Wed, 4 November, 2020
And so lockdown 2.0 is underway. Things have to get worse before they get better, but even I find it hard to believe they will get better soon. November is bleak by default but it gets some cheer from the anticipation of festivities and now we are not entirely convinced there will be any festivities this year.
But the last thing we should do is lose heart, so I’m going to double my efforts now in my Christmas test runs. Hopefully, they will be that – Christmas runs – and the main event will happen as I would wish. But it will probably be on a smaller scale than we have been used to which, when it comes to cooking and preparations, might be a little silver lining.
I feel for the people who might for the first time ever try to roast a turkey. A huge turkey as well, as all the small ones had been reserved. Plus sides and trimmings, when all they ever do is boil pasta and open a jar of sauce. I know a good few people like that myself, people who I’d in normal times have round for the Christmas lunch. How to make it easier for them and more cheerful for me?
I have been thinking of preparing an oven ready Christmas meal for my friends and family to take away. Can it work? Of course it can and it probably would be the nicest Christmas present.
There are tonnes of online suppliers with poshest ready meals, of course, starting with Marks & Spencer’s turkey crown in a tin and ending with mini game birds roasts from a game specialist butcher. But can they replace home cooked lunch? Of course not – there’s no heart in the online selection.
Since we’re scaling down to six maximum, apart from those few households that have more than six people living under one roof, it won’t be a massive event so we can focus on the quality. All dishes will be accompanied by detailed instructions – and since they all know me, there won’t be any ambiguities.
A whole bird, ready for the oven, seasoned with a spicy rub and with detailed cooking instruction – that could be duck which is perfect for up to four people. I can prepare a tray of carrots and parsnips, deliciously seasoned, ready to go into the oven. Potatoes too: I’ll boil them, toss in plenty of oil or duck fat, and get them ready for roasting.
The most problematic element of that Christmas takeaway seems to be gravy which will have to be prepared in advance, thus not using the turkey roasting juices on the day as it should be by the book. But I can use the turkey offcuts or the carcass – more about it in a minute – to cook the gravy, reduce it down and include a note in the instructions to dilute it with meat juices. Sorted.
So finally, what to do if you and your dear yearn for turkey, wailing and sobbing? I’ve come up with the idea that might be a little time-consuming but then we have time on our hands more than anything else. Turkey roll – that’s what, and please hold your sarcastic comments on turkey twizzlers and questions whether I mean sliced turkey in a bun.
There are numerous online butchers offering boneless turkey breast joints. Supermarkets supply them too and that seems to be a better value, even if free range, than ordering a whole turkey. I’m going to buy one boned or a crown and have a go at deboning it myself. Alternatively I can buy it from the butcher’s and ask them to take the meat off the bone. And that I’ll turn into turkey rolls.
I’ll make the stuffing, with chestnuts and mushrooms, as usual. I’ll butterfly the turkey meat, stuff it and roll it up. Bacon wrapping on the outside to protect the meat from drying out – and Bob’s your turkey.
That’s the plan – I shall of course do a test run of the project very soon and report here before I post the detailed recipes. Watch this space for news of my takeaway Christmas! Have you got any other or better ideas for a takeaway Christmas?