chestnut and mushroom stuffing
Updated: Fri, 6 November, 2020
My favourite Christmas trimming: chestnut and mushroom stuffing made with good quality minced pork, fresh chestnuts and dried wild mushrooms.
Don't stuff the turkey!
'Stuffing' is such a misnomer: you should NOT stuff the turkey. The bird will cook better and quicker all alone, with perhaps just an onion or an apple in the cavity for company. Stuffed animals belong at taxidermist's.
Stuff deboned birds
The exception is poultry that has been de-boned, stuffed and rolled, which makes an incredibly good dish. If it sounds daunting and bizarre, think of the various mixed game or bird roasts presented at posh butchers as a special Christmas treat.
I have tried deboning poultry myself and must say it's easier than it sounds. It does take you back to biology lab and dissecting frogs though. The end product should be a flat expanse of meat to be spread with stuffing or filling. Then it is rolled and tied up, and hey presto! goes in the oven.
The meat is usually wrapped in bacon which protects it from drying too much. A roasting joint like that also slices nicely and looks good: layers of meat intermingled with layers of stuffing.
Stuffing in a separate dish
But if you cook your main Christmas roast whole, be it turkey, duck or goose, the stuffing is best cooked separately. It can be cooked earlier which is always a bonus on the day when oven space is at a premium.
Good quality minced pork
If you want your stuffing to really sing, don’t use sausagemeat. The best combination will be some fatty pork belly and some pork shoulder. You can mince it yourself in a food processor or an old fashioned meat mincer, which is what I do and always have to resist a weird self-destructive urge to stick my finger in the feed.
If you don't have the tools, you can ask your butcher to mince the chosen cuts for you. In the worst case buy good mince with reasonable amount of fat and up the bacon amount a bit.
Tasting the stuffing
I make my stuffing every year and there's a ritual to it which we both love. As it's important to season your stuffing well, and since you don't want to lick raw pork, I make a little taster patty and fry it in a skillet. We always share it with delight and pretend that seasoning needs adjusting several times.
You don't have to do it, the ingredient amounts are pretty reliable in my recipe - but you just might be tempted to do it this year!
chestnut and mushroom stuffingServings: 6Time: 2 hours
- 20g dried porcini mushrooms
- 100g chestnuts, cooked and peeled
- 3 rashers streaky bacon
- ½ onion, chopped very finely
- 20g butter
- 400g minced pork, half and half shoulder and belly
- 2 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
- ½ tsp ground mace
- a pinch of ground nutmeg
- salt and black pepper
1. First soak the mushrooms in boiling water and leave to cool completely. Drain and chop finely.
2. Boil the chestnuts and peel them while still hot, wear gloves; chestnuts will be impossible to peel when too cold. Mash them up roughly in a bowl with a fork.
3. Dice the bacon as small as you can and cook it in a skillet with the butter and the onion, until slightly translucent and not crispy.
4. Put all the ingredients together in a bowl and mix very well, using your hands. Season with salt and pepper.
5. Now the best bit – you need to check the stuffing for seasoning so scoop a little ball of it, shape a tiny patty and fry in a little skillet. Taste and add more seasoning as necessary.
6. When it’s seasoned to your taste, transfer it into an ovenproof dish pressing down a quarter at a time with a spoon dipped in cold water. Pack it in well and brush more water on top.
7. Bake in a moderate oven (it can be cooked before the turkey goes in and kept warm, or returned to the oven for 15 minutes before serving) for about 40 – 50 minutes until browned and crispy on top.