Mrs. Jackson Cooks

Life through food

Food glorious (christmas) food

on December 29, 2010

We’ve been eating…lots…but as I say, that’s what Christmas is all about.  This is a medley of photos and food I’ve cooked and eaten over the past few days.  I kept forgetting to take photos, so they’re all a bit random!

My husband and I are in Scotland, renting a cottage with friends, as we couldn’t cope with the idea of another family Christmas where we try to please everyone, and fail, and only end up making ourselves miserable!  After an argument that lasted all of boxing day last year, we decided we wouldn’t be doing the family thing again.  And so far, I have to say a cottage in Scotland is the way forward!  We’ve not been entirely without family, we visited my lovely Scottish relatives.  But a few hours with some relatives you rarely see is not the same as all day with family we see all the time.

Food wise, I have been indebted to the Hairy Bikers and their 12 days of Christmas recipe book for all the delicious food.  Without them I would have been lost and panicking, but with the book, whilst it was lots of work, we produced lots of delicious food, with Christmas dinner being one of the best we’ve ever had.  Although they didn’t have capon roasting directions, but they were easily enough found on the internet.

We decided that there wasn’t enough of us for a turkey (minimum 10lbs!) so we went for a capon instead.  Which is a castrated cockerel.  Apparently it makes them eat more, get fat, and become more juicier than chickens or normal cocks.  And I have to say, this was a delicious capon.  And more or less a perfect size for us.

If you’re interested, it was about 7lbs and I did it for 30 mins on high heat, upside down, covered in foil, then 1.5 hours the right way up, covered on a medium heat, and then 30 mins with the foil off to brown it at the same heat.

I’m not going to reproduce all the recipes, if you’re that interested – buy the book!  But I’ll tease you with a few.  We loved the brussel sprouts especially, which is odd as normally we hate them.  But the key, it seems, is frying them in maple syrup.  The sweet syrup takes away all the bitterness.  And we also added chestnuts and bacon to them which just added to the flavours.

We also loved the stuffings.  They were just great.  We made chestnut and sage and apricot and almond, both out the hairy biker’s book.  I’ve made stuffing from a packet before, but doing it from scratch makes all the difference and really turns the stuffing into something worth eating and blogging about!

I have to say though, I bought fresh chestnuts and my fingers still hurt from peeling them!  If you can get vacuum packed pre-peeled ones, then I would definitely recommend them if you like your fingers!

My friend made the brandy sauce for the pudding and it was extremely tasty…might have something to do with the quantities of cream and brandy she put in it, but hey, its christmas!  And it’s freezing cold so we need our fats and alcohol.

The other thing of note was the christmas spiced vodka.  I wrote about making it in my previous post, but we’ve now drunk it and can definitely say, it is so beautifully warming and delicious (despite being frozen!) that its worth the effort and the wait.  And really 3 days isn’t much of a wait.

Well, the haunch of venison is now marinading in the fridge, for the obligatory 2 days.  We’ll be cooking that in a couple of days.  And looking at the meat, even uncooked, I know it’s going to be beautiful.

Even just thinking about all this food makes me feel happy.  There is something about cooking and eating that can be the best thing in the world.  Yes, I’ll have to put in some serious hours in the gym, but then, that’s what January is for.  That and paying off the credit card!  But as it’s still December I won’t contemplate either for any longer here.

Since Christmas day, we’ve had the obligatory capon and ham pie and capon curry.  And we’re now making soup from the capon bones.  I might even make a ham pasta bake with the remaining ham!  But Christmas is full of traditions, especially food ones, and to break them only makes for unhappiness.

I hope you all had really lovely Christmases full of gorgeous food and lots of wine.  And are now looking forward to 2011 in anticipation of all the great food that is to come.  Here are the recipes for the stuffings and the brussels sprouts.  All out the Hairy Biker’s 12 days of Christmas.

Brussels sprouts with pancetta and chestnuts

Serves about 4-6

500g Brussels sprouts, peeled and halved

1 tbsp oil (we used olive)

125g pancetta or streaky smoked bacon, chopped

125g roasted chestnuts, peeled and halved

1 tbsp maple syrup

salt & pepper

  1. Boil the sprouts in a pan with boiling water and salt for about 8-10 minutes or until they look softened.  Drain and set aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a pan, add the pancetta and fry until crispy.
  3. Add the sprouts, chestnuts and maple syrup to the pan and mix together well.
  4. Cook for a minute or two until the syrup caramelises, then add the seasoning, remove from the heat and stick in a warmed serving dish until ready to serve.
  5. Eat, and be surprised at the sweetness and lack of bitterness.  You may find you actually like sprouts for the first time ever!

Chestnut and sage stuffing

enough for about 4-6 people

1 tbsp oil

1 medium onion finely chopped

75g roasted chestnuts, peeled and roughly chopped

115g sausagemeat

25g white breadcrumbs

zest of 1 lemon

1 bunch of sage, chopped

salt & pepper

  1. Heat the oil in a frying pan, and fry the onion until softened.  Remove from the heat, put in a large-ish bowl until cooled.  It’s important its cold when combining with uncooked sausagemeat.
  2. When its cold, add the rest of the ingredients to the onions, stir well so it’s all well mixed.
  3. Set aside until it’s needed to stuff a turkey or chicken, or form balls with it and roast in the oven until cooked.
  4. Sit down, stuff your face and let the compliments roll in!

Apricot and almond stuffing

serves about 4-6 people

1 tbsp oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, crushed

50g apricots (ready to eat) roughly chopped

50g blanched almonds, toasted and roughly chopped

125g sausagemeat

zest of 1 orange

40g white breadcrumbs

2 tbsp fresh chopped parsley

salt & pepper

  1. Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the onion over a low heat until softened.  Remove from the heat and place in a large-ish bowl until cooled.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients to the onions, when cool, and mix well to combine and set aside until needed.
  3. Stuff in turkey or chicken or roll into balls and roast in the oven.
  4. Eat in smug satisfaction at your cooking expertise!

And now, after all that cooking and eating, sit down with a glass of spiced vodka and tonic and let others do the washing up!  You deserve it


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