Imagine hosting a Christmas dinner without any of the usual strings attached — except those that tie up the turkey? Well now is the ideal time as winter is the perfect season for festive celebrations with friends.
Last year we asked our guests to dress for the occasion — in something reflecting the spirit of Christmas. The friend who came as a Christmas cracker had to partially undress so he could eat his meal. I think this year we’ll ditch the dress-up and just concentrate on dressing the table with candles, holly, cotton wool snowballs, silver-painted pine cones, crackers, bowls of nuts and muscatels and a few Santas. Going overboard helps beat the winter blues.
I’ve chosen turkey for the main event. It’s always popular and particularly appreciated when the fire is roaring.
My free-range turkey has been nurtured by the Crozier family who own a 33-hectare farm near Ashburton. It is home to 20,000 plus white-feathered turkeys that are free to range and scratch for food outdoors but are also supplied with a mixture of natural grains, many of which are home-grown. These turkeys are available from selected butchers or online.
The meat of free-range turkeys tends to be denser than barn-raised birds. Therefore, it is important not to let the bird dry out during cooking. Add a couple of cups of water to the roasting pan and loosely cover the bird with foil if it is browning unevenly.
For best results, thaw frozen turkeys in the refrigerator — a four-and-half kilogram bird will take at least 48 hours to thaw.
Accompaniments that I love to serve with turkey include: cranberry sauce prepared from frozen cranberries; prunes stuffed with lychees, wrapped in pancetta and grilled; pinot-noir and redcurrant jellies; oysters Kilpatrick; gravy made from the pan juices and concentrated fresh chicken stock; and, of course, lashings of healthy vegetables.
Apple-glazed roast turkey
I used a packet of 90-second rice and chia mix for the stuffing. Crozier turkeys now have pop-up cooking timers. Serves 8-10.
2 cups cooked rice & chia mix
1 apple, cored & diced
1 cup craisins
1 teaspoon each: dried basil, oregano
1 egg, lightly beaten
Salt & pepper to taste
1 small-medium onion for neck cavity
1 medium apple for chest cavity
4.5kg Crozier Free-range Turkey
3 each: carrots, celery stalks, coarsely chopped
1 onion, chopped
50g butter, softened
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
⅔ cup apple juice
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
½ cup packed brown sugar
Finely grated rind and juice 1 orange
- To prepare the stuffing, combine the cooked rice and chia mix with the diced apple, craisins, herbs, egg and seasonings. Peel and cut the onion to a suitable shape to fit the neck cavity. Prick the apple several times with a skewer.
- Preheat the oven to 150C.
- Remove the giblets from the turkey and reserve. Run cold water through the turkey cavities then pat dry. Fill the chest cavity with the rice stuffing. Place the apple at the entrance of the cavity. Place the onion in the neck cavity folding the skin over to hold it in place. Tie the turkey in a neat shape with string.
- Place the carrots, celery and onion in the middle of a large roasting pan. Top with the giblets. Place the turkey on a rack and place over the mixture. Spread with the softened butter. Season well with the black pepper. Add 2 cups of water to the roasting pan.
- Roast for 40 minutes per 500g or until the turkey timer pops up about 3½ hours. Baste the turkey and turn the roasting pan around occasionally.
- Meanwhile, boil the glaze ingredients together, until syrupy. Brush the turkey with the glaze several times during the last 30 minutes of cooking. Cover loosely with foil and stand to rest for 15 minutes before carving.
- The pan juices and vegetables can be used as a base for gravy.
Crab-stuffed mini peppers
This recipe should be doubled to serve 8 people. It can be prepared 2-3 hours ahead and reheated. Serves 4 as a starter.
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons finely chopped coriander roots & stems
170g can crab meat
Pinch white pepper
8 small sweet mini peppers
2 teaspoons canola oil
200ml coconut cream
1-2 tablespoons Thai green curry paste
2 teaspoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon palm or brown sugar
1 cup basil leaves
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
- Pound the garlic and coriander to a paste. Drain the crab meat and finely chop. Combine with the paste and white pepper.
- Cut the stem ends from the peppers to make caps. Reserve. Remove the seeds from the peppers then stuff with the crab mixture. Return the caps and secure with cocktail sticks.
- Heat the oil in a wok on low then stir in 2 tablespoons of coconut cream. Add the curry paste and sizzle for 30 seconds. Add the remaining coconut cream, fish sauce and sugar and bring to a simmer. Place the peppers in the sauce. Cover and poach for about 20 minutes, until softened. Add a little hot water if the sauce is too thick. Add the basil leaves then serve.
- Place 2 peppers on each serving plate, discard the cocktail sticks and drizzle with the coconut cream sauce and a little lemon juice, if preferred.
Wine braised fennel
Flavoursome fennel is said to aid digestion. Serves 8.
2 large fennel bulbs
2 tablespoons olive oil
Freshly ground salt and black pepper
1 cup dry white wine
- Cut each fennel bulb in 4 lengthwise. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Blanch the bulbs for 30 seconds then drain well and pat dry.
- Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan. Add the fennel and seasonings, stirring well. Add the wine, cover and simmer on low heat for about 20 minutes, until tender.
Raspberry and white chocolate souffle
250g frozen raspberries
2 tablespoons sugar
1½ tablespoons each: cornflour, water
25g butter, softened
1½ tablespoons sugar
6 egg whites
6 tablespoons sugar
300g raspberry base
75g white chocolate, chopped
- To make the base, place the raspberries and sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer on low heat, stirring occasionally. Combine the cornflour and water. Stir into the hot raspberries, until thick. Cool. Can be covered and refrigerated for up to a week.
- To prepare the ramekins, grease 8 (⅔-cup) soufflé ramekins with the softened butter using a pastry brush. Chill, until set. Paint again with the butter creating a thick layer. Sprinkle with the sugar, rolling around to coat the base and sides evenly.
- To prepare the soufflé, place the egg whites in a bowl with 1 teaspoon of the sugar. Whisk, preferably with an electric beater. Slowly add the remaining sugar, beating until soft peaks form.
- Place the berry base in another bowl. Stir well then add the chocolate. Fold in ⅓ of the egg whites. Then fold in the remaining egg whites. (This can be prepared an hour ahead and refrigerated.)
- Preheat the oven to 180°C.
- Spoon the soufflé mixture into the ramekins. Smooth the tops by running the straight edge of a metal spatula over the ramekins.
- Bake for 10-15 minutes.
- Great served with wedges of mild soft goat’s cheese. Serves 8.