We cooked Christmas lunch. My sister and I some how managed to cook Christmas lunch for ten without murdering each other with a carrot. Well, nearly. It seems gravy is a contentious issue.
In order to prevent murder most foul we separated the jobs to do about three weeks ahead of time so my sister could write a complex itinerary of timings, a list of ingredients, and establish marshal law in my poor mother’s kitchen. I was doing the meat and she the vegetables. I knew I was cooking a turkey crown and a large piece of beef striploin. My planning extended to turning up with a hangover, finding the meat, and cooking the meat. What we didn’t decide was who’s responsibility the gravy was…
Needless to say, we had way too much food. The turkey crown was surprisingly tasty (I don’t normally eat turkey) and the beef was divine. We had about seven different vegetables; the best and most popular of which was the brussel sprouts…no really. My sister smothers them in cream and fries them with bacon, it is truly delicious. There was cauliflower and broccoli cheese, tarragon carrots, honey roasted parsnips, roast potatoes, mashed carrot and swede…most people think the meat is the most difficult bit. I got let off lightly. Steph’s veggies really were the stars of the show. We, as a family, have always prided ourselves on our roast dinners. We love to feed people; my father’s present to everyone on Christmas Day is the showstoppingly lavish dinner he provides.
A roast dinner is never just meat, potatoes and a few veg. It is a decadent celebration of all things seasonal. A feast. Each item lovingly prepared to showcase its unique flavours. It is a meal to take your time over. To prepare with love for those you love. Roast dinners are not scary, unless you’re faced with the same boring, soggy vegetables every week. They are an exciting way to explore new and exciting vegetables, delicious meats and different methods of cooking. The ultimate way to appreciate and stay connected to the seasons; once a week you can take the time to assess whats going on in the world around you. A walk while the meat cooks to see how the lengthening days are changing the pattern of the landscape. Duck, goose, grouse, guinea fowl, hare, mallard, partridge, turkey, venison. Much of the venison produced in the UK is from deer that roam freely, rather than being intensively farmed, resulting in superior meat. Good quality venison is tender, tasty and close textured, which means it’s easy to produce great results using simple recipes. As for vegetables, winter is by no means a boring season if you know what you’re looking for. Beetroot, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, celeriac, celery, chicory, horseradish, jerusalem artichoke, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, parsnips, potatoes, salsify, shallots, swede, truffles, turnips, and a range of wild mushrooms.
Eating the seasons not only helps to ground a busy life, it is also a nutritionally, financially and ecologically sound way of organising your diet.
Between now and New Year I will add a few recipes that will turn your carrots from soggy reminders of schools dinners to transcendentally delectable nibbles of loveliness, your parsnips from boring sticks of root veg to dragon’s tails and sweet salads. Never cooked Jerusalem artichoke? Never fear. The gratin is here!