So let’s keep positive and try to focus on happier times. None of us can predict what’s ahead so let’s plan regardless. Pour yourself a glass of something delicious to sip on, make a soothing pot of tea. Grab a pad and write some lists, plan a week of delicious Christmas meals and treats. Then tick off what can be made ahead and frozen or pickled, so if all goes well you can spend as much precious time with the loved ones you’ve been yearning to see.
In the worst case scenario, you can enjoy some delicious comforting food after Christmas. There are so many good things that can be happily be made ahead without suffering in any way. I’ll be making lots of soups and freezing them in recycled containers. Quarter, half and one litre milk cartons work brilliantly, stack neatly in the freezer and can be defrosted quickly. I’m loving root vegetable soups at present: Swede Turnip and Bacon Soup with Parsley Oil costs just pennies to make. I’m also loving Jerusalem Artichoke soup with Avocado and Crispy Croutons, Celeriac and Hazelnut Soup... Curried Parsnip Soup is a favourite as is the combination of Parsnip and Fennel Soup.
Recipes for both Bread Stuffing and Potato Stuffing freeze perfectly and will be brilliant to stuff a chicken, pheasant, turkey, goose and duck. Apple sauce and Red Cabbage complete that meal but the pièce de résistance is this All in One Christmas Dinner on a Dish - This recipe dates back to the time when the United Hunt held its annual ball in Ballymaloe every year before Christmas. They wanted the whole works so my mother in law, Myrtle devised this delicious version which we prepared ahead and reheated. It became such a favourite that it was requested every year. It’s definitely a bit of a mission to make and you’ll need to cook the turkey and ham separately. Meanwhile make a creamy mushroom filling with lots of fresh herbs and then a creamy sauce to coat the lot.
The end result is an unctuous “Turkey and Ham Sandwich” that reheats deliciously in 10-15 minutes on the day.
You’ll need something fresh tasting to flit across the tongue after that deeply satisfying meal. Who wouldn’t love a clean and fresh tasting citrusy Tangerine Sorbet or Compote of Pears with Saffron to round off a Christmas feast.
Have a wonderful joyful Christmas counting our blessings.
A Christmas Dinner on a Platter
1 x 12-14 lbs (5.5-6.5kg) free range turkey, preferably a bronze turkey
1 x 8-10 lbs (3.4-4.5kg) ham or loin of bacon, (unsmoked, soaked overnight in cold water if salty)
chicken or turkey stock
dry white wine
1 large sliced onion
2 sticks celery
a few peppercorns
50g (2oz) chopped parsley
2 tablespoons other fresh herbs, eg. tarragon, thyme, chives, lemon balm
3-4 egg yolks
600ml (1 pint) cream
85g (3oz) roux
Duchesse potato made with 5.5-6.5kg (12-14lb) potato, for piping around the dishes
Mushroom with fresh herbs and cream
85-100g (3-4oz) butter
1.2kg (2½lb) sliced mushrooms
180 ml (6fl.oz) cream
4 tablesp. fresh herbs, eg. parsley, thyme, chives
425g (15oz) onions, finely chopped
Roux as needed (equal quantities of melted butter and flour cooked together for 2 – 3 mins)
salt and freshly ground pepper
3 – 4 serving platters
Cover the ham with cold water, bring it slowly to the boil and discard the water, cover again with hot water. Bring to the boil and simmer until the ham is cooked, 2½ hours approx. (calculate 20 minutes to 450g (1lb) as a rough guide). The skin will peel off easily when the ham is cooked.
Meanwhile, season the turkey and put it into a large saucepan with about 12.5-15cm (5-6 inches) of water or chicken stock and white wine. Add 1 large sliced onion, 2 sticks of celery, 2 large carrots cut in chunks, a bouquet garni and a few black peppercorns. Bring to the boil, cover closely and simmer for 2 hours approx. either on top of the stove or in a moderate oven 180°C/350°F/regulo 4.
While the turkey and ham are cooking, prepare the mushrooms. Melt the butter in a wide heavy bottomed saucepan. When it sizzles add the chopped onions, cover and sweat over a low heat until soft but not coloured. Meanwhile in a hot frying pan, fry off the mushrooms a few at the time in a little butter, season with salt and freshly ground pepper, add them to the softened onions. Add more butter if necessary, but never too much, add the freshly chopped herbs, cream and a squeeze of lemon juice. Taste for seasoning. Bring to the boil and thicken with enough roux to thicken lightly. Set the mushroom a la crémè aside until you are ready to assemble the dish.
When the turkey is cooked the legs will feel loose in their sockets, remove it from the casserole and de-grease the cooking liquid. Bring it to the boil and reduce by half. Add 300-450ml (10-15fl.oz) cream, I know that sounds shocking but this recipe makes 30 helpings and you are not going to eat it all yourself! Bring back to the boil and thicken to a light coating consistency with roux. Taste for seasoning.
Skin the turkey, the skin from a poached turkey is soft rather than crisp, so I don’t use it in this dish. Chop up the brown turkey meat from the legs and the white meat from the wings into smallish pieces and mix with the mushroom a la créme. Add 2 tablespoons chopped parsley, 1 dessertspoon thyme, chives and lemon balm if available.
Spread a layer of the creamy sauce on the serving dishes. Carve a nice slice of bacon or ham for each serving and place at regular intervals on top of the sauce. Spoon some of the brown meat and mushroom mixture on top. Carve the turkey breast into thin slices and place 1 slice per serving on top of the mushrooms and ham, making individual complete sandwiches.
Whisk 3-4 egg yolks with 150ml (5fl.oz) cream to make a liaison, blend well and stir this into the remainder of the cream sauce. (It should be a coating consistency.) Coat the pieces of turkey with this sauce. Cool and refrigerate. If serving on the day, pipe a generous border of Duchesse potato all around the edge of the dishes. Cool the dishes quickly, cover and refrigerate or freeze until needed.
Reheat in a moderate oven 180C-190C/350-375F/regulo 4-5, for 30 minutes approx. until it is bubbling and golden on top. If necessary, flash under the grill to brown the edges of the Duchesse potato.
Garnish with generous sprigs of flat leaf resh parsley and serve.
If freezing the dishes with a potato border around the edge, freeze first and then cover tightly with strong cling film to prevent the potato from getting squashed.
However, for best results, freeze without the potato, but pipe it on just before reheating.
110g (4oz) butter
110g (4oz) flour
Melt the butter and cook the flour in it for 2 minutes on a low heat, stirring occasionally. Use as required. Roux can be stored in a cool place and used as required or it can be made up on the spot if preferred. It will keep at least a fortnight in a refrigerator.
900g (2lbs) unpeeled potatoes, preferably Golden Wonders or Kerr's Pinks
300ml (10fl ozs) creamy milk
1-2 egg yolks or 1 whole egg and 1 egg yolk
25-50g (1-2oz) butter
Scrub the potatoes well. Put them into a saucepan of cold water, add a generous pinch of salt, bring to the boil. When the potatoes are about half cooked, 15 minutes approx. for 'old' potatoes, strain off two-thirds of the water, replace the lid on the saucepan, put on to a gentle heat and allow the potatoes to steam until they are cooked. Peel immediately by just pulling off the skins, so you have as little waste as possible, put through a ricer or mouli legume while hot. (If you have a large quantity, put the potatoes into the bowl of a food mixer and beat with the spade).
While the potatoes are being peeled, bring about 300ml (10fl oz//1 1/4 cups) of milk to the boil. Beat the eggs into the hot mashed potatoes, and add enough boiling creamy milk to mix to a soft light consistency suitable for piping, then beat in the butter, the amount depending on how rich you like your potatoes. Taste and season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
Note: If the potatoes are not peeled and mashed while hot and if the boiling milk is not added immediately, the Duchesse potato will be lumpy and gluey. If you only have egg whites they will be fine and will make a deliciously light mashed potato also.