We’re having chicken for Christmas dinner. I have a shallow roasting pan large enough to cook three chickens side-by-side which together take considerably less cooking than a turkey. And by the time I’ve dressed them with fresh cranberry sauce, a pistachio stuffing and prunes wrapped in bacon, they’ll be looking a lot like turkeys. Any leftovers will be merrily gobbled up by the family on Boxing Day.
I also have a small cooked ham that — once peeled — will be brushed with thick plum sauce then sprinkled liberally with a combo of black and white sesame seeds plus sunflower and pumpkin seeds. There’s no need to heat the ham to apply this topping — unless of course you want to serve it hot. In this case, before the seeds are added, bake the ham at 160°C for 10 minutes per 500grams then garnish.
Vegetarian offerings are a collection of hearty salads and sides, including my favourite potato salad using a new white-fleshed waxy Heather potato with great flavour. Chunks of pumpkin, kumara and parsnip will be roasted in olive oil, rosemary and thyme then presented sprinkled with smoked paprika. And for beef, there’s nothing like a truly tasty sauté of mushrooms with lots of garlic, and a dash each of sesame oil and vegemite.
CURRIED CRUSTED LAMB LEG
Supermarkets are now selling lamb legs cut in half horizontally rather than vertically. This makes them attractive and affordable for a celebration for four.
1kg half lamb leg
3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons rice bran oil
1-2 teaspoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon each: chopped rosemary, thyme
1 clove garlic, crushed
Pat the lamb dry and lightly score the fat. Combine the remaining ingredients and pat over the top pushing in firmly. Chill for 10 minutes to set.
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Place the lamb on a rack in a roasting pan. Roast for 1 hour. Remove from the oven, cover with foil and stand for 10 minutes before carving. Serves 4.
A ‘mock’ turkey. Cooking two or three chickens at once allows for leftovers next day.
Stuffing: 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large shallot, diced
3/4 cup cooked fresh breadcrumbs or long grain rice
1/2 cup each: craisins, pistachio nuts, chopped
1 small egg, lightly beaten
Chicken: 1.5kg chicken
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Heat the oil and sauté the shallot on medium, until softened. Combine with the breadcrumbs or rice, craisins, pistachios and egg.
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Lightly oil a roasting pan.
Pat the chicken dry inside and out. Brush with oil and season. Stuff the chicken cavity and truss or tie the bird with string. Place the chicken, breast-side up, in the pan. Roast for about 1 hour 15 minutes, until cooked. Cover with foil and stand for 10 minutes before carving.
Great served with Five-spice Cranberry Sauce. Serves 4-6.
FIVE-SPICE CRANBERRY SAUCE
Place 500g frozen cranberries in a saucepan with a 1/4 cup of orange juice, 2 tablespoons of brown sugar and a 1/4 teaspoon of Chinese Five-spice. Bring to the boil, stirring until the berries start to split. Cool then cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Serves 6-8.
FRAGRANT ROASTED DUCK
1.9kg farmed duck
flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon each: honey, soy sauce
1 teaspoon each: sesame seeds (crushed), sesame oil, hoisin sauce, grated root ginger
Remove any giblets from the duck and use for making gravy. Wash the duck and pat dry. Season.
Combine the remaining ingredients heating gently until the honey is runny. Brush over the duck, inside and out. Cover loosely and refrigerate for 2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Place the duck in an oven bag and place breast-side down in an oven pan. Cook for 45 minutes then turn over. Cook for another 45-60 minutes.
Cover and stand for 10 minutes while preparing a gravy. Serves 4.