Most Highly Flavoured Gravy
3:05pm on Christmas Eve, and all the deliveries are finally cooked, packed and ready to go, and then a single voice sounds out. The first verse of Once in Royal from Kings broadcast on radio 4. There’s only one month that matters in a young choristers life - and that’s December.
Composers always saved up all their tricks for their Christmas music, and the there’s the vast array of descants with which you can test your voice, reaching the highest notes possible while the congregation look on admiringly. Everyone in the choir would have their favourite carols too - for Sheila it was ‘ark the ‘erald - which always signified the beginning of Christmas for her, for Vic, it was always The Angel Gabriel - in practice he’d always change the words of the end of the chorus from ‘most highly favoured lady’ to ‘most highly flavoured gravy’ and it had us in pieces each time, and, getting to that bit when we were performing it, we‘d be knotted up inside waiting for that moment - would he say the right words? For me it was O Come All Ye Faithful. It wasn’t just that it had the highest descant, but a couple of minutes before, you’d hear the whirr of the organ being switched on and then all the stops being pulled out, and you knew - before everyone else - there was going to to be this big triumphant sound.
Years later, Christmas is still about pulling out all the stops. It begins with sourcing the best local ingredients. There’s smoked trout from Donnington trout farm for the starter topped at Christmas with caviar, and an old traditional family receipe for the Christmas pudding, and with coffee, handmade marshmallow with a hint of coconut from Miette in Stow on the wold. But what about the main course?
Our Norfolk Black Turkey is free range and organically reared sourced from the Smallholding in Chadbury. The Buckinghams have been rearing poultry for over 30 years and take care of the whole proccess themselves from the egg laying, hatching, rearing to the slaughter and preparation. They also hang their birds which gives you a much softer texture meat. Most poultry these days comes from factory production lines where the emphasis is on speed of production rather than the quality of the end result. The Buckinghams are one of only two small scale poultry farmers left in the county and have a loyal following due to the quality.
Made with sausagemeat from Home Farm, hazelnuts, breadcrumbs, blackcurrants, and a little mixed spice.
Caumpedene Berksire breed pork chipolatas and bacon
Carol Webbs' award winning Berkshire pigs produce the Cotswolds finest bacon and sausages. While Berkshire pigs are known to produce the best pork, these are left to roam the orchards eating natural food, and consequently have an almost gamey flavour the same way wild boar has. The bacon goes crispy like no other. Bacon you buy in supermarkets is pumped with water to increase the weight, but means that when you cook it all that water covers the baking tray, and the bacon steams rather than roasting/ grilling.
Rosemary roast potatoes
As described last week
Roast sprouts with chestnuts
Roasting is definitely the way forward with sprouts. Gone is that watery mush texture of the over-boiled sprouts that we used to have at school. Roasting keeps the flavour in, you get the caramelisation, and you can keep them quite crisp. Mixed with chestnuts and a glaze.
Creamed leeks and baby onions
My antidote to bread sauce. By paternal grandmother would always make creamed onions with roast lamb - a yorkshire tradition - and I think they go very well with turkey too.
Honey and thyme roast parsnip
Most highly flavored gravy
Once the turkeys have been cooked for delivery and chilled, I remove the breast and leg meat, chop the carcass and make a stock which is allowed to reduce.
The roasting juices from the roasting tin are poured off and chilled till the fat sets:
Now the fat can be removed leaving the highly flavoured tukey jus.
After that the sauce is made by caramelising mirepoix, deglazing with red wine, adding the turkey stock and the pan roasting jus, cooking down, infusing with thyme and thickening.
The absence of cranberries
The only look-in that cranberries get is in the homemade pumpkin and cranberry bread rolls. Cranberries, being an American intervention, are not top of my list of ingredients for the traditional english feast, though due to requests I had to feature them somewhere. They make a wonderful fesive addition to the bread rolls. I prefer to use rowan and hosehip jelly to accompany turkey, made by Dove Cottage in Broadway from berries picked from the surrounding fields.
All you need now is the mulled wine to precede it all......
For full menu and details click here
Gloucestershire Echo article, Christmas 2007