I usually do a reeeally big roundup just before Christmas on everything Christmas dinner-related, like timings, turkey, sprouts, etc, but sometimes I think maybe those big posts are a bit difficult to read as you have to scroll for half a mile before you reach the bit you’re really interested in. So this time I thought I’d have a little chat about the best side dishes to accompany your Christmas dinner in a separate, smaller post. I really don’t think you need a gazillion different sides for the big day. I did have a quick Google to see what other people serve with their turkey and apparently if you’re Jamie Oliver that’s anything from creamed spinach to fried rice with kale and some other stuff in it. Of course, it’s totally up to you, but I often feel like it’s best to concentrate on doing two or three things really well – it cuts down the hassle for the cook and keeps your oven a bit less cluttered too. So here goes then with the best stuffing recipe and other dishes to accompany your Christmas dinner.
Apple, red onion and chestnut stuffing
This is my favourite stuffing recipe in the whole world. We love it cooked in a loaf tin, so you get a big, fat slab with your turkey, but if you’d rather make yours a bit more delicate, it’s lovely rolled into balls and roasted. It also makes fabulous sausage rolls if you’re entertaining. It’s so sausagey that I don’t think you need pigs in blankets as well, but you can always wrap balls of stuffing in strips of streaky bacon if you like.
You will need:
2 red onions, finely chopped
2 dessert apples, grated (don’t bother to peel)
700g pork sausage meat
100g fresh white breadcrumbs
100g cooked chestnuts, chopped
2 tbsp chopped parsley
2 tbsp chopped thyme
2 tbsp chopped sage
Squeeze of lemon juice
1 tsp salt and a generous grinding of fresh black pepper
Gently heat the butter in the frying pan and add in the onion. Fry very gently until softened. Add in the apple and cook that just until it’s a bit darker in colour and softened.
Remove from the heat and allow to cool. I make the stuffing in the mixer, but if you’re doing it without one I suggest you just get your hands in there – it’s the easiest way to combine everything.
So now just bung it all together: the cooled onion and apple mixture, the sausage meat, breadcrumbs, crumbled chestnuts, herbs and lemon juice, and give it a good old mix.
Season well (you can fry a teaspoon of mixture if you want to check the seasoning). Transfer to your buttered terrine or loaf tin (I always line it with baking paper) and store, covered with a plate (get me, trying not to use clingfilm), in the fridge until the big day. It’ll take about 45 minutes in the oven at about 190/gas 5 (180 if you’ve got a fan oven). Depending on how big you make them, the balls will take less time to cook.
This also makes a very nice stuffing for ravioli if you happen to get a pasta machine for Christmas!
Perfect roast potatoes
I use big, floury baking potatoes for my roasties, but use whatever you like. Peel, cut into evenly sized chunks and pop them into generously salted cold water. Bring to the boil, then turn them down and simmer for 10 minutes or so – you obviously don’t want them to be breaking apart, but I like them to be a bit soft so the finishes roasties are nice and fluffy in the middle. Drain, leave to steam until cool, then either refrigerate, or open freeze them by popping them on a baking tray in the freezer until they’re solid then you can transfer them to a bowl or something and cover tightly with foil. Again, I’m trying to avoid using plastic – they’ll be fine in the freezer like that for a day or so.
On Christmas Day, mix a couple of tablespoons of fresh, finely chopped herbs (I like sage and rosemary for Christmas) with a couple of tablespoons of plain flour and plenty of salt and pepper. Toss the potatoes in the mixture, coating each one really well. Once you’ve removed your cooked turkey, put a roasting tin into the oven with enough oil or goose fat to thickly coat the bottom (they don’t need to be swimming in fat). Once the fat is hot, pop the potatoes in straight from frozen (or chilled – it doesn’t matter) for around an hour, basting occasionally until crisp and golden. I like to scatter a few whole garlic cloves in there for a bit of extra flavour but of course that’s completely optional.
Roasted carrots and parsnips
When you’re cooking Christmas dinner, hob space can be at a bit of a premium, so I tend to roast my veggies once the turkey’s come out of the oven. Peel and chop carrots and parsnips into ‘sticks’ or whatever they’re called – not too fine – and keep them in the fridge until you need them. Then on the big day just chuck them into a baking tin, dot with butter, season with salt and pepper, add a handful of fresh thyme and a big drizzle of honey or maple syrup. They’ll take about half an hour and they taste delicious.
I know, I know, but if you love them, the best thing to do with them is not to overcook them. Blanch in salted water until just tender, drain and cool, then keep in the fridge. On Christmas day, add a big chunk of butter to a pan, then stir fry some chopped pancetta or streaky bacon. Add in the sprouts and if you like them, crumble in some of those cooked chestnuts, and finally some shredded sage leaves. Heaven. You might even convince a sprout hater that they’re not that bad.
You can go two ways with the gravy here. After removing the turkey to its serving plate and covering to keep it warm, you can either just make the gravy straight in the roasting tin, or you can tip it all out into a jug and make the gravy in a saucepan.
Either way, skim off the worst of the fat, then add a tablespoon or two (depending on the amount) of plain flour to the pan juices. Stir well, cooking out that ‘raw’ flour taste, before adding plenty of stock (I buy posh stuff for Christmas day, but cube is fine and be generous – you can never have enough gravy). Bubble until thick and taste. If it’s at all bitter, a spoonful or two of cranberry sauce will lift it back up.
The final touches
You know what you like here – I don’t like bread sauce, but I know a lot of people love it, likewise mustard. If you want to make your own, try my gorgeous port and cranberry sauce, or just buy a jar and spoon it out into a pretty bowl.
And seeing as you’re wondering: yes, I did indeed put fairy lights around my stuffing before I photographed it. Next up, it’s all about the bird. Turkey and timing tips coming very soon!