CONSIDERING that the roast dinner is probably our national dish, there is not much advice on how to produce a decent one. Hurrah, then, for Laura Mason, whose book Roasts has just appeared (National Trust, £16.99 (£15.20)). It is packed full of insight on roast meals, focusing on cuts of meat, which to buy for what, and how to cook it. There are also suggested accompaniments and condiments, and advice on leftovers. The introductory essays, colour photos, and drawings are particularly charming.
How many dry and tasteless turkeys have we suffered through the years? Take Mason’s advice this Christmas and go Italian with your bird. Serves eight.
4.5kg (10 lb) oven-ready turkey
30g (1 oz) unsalted butter
2-3 rashers unsmoked bacon
1 large carrot, chopped
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 small white turnip, chopped
2 celery sticks, chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
2 large fresh rosemary sprigs
500ml (18 fl. oz) poultry stock
1-2 tablespoons arrowroot
For the stuffing:
30g (1 oz) unsalted butter
120g (4 oz) bacon lardons
120g (4 oz) quality sausage meat
120g (4 oz) chestnut purée
3 prunes, pitted and chopped
1 small hard pear, peeled and chopped
75ml (3 fl. oz) Marsala wine
“To make the stuffing, melt the butter, add the bacon and sausage meat, and fry gently for a few minutes. Stir in the chestnut purée, prunes, pear, and Marsala, and season with a little salt and plenty of pepper. Cool, and then use to stuff the crop.
“To cook the turkey, use a stout roasting tin. Smear the butter over the base, and put the bacon and vegetables in. Add the garlic, rosemary, and cloves. Put in the turkey on its back, and add stock to cover the base of the tin. Season. Cover the whole with a sheet of foil, crimping it firmly. Put the tin on the hob on the lowest heat. Braise the bird, gently, for about an hour. Check occasionally, adding more liquid if necessary.
“Preheat the oven to 180-190°C/ 350-375°F/Gas 4-5. Move the turkey, still in the covered container, into the oven, and cook for another 45 to 60 minutes. Remove the foil, baste well, salt the skin, and finish roasting, uncovered, for another 45 minutes. Add a little liquid if the juices look dry. When cooked, allow to rest.
“Tip everything left in the tin through a sieve, catching the juices in a bowl. Press with the back of a wooden spoon to extract any liquid. Put the juices in a pan. Add about 250ml (9 fl. oz) stock. Finish by slaking the arrowroot with a little cold water; stir this into the gravy and reheat until just boiling and lightly thickened.”
For a different and simple sauce to go with the pudding or mince pies, try my White chocolate and cranberry snow.
300g (10 oz) cranberries
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier (or rum)
300ml (10 fl. oz) double cream
400g (14 oz) white chocolate
Heat the cranberries gently in a small pan with the Grand Marnier until they break down, then strain. Reusing the same pan, gently heat the cream with the chocolate, broken into pieces. Once blended, return the cranberries, stir well, and serve.