December, 2011

Dec 11

On to the next

Am I allowed to mention it? Can I? The ‘t’ word?

I brined my turkey this year – a first for me and something I had been keen to try out. A fellow cook and friend also tried it. A quirky spot of prep saw a lot of saline solution being prepared (read ‘my friend Jane hanging around the job for hours trying to dissolve vast quantities of salt in boiling water). The results, a resounding success all round – a beautifully moist bird, crispy skin and what seemed to be a faster cooking time for us both. Fine – I’ll ‘fess up – my turkey was ready for the table before i’d even put my potatoes on to boil.

But now – on to the next, for the warrior chef never sleeps. So what to cook for the next social event in the calendar, New Year’s Eve?

Having just been earning my wellies on a shoot in the countryside I can think of nothing finer than a spot of game. A slow roasted haunch of venison would be ideal here, maybe even braised with some red wine, a spot of juniper, a tiny smidgen of orange peel. On the side, I’m moving away from roasted roots and heading towards a subtle mash – a mixture of celeriac and some potato. For ease, my vegetables will just be kale or spinach, their iron-heavy notes providing a contrast to the gravy and meat.

Pudding – I might pop back to Christmas and do a mince pie ice cream, but more than likely I’ll go for that winter warmer, crumble. Apples are at the peak of their season now so it would be rude not to use them. A home made custard is an absolute necessity; unless, of course, clotted cream is your weapon of choice.

Happy New Cooking Year all!

Dec 11

The importance of prep

On your marks…get ready…set….GO! And we’re off – the great Christmas cooking race has just about begun. Have you started stocking up the fridge yet? If not, why not! Having said that, I’ve only found time to buy one present so far. Pretty terrible, considering that I’m usually done at the beginning of the month!

Well, shopping aside –I have been getting ready and that’s what I wanted to share this month. The importance of prep – and getting ready. We’ve all been there – caught out on the last day. I read on Twitter today how one parent forgot to order any food and didn’t tell anyone until it was time to start prepping the lunch on Christmas Day. A serious crime.

Anyway, unimaginable Christmas cruelty aside – prep is of the utmost importance when it comes to a big day like this and it starts way back with ordering your ingredients or creating a shopping list – I do this online so I’ve got a visual check-list in front of me. I plan each meal, course and then dish and work out what I need for each. A little over-zealous one might say? I even work out what equipment I’m going to need for everything. It’s what you get used to working in a professional kitchen – and you don’t want to get caught out at the last minute.

So make your list; write your timings down; get everything laid out and ready on the big day. All this unfeasibly serious planning will allow you a couple of things: to get your lunch out just about on time without breaking much of a sweat, burning anything or screaming anyone; but more importantly it will allow you to enjoy the day – to really get into your cooking, to handle it like a pro and to have a great time cooking your delicious festive feast.

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