Talking turkey

It’s pretty much the hottest day of the year and I’m about to eat a full Christmas dinner in deepest Berkshire. Just what is going on. Especially as I’m not turkey’s number one fan. It’s okay but to date its not had a guaranteed place on my christmas table….

When I was a kid we always had roast turkey for Christmas dinner and it was good, but it never seemed as nice as the excitement it generated amongst everyone else. For me it was never quite a tasty and juicy as roast chicken. Maybe the plethora of trimmings overshadowed it …. what with tons of chipolatas wrapped in bacon, my mum’s top notch roast potatoes and my gran’s secret chestnut stuffing I’m not sure the turkey had much of a part to play. At least not for me.

So once I got to be in charge of cooking christmas dinner I varied what was on offer. If we were having turkey cooked for us elsewhere close to Christmas. I’d cook something else. If we were hosting the main event I’d stick with turkey (and still secretly wish it could be chicken we were having), if there was just the two of us well then I had free rein beef, duck, goose,chicken, pork, ham all possibly except lamb eaten over the years.

So is this turkey different? Well for a start I know a lot about where its from and how its been reared. On the basis that an animal that has lead a happy life is supposed to taste better then this has all the hallmarks of being winning. It’s also been cooked by Brenda Copas and is about to be carved by her husband ‘Old Tom’. What the Copas family don’t know about rearing, cooking and carving turkey probably isn’t worth knowing. They’ve been rearing turkeys since 1957 and still use traditional methods and breeds. All the turkeys are grown to maturity and the different breeds provide the size variation rather than many producers some of whose turkeys are slaughtered younger to provide smaller birds. Copas say that for traditional breeds its the way the turkeys are reared rather than the breed that creates the flavour.

We’ve visited the farm and met the turkeys (curiously inquisitive animals whose odd looks belie a docile nature). We’ve heard about what makes the turkeys special:

– grown to full maturity

– only raised during the traditional breading season and not year long

– raised outdoors in orchards, grass fields with maize banks for foraging

– access to shelter at all times and spend overnight in big roomy barns

– slaughtered with the highest possible welfare standards and low stress environment

– dry plucked by hand

– game hung for 10-14 days

– hand prepared and packed

Tom carves, plates are handed round and after a toast we tuck in. Its good, very good. Lots of flavour, moist, tender. The breast meat is excellent with a good balance of delicateness and proper flavour to satisfy everyone the legs are gamier and much more remisent of other birds. Some of each is a good contrast. Several people have seconds (this is getting rather like real Christmas) some of us are pretty full so save a little space for dessert.

So will I be switching to turkey every Christmas??

Wisely sheltering from the sun

That’s a really difficult one, now I know what excellent turkey tastes like and how to cook it…well its definitely much higher up my list but I’m a contrary thing and I’d probably still vary from year to year depending on who I’m cooking for. One things for sure I’d be seeking out a Copas turkey and if I was too slow and missed out (after all they do only rear about 50000 turkeys each year) then I’d be looking for something that was reared in a similar way from a farmer with high standards.

Copas Turkeys have a Great Taste Awards Two Gold Stars (2010) and having been a judge for the 2011 awards I know how high the standard is to achieve that .

Order your Copas turkey online or through one of the butchers who stock them. Be quick they sell out fast.

I was a guest of the Copas family and  Story PR.

Festive menu, part 2 (cheese terrine)

The first of the recipes from my festive menu is the cheese terrine we had as a starter with Peters Yard crispbreads and a selection of smoked and cured salmon from Forman’s.

The terrine is adapted from a recipe in Delia Smith’s Christmas (the old version I’ve no idea if its in the recently published version). I particularly wanted to use a range of Lancashire cheeses but you could use any mix of cheeses you have and it would be a good way to use up what’s left of a cheese board. It makes a good starter or a light lunch dish (which is what I’ve been doing with the leftovers).

Cheese terrine

You need:

  • 275g of cottage cheese or other mild young soft cheese, I used Lancashire curd from Butlers but I think Brock Hall Farm soft goat cheese would also be brilliant.
  • 75ml mild good mayonnaise or greek yoghurt
  • sachet of gelatine powder or two leaves of sheet gelatine
  • 50g each of three hard cheeses, one of which should be a blue cheese, I used  Blacksticks Blue, Creamy and Tasty Lancashire combined (25g of each) and Goosnargh Goats all from Butlers Cheeses
  • tablespoon of chopped fresh herbs of your choice, I used flat leaf parsley
  • water and lemon juice to dissolve the gelatine
  • 150ml double cream
  • salt and pepper
  • a loaf or terrine tin 18 x 9 x 5 cm lightly oiled

Dissolve the gelatine as per the packet instructions. Blend the cottage/curd cheese with the mayonnaise/yoghurt until smooth. Cube the hard cheeses into 1/2 cm pieces. Whip the cream to the floppy stage.

Add the dissolved gelatine to  the soft cheese mixture and stir thoroughly. Add the hard cheeses, herbs, salt and pepper and mix. Then add the cream and stir through. Pour or spoon into the terrine mould. Cover with cling film and leave to set for 3 hours or more in the fridge. Turn out onto a plate and serve in slices or allow people to help themselves.

Enough for 8 as a starter.

Festive menu, part 1

I’m sure everyone has their festive menu’s already sorted. Their shopping list written, deliveries planned, meat ordered and so on. Down to the last detail. So my festive might have come to late. But if you are dithering then read on (and into the remaining parts as they appear) you might find some inspiration. And for those who have everything planned out with military precision well you might find some ideas for surpluses or things to make if you can’t get what you need for your menu on your final dash to the shops.

I cooked this menu last weekend when we had a pre christmas, Christmas dinner with my parents and my brother and sister in law. we’ll all be in different places with other bits of our families on Christmas Day so this was our festive get together complete with tree decorating, silly games, sherry and presents. and of course lots of food.

Here’s the menu:

Starter:

Selection of smoked and cured salmon
Terrine of Lancashire cheeses (recipe to follow)
Crispbread

Main:

Slow roast shoulder of pork served with two stuffings (Chestnut Stuffing recipe to follow)
Roast root vegetables
Roast potatoes
Sprout and peas
Lashing of ‘jus’ from the meat

Dessert:

Sticky ginger pudding
Clementine sorbet (recipe to follow)
Jersey cream

And in the spirit of making things easy for the chef so everyone could spend time chatting rather than sweating over hot stoves lots of it was ‘cheaty’ so bought in but from top quality suppliers. And some of it was very easy to make in advance.

Here’s where I sourced things from:

Salmon: Forman & Sons London Cure smoked Salmon and 3 gravadlax cures

Lancashire cheeses for the terrine (recipe to follow): Butlers Cheeses

Crispbread: Peters Yard (of course!)

Pork shoulder : Anna’s Happy Trotters

Sticky Ginger Pudding: Cartmel Village Shop

So that’s it delicious food from good suppliers making the menu easier but still delicious. Watch out for the recipes coming soon.

Mince pie (on vintage Midwinter plate)

I’ve just had a mince pie.

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It’s my third one for this Christmas season.

They were all REALLY good.

I didn’t make them though (I’ve not got that far yet in my Christmas planning).

The people at Costa Coffee sent them to me.

How kind.

And they’ve won awards.

So if you are feeling like a mince pie then I’d say these are definitely worth a try.