If turkey fails to tempt you
December has arrived and most of us are already well on our way to getting Christmas organised, well in advance it is hoped. Before you place your order for the usual turkey, why not look at some equally delicious alternatives for the main event, and I am sure you will find yourself spoilt for choice. I have to admit that turkey does not really set my taste buds zinging, but I know that perhaps it does have that effect on many people; particularly traditionalists who I am sure will stick with it. Just let me see if I can tempt you to a deliciously different “mains” this Christmas. Rib of beef (I would suggest Devon Red Ruby) would be one excellent choice, but you will need to get your order in at your local butcher or farm shop quickly. For those of you who like game I would suggest venison, which is low in fat, and very flavoursome – you would need to have light desserts on offer after it. You might prefer a stuffed rack of pork, with a tasty sausage meat and apple stuffing which together with a real taste of Westcountry cider gravy is really delicious.
STUFFED RACK OF PORK WITH WESTCOUNTRY CIDER GRAVY
Ingredients (serves 8)
300g quality pork sausage meat 1 x small Bramley apple
Finely grated zest of a lemon 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh sage 2 tbsp wholegrain mustard
2kg rack of pork
2 medium onions
For the cider gravy:
2 tbsp plain flour
200ml Westcountry cider
500ml good chicken stock
2 level tbsp redcurrant jelly Freshly ground black pepper
Put the sausage meat into a mixing bowl. Peel, core and very finely dice the apple and add to the bowl together with the parsley, lemon zest, wholegrain mustard and a good seasoning of freshly ground black pepper and mix well. Using a really sharp knife to make a space for the stuffing, cut a flap along the joint by carefully cutting the skin to form a pocket, and then cutting fat away from the meat. Using your fingers you should press the stuffing into the space formed, then using butcher’s string tie the skin back into place along the length of the joint. Peel and thickly slice the onions and spread evenly over the base of a roasting tin and place the pork on top – skin side up. Season with a little sea salt. Preheat the oven to 220C Gas mark 7 then calculate the cooking time allowing 30 minutes per 500g and cook for just 40 minutes then lower the heat to 180C (Gas mark 4) for the remainder of the cooking time or until the juices run clear when a meat skewer is inserted. Transfer the meat to a warm carving dish and wrap the meat well with foil, and then place a clean tea towel over the foil and leave to consolidate in a warm environment for 30-40 minutes – during which you can make the gravy. Spoon off all but one tablespoon of the fat from the roasting tin and place the tin on the hob over a medium heat. Sprinkle in the flour and stir, using a wooden spoon, scraping up all the sediment from the bottom of the tin. Take off the heat, and gradually blend in the cider. Return to the heat and allow to simmer for a further two minutes before adding the stock and then lower the heat and allow to simmer for 15 minutes. To serve strain the gravy into a warmed jug or gravy boat and stir in the redcurrant jelly.
ROAST VENISON WITH CHESTNUT MUSHROOMS
Ingredients (serves 6-8) 2 kg haunch of venison 60ml olive oil 60ml red wine
2 tbsp freshly chopped rosemary 2 tbsp freshly chopped thyme
4 tbsp runny honey
300ml red wine
100g chestnut mushrooms
Mix together the olive oil, red wine and herbs. Place the venison in a large, non-metallic dish. Mix together the olive oil, red wine and herbs and pour this over the venison, cover with Clingfilm and chill overnight. Lift the venison from the dish and place in a roasting tin. Blend the butter and honey together and spread all over the venison. Place in a preheated oven at 200C (Gas mark 6) and cook for 30 minutes, basting every few minutes or so throughout that time. Lower the heat to 150C (Gas mark 2) and cook the venison for the remaining cooking time – which should be calculated at 25 minutes for each 500. The honey and butter will form a dark crusty which will seal in all the juices. While the venison is cooking wipe and roughly chop the mushrooms. Once the venison is cooked remove from the oven and place in a warmed serving dish and cover with foil and keep warm in a low oven. Place the roasting tin on the hob and gradually add the red wine. Bring to the boil and add the chopped mushrooms and simmer until the liquid has reduced and thickened.