Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas is coming and the goose is getting fat

Well actually Christmas is here and this year is going to be a particularly foodie celebration even if goose isn’t going to feature. Not that most Christmases are not steeped in food lore, you can barely turn on a television without someone imparting their recipe for ‘the’ most perfect roast potatoes (parboiling in their skins, peeling, chuffing up the edges and cooking in goose fat if you ask me) but this year we seem to be determined to add an extra dose of gastronomic delights to the festivities.
Firstly M expressed a strong desire quite a while ago to experience a three-bird roast crowning our Christmas day table. Much research on the web netted the thought that maybe one of these huge beasts would be a little elaborate for “dinner à deux” so we settled on lamb with a herb and mustard crust instead (though that's a long story in itself). But then it’s as if suddenly everywhere I looked someone was talking about cooking a bird within a bird within a bird.
I believe in the US they are often referred to as Turkducken (which is a chicken inside a duck inside a turkey) which as helpful as the name is (exactly what it says on the tin) I’m not a fan of the term itself. To me it sounds too processed as if the whole thing comes in a colossal can whose lid is peeled back by a giant key. But there again I haven't tasted it so that could be my name prejudice kicking in.
Three bird or four bird roast also explains what’s coming but without the added knowledge of what birds are roasting. Traditionally such a feast was for the affluent Tudor table and often the whole shebang was baked in an enormous pie as they didn’t have the benefit of our modern ovens. A couple of years ago Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall put together a ten bird extravaganza for his River Cottage Medieval Christmas banquet and it did look very intriguing albeit quite a challenge. Though frankly only really useful if you’re plan to feed a small village, there’s only so much cold meat one can take.
I’d always been fascinated by the whole prospect, I know the fabulous Nicky of Nicky and Regis fame runs a Christmas course (or certainly used to) at their wonderful Normandy manor house Le Manoir de L'Aufragere near Fourmetot where the plan is for each of the guests to de-bone the various birds, stuff them all inside one another and then transport them back to the UK in a cool box for the Christmas table. I’ve yet to indulge in this but having incredibly fond memories of Nicky and Regis, their beautiful home and fabulous hospitality, their black-headed sheep, Josephine the donkey, Catso the cat and all the little chickens that follow Regis so devotedly I can imagine I will be drawn back again some time.
But after dismissing the idea of my own three-bird roast for a while suddenly I am tasting them, seeing them and reading about at every turn. James Martin cooked a “Yorkshire Pot”, his local butcher’s version of the multi-bird roast, on his new UKFood TV show and also on Saturday kitchen a couple of weeks ago. Every self respecting on-line butcher is offering up their version and just for the sake of experimentation a Devon farmer has produced a 4 stone 48 bird roast which feeds 125 no less! Hmmm maybe a tad ambitious for me!
I found a recipe for a smaller version that would feed two which had a spatchcocked pheasant, a male duck breast and a spatchcocked pigeon but struggled to find a butcher that would tackle the fiddly tunnel boning and M’s local butcher seemed less than keen but could do me a turkey breast topped with a brace of pheasants all contained inside a duck. So after some consideration this was duly ordered.
Since then I discover that Marks & Spencer have their own version looking all bronzed and glistening in their Christmas magazine and, despite it being so obvious, I never checked Waitrose as they are also offering a huge four bird roast or a much more petit three game bird roast. At the Harvey Nichols event last week (still to be blogged) they were offering slices of their intepretation and said that they would have been happy to prepare my pheasant/duck breast/ pigeon combo if I’d wanted to but it was too late by then.
Mark Hix at his latest Divertimenti evening (also still to be blogged) casts doubts on such a multi-bird not being dry so he advocates cooking a whole plethora of game birds individually as he did last year and piling them up on the table much like D and MC are planning for their Christmas lunch with B and C this year. That idea was inspired by Jamie Oliver new 'At home with...' book.
So it seems that the fashionable Christmas table will be strewn by a variety of feathered friends this year and you’ll have to watch this space to see how our three bird roast eventually turns out.
Though our Christmas this year not only features this three-bird roast (or sometimes referred to as Royal Roast) but three fine meals at some Manchester restaurants (yet more blogging!) and a few culinary requests I've had for the family meal, unfortunately not taking places at ours for the first time this year.
I hope whatever feast you decide to prepare that your Christmas table is groaning and you have a fabulous one. Persoally I think it is the perfect excuse to break out all the sparkle – though frankly I never really need an excuse!
Happy Christmas one and all.

1 comment:

CresceNet said...

Gostei muito desse post e seu blog é muito interessante, vou passar por aqui sempre =) Depois dá uma passada lá no meu site, que é sobre o CresceNet, espero que goste. O endereço dele é http://www.provedorcrescenet.com . Um abraço.