Christ­mas a la Jack

Western Morning News (Saturday) - - Food -

turkey big enough to feed a dozen peo­ple, then the av­er­age fam­ily oven is not go­ing to have both room for it and the roast spuds and parsnips. The an­swer is to take out the bird and let it rest in a warm place un­der a blan­ket of kitchen foil cov­ered, per­haps, by a cou­ple of tea-tow­els. A large bird will keep warm for an hour if pro­tected and this is an ex­cel­lent way of al­low­ing its juices to flow back into what could oth­er­wise be dry turkey meat.

Which brings us to Matt

Ma­son’s num­ber one Christ­mas foodie tip: buy a kitchen tem­per­a­ture probe.

“The one es­sen­tial bit of kit I’d rec­om­mend is a meat probe to insert in the thick­est part of your turkey. You’ll be look­ing for 60 to 70 de­grees in a free range bronze turkey. The point is you can buy one for less than a ten­ner nowa­days – and you can use it ev­ery time you cook a steak (just over 50 de­grees for medium rare).

“If you are spend­ing £60 or £70 on a big bird, why risk it? You do not want to serve your guests with raw meat and you don’t want them eat­ing dry over­cooked meat – so buy a meat probe and you’ll know ex­actly when the bird is done. Put the probe into the thick­est part of the breast or into the thigh – for turkey your look­ing at 65 de­grees – we take ours to 60 and let it rest.”

How­ever, what Matt does is to bone and roll his turkey legs and cook the crown sep­a­rately. I do this in the Hesp house­hold where I feed a dozen peo­ple ev­ery year, in the knowl­edge that you can­not cook an en­tire large free-range turkey per­fectly. The tougher legs need a longer cook­ing time than the breast and that is a fact that can­not be ig­nored if you want the white meat to be suc­cu­lent and juicy. Matthew, by the way, also agrees with me when it comes to the sub­ject of brin­ing the turkey. He rec­om­mends it, say­ing: “Brin­ing does sea­son the meat right thor­ough. If you add things like cit­rus or spices to the brine – those flavours run through the meat. If you put salt and pep­per on some­thing it might flavour just the top of that food. The brine en­ables you to be cre­ative – cin­na­mon, star-anise… you can use a myr­iad of flavours – and it does help a bird like a turkey.”

As for the rest of the big meal, Matt has one ma­jor bit of ad­vice I’ve heard other top chefs de­clare in re­cent years. It refers to that oft-used Christ­mas phrase, “all the trim­mings”.

“A lot of a few – rather than many dif­fer­ent things,” said Matt. “Peo­ple think they’ve got to have red cab­bage, swede, parsnips, sprouts etc. Why? You are ask­ing a lot of your­self and you’ll end up not do­ing them right. And think of all those pans and all that wash­ing up. More of a few – that should be your motto.”

I winced. I know it to be true, but I counted 14 dif­fer­ent items on our Christ­mas lunch plates last year. I might need to go into ther­apy to rid my­self of the habit, but my lot love the pigs-in-blan­kets, the bread sauce, the chest­nuts in the sprouts etc.

“Make life eas­ier for your­self,” said Matt. “For ex­am­ple, if you are cater­ing for larger num­bers, do canapes rather than proper starters. And how about a lovely honey vodka to get you into the mood? That’s what we’re do­ing rather than mulled wine – our hot honey vodka will sort you out.”

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