The 9th [nearly] annual Christmas stuffing post

I didn’t do one of these posts last year because my campaign to have something other than turkey for Christmas dinner finally paid off — we had beef. But we’re back to turkey this year; turkey, prunes wrapped in bacon, roast potatoes, Brussels sprouts, cranberry sauce, and two types of stuffing. Both stuffings, as usual, were made with a base of sausagemeat, bread, onion, and celery; one was chestnut and mushroom (again), and for the other one, I added pecans and dried figs steeped in Marsala. Which was very nice, though I do say so myself.

Followed by (shop-bought) Christmas pudding, which was alright, although personally I’d rather have trifle every year.

Also the Sri Lankan Christmas cake recipe I’ve done for the past two years, and a ham boiled in ginger beer and baked with a brown sugar and mustard glaze.

The 8th annual Christmas stuffing post (and trifle and cake)

This year: a return to the old standby of chestnut and mushroom for the savoury one, and apricot pineapple and ginger for the fruity one. If you really want to details of the recipe, check back to previous stuffing posts.

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And this year I made a trifle because I’m not a huge fan of Christmas pudding and it seemed like a sufficiently Christmassy alternative. From bottom to top, it’s chocolate sponge, cherries in syrup, grated chocolate, vanilla custard, cherry jam, whipped cream, decorated with glacé cherries, gold balls and iridescent sprinkles. A Black Forest gateau type thing.

To be really picky, it could have have less sponge and/or more liquid to soak it in (I would have added booze but I was serving small children), and more custard. But it was nice anyway.

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And I made a christmas cake for the first time this year. It’s a Sri Lankan recipe from Charmaine Solomon’s Complete Asian Cookbook, and it’s very much in the mould of a traditional European Christmas cake, but with more spices and a more interesting mix of fruit. I substituted ground almonds for the semolina for gluten-free purposes. It turned out really well, recognisably a Christmas cake but much better than the usual. Note, though, it is seriously rich: one slice is almost too much to eat at a time.

The 7th annual Christmas stuffing post

It’s time for the most pointless Christmas tradition of them all! We’re having goose this year instead of turkey, but naturally I’m doing stuffing to go with it.

As usual I’ve made two versions using a base of sausagemeat. Normally they both have sausage, onion, celery, breadcrumbs and egg, but my sister isn’t eating wheat, so this time I skipped the breadcrumbs. Hopefully it won’t adversely affect the texture too much.

I was bored of doing chestnut and mushroom, but my mother insisted that the meal had to include chestnuts somewhere, so one stuffing is apple and chestnut. It has Bramley apple, chestnuts, parsley, thyme, some Calvados and the liver from the goose.

The other one is a repeat from 2007: cherry, apricot, almond and ginger. Dried apricots and sour cherries, some almonds, candied stem ginger, a pinch of mixed spice and some brandy. Oh and the cherries were a bit old so I soaked them in Grand Marnier overnight first.

The 6th annual Christmas stuffing post

The annual Christmas stuffing post may be the most pointless of the arbitrary traditions that have accreted themselves onto this blog, but it doesn’t take long to do, and what better time of year for arbitrary traditions? So here we go:

As usual, two stuffings both made with a base of sausagemeat, breadcrumbs, onion and celery. The more savoury one has returned to the usual chestnut version, after a brief dalliance last year with pistachios. This year the fruity one is pineapple and ginger, using dried pineapple reconstituted in a bit of water and candied stem ginger.

Ham

I cooked a ham. Looks good, innit:

Unfortunately I don’t think it’s going to taste as good as it looks, because I trusted the man who sold it to me when he said it didn’t need to be soaked before cooking, and the little bit I trimmed off to taste was VERY SALTY. Which is irritating, because it was quite an expensive chunk of meat. Ho hum.

It probably didn’t help that I steamed it instead of boiling it, but that’s how I cooked last year’s (after soaking it) and it was fine.

I also made an Italian Christmas cake thing called pangiallo, which was mildly stressful because of the not-very informative recipe and turned out to be a pleasant but completely unremarkable fruitcake of the kind I don’t like very much.

Bah humbug.

CHRISTMAS EVE HAM UPDATE:

I cut a few slices, and it’s certainly saltier than I would ideally like, but it’s not unbearably, mouth-shrivellingly salty, which I thought it might be after the little test bit I cut off. So let’s call that a partial win!

Christmas biscuits*

I did some baking yesterday.

There’s nothing especially Christmassy about the recipes themselves — ginger biscuits with candied peel and chocolate chip oat cookies — but I did make them sparkly.

It’s quite hard to photograph the glitter. It’s actually holographic rainbow sparkles, but in photographs it just looks silver.

* Note for Americans: not those kind of biscuits, obvs.

Harry’s advent calendar of birds, day 24: Robin

No surprise in the final bird on the advent calendar. Or at least, no surprise for my British readers; robins probably appear on more Christmas cards here than Jesus.

In fact, the robin is so deeply linked to Christmas that it’s slightly surprising to remember other countries don’t have the same association. Some of them have the excuse that they don’t actually have any robins — and no, Americans, your so called ‘robins’ don’t count — but the same applies to other European countries.

It’s not completely clear where the connection came from. It’s relatively recent, as folklore goes; at most back to the eighteenth century, and it became really well established in the nineteenth, as Christmas cards became popular. One suggestion, according to Birds Britannica, is that Robin was a nickname for Victorian postmen, who had red uniforms; so the birds often appeared on Christmas cards carrying envelopes in their beaks. Or perhaps it’s because they sing through the winter.

Christmas aside, they are very popular birds; they are famously tame around people, hanging around gardeners looking for worms. Apparently they actually evolved this behaviour in association with wild boar, which they would follow through the forest in much the same manner. I guess there are worse things to be than a substitute boar.

Happy Christmas, one and all.

The 5th annual Christmas stuffing post

As usual, I’ve made a base of sausagemeat, onion, celery and breadcrumbs, and split it into two batches.

To one I added dried apricots and dried barberries which I reconstituted in champagne (but only because there was half a bottle of flat champagne in the kitchen). Then a pinch of mixed spice.

The second stuffing had pistachios, lots of flat-leaved parsley & a bit of thyme, some chopped green olives, garlic, lemon zest and lemon juice.

Incidentally, my computer problems are back and so the final entry to my advent calendar will have to wait until when and if I get it running again… hopefully at least before midnight.

Mmmm, cured pork products

This is what I have been doing today (well, that and wrapping presents):

The ham is from Sillfield Farm, but I steamed and glazed it myself. I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out, although I know it’s not the most flattering photograph.

4th annual Heraclitean Fire Christmas stuffing post

Because arbitrary traditions are important at Christmas.

As usual, I made a base of sausagemeat, celery, onion and breadcrumbs, and also as usual half of it is chestnut stuffing. But this year’s second, ad-libbed recipe has toasted almonds and dried apricots and peaches soaked in amaretto.

Now I ought to get on with roasting the ham that has been simmering away the whole time. Happy midwinter festival, everyone.

Ho Ho Ho!

Decapitated Father Christmas

The robust London sense of humour was on display at Borough market last week, courtesy of the bloke selling Christmas trees.

Also of interest at the market, some fine-looking fungi for sale. I have no idea what puffballs are like to eat—mushroomy, probably—but they look impressive.

puffballs for sale at Borough Market

These pictures are hosted on my Flickr account. And it seems like an apt moment to plug my photoblog Clouded Drab again, since the photo on the front page at the moment was also taken at Borough Market.

2nd annual Heraclitean Fire Christmas stuffing post

I’ve been making stuffing for Christmas lunch today. So since it’s practically traditional (i.e. I did it last year), here’s what I’ve made: some chestnut and prune stuffing and some ginger and almond. Both are loosely inspired by reipces I’ve seen somewhere but with a bit of tweaking by me. Both are made with a base of sausagemeat, onion, celery, breadcrumbs and egg.

The chestnut and prune was made with the addition of the liver from the turkey, chestnuts, prunes, brandy, and fresh parsley and thyme.

For the other, I added crystallised stem ginger, toasted flaked almonds, some lemon zest, mixed spice and Cointreau.

I’ll report back on how they are to eat. Happy Christmas, everyone.

Stuffing update

My apricot, cherry and almond stuffing worked out well. If anything it slightly removed the need for cranberry sauce – the sour cherries have a similar fruity/sour thing going on, so you don’t really need both.

Today I shall mostly be making wild mushroom soup.

Anyone need a good stuffing?

I’ve made like, really a lot.

But it should freeze OK. One batch is a chestnut stuffing from a Good Housekeeping book (sausagemeat, onion, celery, chestnut mushrooms, breadcrumbs, herbs, chestnuts, egg and brandy), which I’ve made before and is nice. The other is my own invention – sausagemeat with onion, dried apricots, dried sour cherries, egg, brandy and a little mixed spice. On Christmas Day I’ll let you know how it turned out.

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