Cornbread Dressing

There was something about this that really reminded me of Stovetop Dressing, it was comforting and plain. John liked it and is hinting that it would be a good addition to the Christmas canon. This from someone who usually doesn’t bother with bread stuffing at all. The recipe below is what I actually did, although unless I’ve got a vegetarian on the premises again I’ll use real bacon and bacon fat next time, which the original recipe suggested.

4 slices quorn bacon, cut into shreds
4 oz butter, in two batches
2 ribs celery, finely chopped
1 big onion, finely chopped
2 cups crumbled cornbread
3 medium slices wholemeal bread, lightly toasted and cut into small squares (maybe about 1.5 cms?)
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp dried sage
About 1/3 pint well-seasoned warm stock (veggie in this case, chicken would be more usual)

Fry the bacon in one lot of butter, tip it into a big bowl and fry the veggies in the next lot. Add to the bowl with all the dry ingredients, mix up well. Pile into a baking dish (I used a heavy crockery pie dish), pour on the stock to moisten and bake at Gas Mark 5 for half an hour (into the oven once the turkey’s come out would be fine).

As there’s no egg or other binding it doesn’t need cooking so much as warming through, the longer you cook it the more the bottom will get soft and the top crisp. If you’re enough of a veggie not to want the quorn bacon, it will need more salt and possibly some fake/liquid smoke of some kind. If you’re setting the oven high once the turkey’s done, for roasting potatoes, you could heat this in a heavy-bottom frying pan on the hob, or if you can fit it in, put it low down in the oven and keep an eye on it. You could, of course, actually stuff the turkey with it.

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Tia Maria Glazed Ham

Well, I'll try most things once. I wanted a small ham to go with Thanksgiving Dinner, and for lunch later on. I baked a small smoked gammon joint as normal (Gas Mark 4, about an hour a kilo and an extra quarter of an hour). Take it out, skin it, score the fat, top it and put it back for another half hour. For the topping today, I dribbled it all over with Tia Maria, slapped some muscavado sugar onto the fat, and sprinkled that with ground cloves.

It smells great.

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Legendary Sprout Kebabs

Following this post last year, I made some sprout kebabs for a belated Bonfire Party last night. I didn't get very extravagant, I thought I'd try out the basic idea before messing with it.

I microwaved a pack of trimmed brussels sprouts for 7 minutes, which was the recommendation on the pack, and let them cool. I made a little bowl of spice mix using roughly ground black pepper, allspice, and freshly grated nutmeg. I took a rasher of smoked streaky bacon, dipped an end in the spices, and rolled it around a sprout until it had gone all the way round and little bit over to secure it. Stuck a bamboo skewer through it, and cut off the excess bacon. It worked out at two sprouts balls per rasher, and I put two on each skewer. I tried originally dunking the sprouts in the spice mix, but it didn't stick, whereas it clung nicely to the fatty bacon.

Cooking times would depend on method, I put them on a barbeque on a windy November evening, so they took a while, and didn't get really golden and crisp.

The sprouts were soft and delicate, with surprisingly little of that overcooked metallic brassica taste. The spice mixture set the whole thing off a treat. Most people tried one, which I didn't expect, and liked them as well. Alice is thinking about doing them as a vegetable / garnish at Christmas. We discussed the hot bread sauce as a dip to go with them, and that would certainly make a winter party item.

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Maple Bacon Toffee Apple Cheesecake

This is a work in progress … I found recipes for a savoury stilton and bacon cheesecake, and also for something like an upside-down cake with toffee apples in the base, cheesecake on top, then up-end it to serve, no biscuit or cake base. I'm doing a mix and match with a cheesecake recipe I know works, and we'll see what happens.

What I'm doing is:

  • 4 rashers Waitrose maple cured bacon
  • 3 tart apples, Granny Smiths, peeled and cored
  • 2 oz butter
  • 2 tblsps brown sugar
  • 2 tblsps maple syrup
  • 250 gms digestives
  • 4 oz butter, melted
  • 12 oz cream cheese – the real stuff if you can get it, otherwise use Philly
  • 6 oz caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tblsp calvados

Finely snip the bacon and dry fry the bits until really really crisp. Drain on kitchen paper and leave to cool.

In a big heavy pan, chop the apples in about half inch cubes and cook in the butter, sugar and syrup until dark golden and slightly soft, and the sauce has pretty much evaporated. Cool a bit, but not too long, I suspect it would set solid.

Preheat oven to Gas Mark 4.

Make a digestive biscuit base for a 9 – 10" springform pan, by crushing the digestive biscuits and mixing with the melted butter. Press firmly into the pan.

Top with the toffee apple mixture, and sprinkle on the bacon.

Process the cream cheese, add caster sugar, eggs, and calvados and process till smooth. It's very wet.

Pour over the apples, and bake for about half an hour until set and not wobbling too much in the middle. It'll set more as it cools.

Out of the oven and looking good. I'm still debating a topping …

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Chestnut Stuffing

What with have a goose rather than a turkey, I somehow managed to avoid having anything with chestnuts in it for Christmas dinner. So this afternoon I'm baking a tray of my favourite chestnut stuffing, to have cold at Hogswatch. I've made this regularly for about 30 years now, it's a recipe by Josceline Dimbleby from the first ever Sainsbury's cookbook, her Cooking for Christmas.

  • 4 oz smoked streaky bacon, in small cubes
  • 2 oz butter
  • 1 onion chopped finely
  • turkey heart and liver, chopped finely (if you've got giblets, otherwise don't bother)
  • 6 oz chopped mushrooms
  • 10 oz tin chestnut puree (unsweetened)
  • 1 small tube smooth liver pate
  • 3 large cloves garlic, chopped finely
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 oz fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1 whisked egg
  • salt and pepper

Fry the bacon, onion, and giblets in the butter for about 5 minutes. Scrape it all into a bowl, making sure you get all the fat, and mix in everything else. Put in a baking dish, baste with turkey juices if you're roasting a bird at the same time, and cook with the bird for the last 45 minutes.

I have taken over the years to adding a pack of ready-peeled chestnuts, crumbled, sprinkling it with sherry and chicken stock if no turkey juices are to hand, and find that 45 minutes in a square baking tray at Gas Mark 3 works fine. You can make it into balls if you're that way inclined. It sounds odd, especially that quantity of oregano, but it's very tasty and seriously moreish.

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Brussels Sprout Kebabs

Now, someone who shall remain nameless to protect the guilty brought Brussels Sprout Kebabs to a Bonfire Party on Saturday. Which was a stroke of genius, and yes, I did try one. But all he'd done was stick 4 sprouts on a skewer and grill them. So the outside was hard and crisp and the inside was softer but chewy, where it had steamed in its own water, but not enough.

We had a long conversation about how to improve them, and came up with the following ideas:

1) probably parboiling them for a few minutes beforehand would be a good idea

2) you could thread other things in amongst them – hard nuts would not work, but chestnuts might if you were prepared for them falling apart. Thinking about it again now, halloumi cheese might be good. I know you're thinking chunks of bacon, we'll come onto that in a bit.

3) marinading or at least basting – some kind of flavoured melted butter or oil. Nut oils such as hazelnut would be good by themselves, butter – you could add finely chopped onion, garlic, nutmeg, black pepper, ground nuts such as almond or hazelnut, honey, parmesan – although not all of them at once! just a select few. This was where we starting thinking about bacon, but we didn't take it far enough.

4) the blindingly obvious thing to do, now I've been writing it down, is Sprout Rumaki. Take your parboiled sprout, cut it in half, and match it up with half a chestnut to form a globular construct. Season with your choice of spices, but don't add salt. Wrap the globe in thin fatty bacon, preferably smoked, and secure with a toothpick. Grill until the bacon is done and crispy and the insides are nice and hot. Serve with a savoury dip – creamy bread sauce would be best of all …

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Bacon Cheese and Ginger Pancake

In Amsterdam on holiday we went to the Upstairs pancake house on the Grimburgwal, where we had a large crepe-style pancake each, with thin bacon in large slices cooked into it, topped with thin slices of gouda-type cheese, and finished off with a handful of chopped stem ginger in syrup piled into the middle. Could have been a savoury, could have been a sweet – would make a great breakfast. You could use a really good smoked ham in place of the bacon, any swiss type cheese would work. Grated might even work better.

 

 

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