half and wilt gently in a pan for 5 minutes 

Add some of the marinade and continue to cook for 2 minutes until the sauce has reduced and becomes thick 

Place the pak choi onto 4 warmed plates, place the Hake on top, finish with the reduced sauce and chopped coriander 

Jon 

THE ULTIMATE “CHRISTMAS PUDDING “ALTERNATIVE DESSERT 

CHOCOLATE SALTED CARAMEL PROFITEROLES 

Now I totally understand why some people don’t like a Christmas pudding, all that fruit, nuts, too rich, too stodgy, but it’s Christmas! We need to indulge in something, so this recipe I’m going to share with you will definitely do just that, INDULGE 

SHOPPING LIST 

This recipe will easily serve 10 people 

For the profiteroles 

90g plain flour

1½ tsp caster sugar

75g unsalted butter, cut into cubes, plus some extra for greasing

3 large free-range eggs, beaten

Edible gold leaf to decorate (available on line or good stores)

For the salted caramel filling 

50g butter

2 tbsp golden syrup

2 tbsp soft light brown sugar

½ tsp sea salt

450ml double cream 

2 tbsp icing sugar

1 tsp vanilla bean paste or 1 vanilla pod, split lengthways, seeds scraped out of the pod

For the chocolate sauce 

100g good-quality dark chocolate

30g unsalted butter

50g caster sugar

1 tbsp golden syrup

METHOD 

Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan180°C/gas 6. 

Sift the flour, sugar and a pinch of salt into a bowl 

Heat 220ml water and the butter in a pan over a medium heat until the butter melts. Increase the heat and bring to a vigorous rolling boil.

Quickly tip the flour mixture into the water and butter, then remove from the heat and beat vigorously with a wooden spoon until the mixture forms a thick paste that comes away cleanly from the sides of the pan.

Gradually add the eggs to the pan and beat between each addition until you have a smooth, glossy mixture. 

You may not need all the egg – add just enough to give the choux mixture a thick, dropping consistency.

Lightly grease a baking sheet. 

Use 2 teaspoons to dollop small balls of the mixture on to the baking sheet, leaving space to allow them to rise. 

Bake on the top oven shelf for 15 minutes until risen, golden and crisp. 

Pierce the bottom of each bun with a sharp knife so the steam can escape, then cool completely on a wire rack.

For the filling 

put the butter, golden syrup, soft brown sugar and salt into a small pan and gently heat until the sugar has dissolved. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

Whip the cream with the icing sugar until it just holds its shape, then fold in the vanilla bean paste or seeds. 

Fold in the cooled salted caramel, then chill for 10 minutes until cold and firm. 

Lightly whip again, then spoon into a piping bag fitted with a medium-size plain nozzle.

For the chocolate sauce 

put all the ingredients in a pan with a splash of cold water. Cook over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved, then simmer gently for 2 minutes.

Insert the nozzle of the piping bag into the hole you pierced in each bun, gently fill with the caramel cream, then stack into a tower on a serving plate. 

Drizzle the chocolate sauce over the profiteroles, sprinkle with edible gold leaf and serve immediately.
Now go on tell me that this delicious wonderful dessert of Salted Chocolate Caramel Profiteroles isn’t just the ULTIMATE DESSERT? 

Jon 

STICKY TOFFEE AND DATE PUDDING 

Now I’m well aware that around these parts you can be hung,drawn and quartered for even having the audacity to write down a recipe for this wonderful pudding, But then again I’m not known for “towing the culinary line” my recipe is what it says, Sticky Toffee and Date Pudding” there are no secret addings,no recipe handed down to me from Uncle Zibidah Aloysius St John Fell the 17th Earl of Shackerstone,no meeting dark masked cloak and dagger suppliers with that out of this world ingredient,you or I have never heard of, just to make my pudding “special” 

It’s just a pudding! That’ll make you feel totally content with your lot! 

This awesome recipe I’m sharing with you will serve 4 people well 

SHOPPING LIST 

FOR THE DATE SPONGE 

175g/6oz dates, chopped

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

50g/2oz salted butter

pinch salt

75g/2½oz demerara sugar

75g/2½oz molasses sugar

2 free-range eggs

175g/6oz self-raising flour

1 tsp vanilla extract

butter, for greasing

FOR THE STICKY TOFFEE TOPPING 

250ml/9fl oz double cream

80g/3oz butter

80g/3oz Dark treacle 

FOR THE EXTRA SAUCE (optional) 

300ml/10fl oz whipping cream

50g/2oz molasses sugar

50g/2oz salted butter

double cream or clotted cream

METHODS 

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.

Pour 275ml/10fl oz boiling water into a large mixing bowl and add the dates.

 Stir and set aside until lukewarm. 

Meanwhile, measure out all the other ingredients for the sponge. Add them to the dates and water and mix together until well combined.

Blend the date mixture in a food processor until nearly smooth

 Butter a baking dish on all surfaces and pour in the sponge mixture.

Bake for around 40 minutes, or until just firm to the touch.

Now make both the topping and the extra sauce by heating the ingredients gently in separate pans, whisking regularly, until they briefly boil. Pour the topping over the cooked pudding.

Place the sticky toffee pudding under a moderate grill or into an extremely hot oven until bubbling.

To serve, spoon the pudding into individual bowls and pour around the extra sauce.

Now you can either serve with double cream or if you’re like me, a good dollop of delicious clotted cream 

There is no better pudding to make you feel warm, cozy and content 
Jon