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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The Most Pretentious Menu I’ve Seen Yet

Menu from a conference dinner (the venue has a maritime / naval warfare historical connection, which may explain some of the more florid bits)
Warm Mousseline of Sussex Chicken stuffed with Cave Matured Roquefort and Fresh Harvested Walnuts with a Sauce of Sorrel Hollandaise and Julienne of Russet Apples
A Ravioli in the Colours of the Kingdom of Naples filled with Scottish Lobster, Salmon and Ginger from the Windward Islands and topped with Deep Fried Leeks
Cannon of English Lamb stuffed with Wild Woodland Mushrooms and Truffles, imprisoned in a pastry cage with a Sauce of Wild Rowan Berries and a Plume of French Bar-le-Duc
Black Potatoes from the Ardennes
Bundles of Vegetables gathered fresh from the garden
A Miniature Gateau flavoured with Liquorice from the Spanish Maine concealing a heart of liquid fire glazed with Quince Jelly and served on Lapsang Creme Anglaise with Baby Pear finished with an arabesque of purest gold.
Glazed Normandy Brie with Wild Mulberries and Bath Oliver Biscuits
Coffee and Homemade Truffles
I had to look up Bar-Le-Duc, it's a French preserve named after a town in Lorraine, traditionally made with whole redcurrants which have had the seeds extracted by little old ladies using a goose quill. I would normally spell Spanish Main without the "e", but otherwise there were no spelling mistakes – too many capitals but consistently used. On the whole though – YUCK – over complicated, and generally a right mess. Apparently the dessert was a sponge with something like a malteser in the middle, which in turn had a brandy liqueur centre. It wasn't popular. And the Brie was glazed with a sugar topping, so two desserts.
One idea worth playing with might be the Lapsang custard with a poached pear, that could be an interesting combo. 

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Sample Christmas Menu

Christmas menu from local catering college:
Cream of potato and watercress soup
Smoked salmon terrine served with crayfish tails and tartare dressing
Paupiette of plaice and spinach duglere (which research assures me is a white fish sauce incorporating crushed tomatoes)
Cheese fritters served on peperonata
Roast turkey
Game pie
Char-grilled sirloin steak bearnaise
Parsnip, chestnut and cranberry strudel served with forest mushroom and red wine reduction
Roast and creamed potatoes
Brussels sprouts
Puree of carrots and swede
Christmas pudding with rum sauce
Pecan truffle stuffed pear served with vanilla ice-cream and maple syrup sauce
Old English sherry trifle with syllabub sauce

The strudel could run the risk of being sweet, and is deffo v carby. The pecan pear sounds good, though …

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Valencia Pancakes

Evesham Hotel menu:

White fish cooked  with olive oil, mushrooms and madeira in a cheese sauce, wrapped in a pancake and baked with cream and almonds

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Asian-spiced fish with mushrooms

This is v odd. From BBC Good Food, Christmas 2005, article by Ainsley Harriott. Suggests 201 calories per serving, before any rice or noodles. For 4 servings:

  • 25 gms butter
  • 4 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 lime, zest grated
  • 1 mild red chilli, cut into rings
  • 4 x 6oz firm white fish fillets, boneless, skinless
  • 200 gm pack mixed mushrooms, trimmed
  • handful of coriander leaves

Heat oven to Gas 6.

Melt the butter, stir in soy sauce, lime zest and chilli. Marinade the fish in this mixture for 10 minutes.

Drain the fish (keeping marinade) and spread on a baking tray. Toss the mushrooms in the marinade and scatter around the fish, drizzling on the remaining liquid. Roast 6 – 8 minutes, until fish is tender and mushrooms are sizzling.

Scatter with coriander and serve with rice or noodles.

Asian fish for people who aren't used to cooking Asian food, what's with the butter? I'm not sure even at Mark 6 that the mushrooms would be "sizzling" after 6 – 8 minutes, especially if you hadn't sliced them up in any way, or pre-heated the baking tray. Article also suggests using chicken breast fillets instead of fish, roasting for 15 minutes before adding the mushrooms. Or marinading large raw prawns and stir-frying in a hot wok for 2 mins, then adding mushrooms for a further 1 min, stirring in last bits of juice just before serving.

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Healthier Breakfast Mushrooms

Made these last night to go with a fillet steak in merlot-blackberry sauce , they probably weren't the healthiest side dish in the world, but better than the normal breakfast ones.

Roast a head of garlic in a low oven for an hour or so until squidgy.

Squeeze the innards out into a small heavy pan and add a medium box of white mushrooms, torn into quarters.

Cover with beef stock and 2 tsps butter.

Simmer until stock is evaporated, and mushrooms are cooked. (If not cooked to liking, add more hot water and keep going) then stir about while they brown. Crush any remaining large chunks of garlic.

Keep warm if you haven't done the rest of dinner yet. …

Just before serving, reheat on a low heat and stir in 1/4 cup 4% (or lower if you can get it) creme fraiche, and lots of fresh ground black pepper. Simmer and stir to get the cream slightly thickened and a glorious autumnal brown.

John said he'd have liked more garlic, but the kitchen REEKED this morning – and the mushrooms a bit more done, they were chewy for him.

Made two veg portions, would have made 4 – 6 garnish portions.

If I hadn't been doing the merlot sauce for the steak, I'd probably have added some sherry with the beef stock, or at the cream stage to thin it a bit and used it as a sauce. Green peppercorns would be good, too.

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Breakfast Mushrooms

I did these for breakfast this morning after a party at a friend's house, they're lovely on toast, with bacon, or just by the spoonful on last night's baked potatoes.


Tear mushrooms in pieces and cook in a fair bit of butter. Add as much garlic as you can find or stand. This morning we also had black pepper, thyme, paprika and a glass of leftover white wine. Cook on a medium heat until the liquid comes out of the mushrooms and evaporates, and they start to fry off brown in the butter. Add creme fraiche, heat through and serve. If you leave them sitting on a slow heat, even a hot tray, the cream will slowly absorb into them and split with the butter, leaving lovely garlicky oozy fatty juices. If you don't like that, stir in some more cream and rewarm, it'll come back together again for a bit. You need loads of mushrooms, I used two 750gm boxes this morning, to a large tub of cream, and that only served about a dozen people. They cook down to nothing.

You can also add brandy, concentrated liquid stock (beef or chicken), curry powder or paste if you're that way inclined, or finely chopped fresh parsley. But I don't usually add salt other than what's in the stock.

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