Last Christmas we had three generations of our family gathered around the festive table. Two of us had specific requirements. One was gluten-intolerant and another vegetarian. The vegetarian said she would be fine with just roasted vegetables.
But I couldn't let that happen on Christmas Day when everyone else was enjoying the piece de resistance - turkey with all the trimmings, including grilled prunes wrapped in bacon.
I thought long and hard for inspiration. A nut loaf or roast was the choice. It sounded fairly dull but surprised everybody. The family helped themselves to a little and loved it, especially when topped with a dollop of cranberry sauce.
And the leftovers next day were great served cold. I've included the recipe. Roast veges are a must. I usually combine a selection - including chopped pumpkin, potatoes, kumara - in a pan with olive oil, garlic, freshly ground black pepper and rosemary and roast them at 200C. At the end I throw in some fat asparagus spears and quartered colourful peppers and cook them for about 10 minutes. If you don't have two ovens - the meat and veges are cooked at different temperatures - you could cook the veges, covered, on the barbecue.
On the other hand, you could have mashed potatoes, parsnip or pumpkin, which are great for mopping up gravy. Finely chopped parsley and diced red pepper add seasonal colour.
ROAST TURKEY WITH SAUSAGE STUFFING & CRANBERRY SAUCE
I used a free-range turkey ordered from the butcher.
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Stuffing: 2 tbsp butter
1 onion, diced
1/2 cup diced fennel bulb
500g sausage meat
1 green-skinned apple, cored and diced
1 red pepper, seeded and diced
1 tsp mixed dried herbs
Finely grated rind 1 orange
Baste: 75g butter, softened
2 tbsp thyme leaves
Preheat oven to 160C.
Ensure turkey is fully thawed and giblets removed. Wipe dry and season the inside with salt and pepper.
To make the stuffing, melt butter and saute onion until soft. Add fennel and saute for one to two minutes. Cool.
Combine with remaining stuffing ingredients. Fill neck end of turkey then fill cavity. Secure stuffing by inserting small wooden skewers across cavity opening. Truss turkey with string to ensure it keeps its shape.
Place on a rack in roasting pan, breast-side up. Combine butter and thyme. Spread half over the breast. Add 1 cup of water or stock to pan.
Slit an oven bag down one side and put it over the turkey. Cook for two hours, turning pan around once.
Lift up oven bag. Spread breast with remaining butter mixture, cover again with the bag. Add extra water or stock to the pan if required.
Cover with oven bag and continue cooking for 1 & 1/2 hours or until the timer pops. To prevent the legs from becoming too brown, cover them with foil.
Remove turkey to a warm platter. Cover with foil and a thick towel to keep warm. Use juices to make a gravy.
2 & 1/2 cups frozen cranberries
1/2 cup orange juice
1 each: cinnamon stick, star anise
Pinch ground cinnamon
1/4 cup brown sugar
Put all the ingredients in a saucepan. Slowly bring to boil, stirring occasionally. Gently simmer until cranberries start to burst. Cool. Remove cinnamon and anise. Chill.
ROASTED PORK LOIN WITH PRUNES & APPLES
An economical festive roast. Ask your butcher to finely score the skin. Remove a little of the flap end and use as a cushion for the rolled roast.
1.5kg boned pork loin
15 pitted prunes, chopped
1/4 cup boiling water or port
1 shallot, diced
1 apple, peeled, cored and grated
1 tbsp chopped sage leaves
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper to taste
Place prunes in a bowl and cover with water or port. Stand for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine shallot, apple, sage and breadcrumbs. Add to prunes and mix well.
Preheat oven to 160C. Lightly oil a roasting pan.
Open out pork loin. Pat stuffing over centre. Roll up and tie with string every 3cm.
Any leftover stuffing can be wrapped in foil and baked beside the roast.
Brush with oil and sprinkle with salt. Place in a roasting pan on the flap. Add 1/2 a cup of water. Roast for 30 minutes per 500g plus 30 minutes. The internal temperature of the pork should reach 71C.
Gravy can be prepared using the pan juices.
Excellent with baked apples and baked kumara. Serves 6
VEGETARIAN PISTACHIO NUT LOAF
Based on a recipe from Jamie Magazine, but easier. Excellent served hot or cold with cranberry sauce.
Risotto: 1/4 cup dried porcini mushrooms
2 tbsp olive oil
2 each: celery stalks, small red onions, garlic cloves, diced
1/2 cup each: arborio rice, white wine
2 cups hot vegetable stock
Nut mixture: 2 tbsp olive oil
200g brown mushrooms, sliced
70g each: pistachio nuts, blanched almonds, lightly toasted and finely chopped
1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1 cup lightly packed grated tasty cheddar cheese
1 or 2 red chillies, seeded and diced
Finely grated rind 1 lemon
2 eggs, beaten
1 tbsp each: chopped rosemary, sage, thyme
To make risotto, soak porcini mushrooms in 1/2 a cup of boiling water for 20 minutes.
Heat olive oil in a heavy pan. Gently saute celery, onion and garlic, until very soft. Stir in rice. Increase heat. Add wine and stir until absorbed by rice.
Drain porcini, finely chop and add to pan. Add hot stock, a ladle at a time, stirring until it is absorbed. Cool.
Preheat oven to 190C. Grease a 20cm loaf pan and line base with baking paper.
To prepare nut mixture, heat oil in a heavy frying pan. Saute brown mushrooms until just starting to crisp. Add to risotto together with all the other ingredients.
Spoon into loaf pan and pack down gently. Cover with foil.
Bake for 40 minutes, then remove the foil and continue baking for another 15 minutes. Mixture should be lightly set.
Stand for 10 minutes before removing from pan. Serves 8
FIVE-SPICE LAMB WITH THAI-STYLE MINT SAUCE
2kg lamb leg
1 tsp each: sugar, Chinese five-spice powder, salt
1 tbsp grated root ginger
Thai-Style mint sauce: 1 cup lightly packed mint leaves
2 red chillies, seeded and chopped
1 large shallot chopped
3 cloves garlic
1/2 cup lightly packed brown sugar
150ml lime juice (about 6 limes)
2 tbsp Thai fish sauce
Preheat oven to 160C. Trim lamb of excess fat, if necessary. Score top of roast as you would a ham.
Combine sugar, five-spice and salt. Rub over scored lamb. Dot with ginger.
Place on a rack in a roasting pan. Add a cup of water or stock to the pan. Roast for 45 minutes per 500g plus an extra 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, put all the ingredients for sauce in a blender. Process until smooth.Chill until required.
Stand lamb, tented with foil and covered with a thick towel for 15 to 30 minutes before carving. This allows meat to set.
Drain any fat from the pan and use the juices to make a gravy.
Serve lamb with hot gravy and cold mint sauce. Serves about 8