Food & Drink: Mr Hopkins cooks his goose

The bird and the roasting of it
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The Independent Online
Roast Goose

Serves 6

Ingredients: 1 goose, dressed weight about 10lb (4.5kg), with giblets

2lb (900g) potatoes, peeled, chopped into large chunks and rinsed thoroughly

2oz (60g) butter, goose or duck fat

3 onions, peeled and coarsely chopped

2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped

1 heaped tbs chopped fresh sage leaves

grated rind of 2 lemons

plenty of freshly ground black pepper

salt

For the gravy: 1oz (28g) butter, goose or duck fat

4 rashers streaky bacon, chopped

giblets - neck, heart, liver and gizzard, coarsley chopped

1 onion, peeled and chopped

1 carrot, peeled and chopped

3 sticks of celery, chopped

2tbs calvados

5fl oz (150ml) madeira

10fl oz (280ml) strong chicken stock

2tsp redcurrant jelly

1 heaped tsp arrowroot, slaked with a little water

Preparation: Hard experience has taught me that the Chinese method of pouring boiling water over the surface of a duck or goose is the best way to achieve a crisp skin. The skin of the bird must first be punctured many times with the point of a thin skewer or sharp knife; these little holes then open up on contact with the boiling water and allow the subcutaneous layer of fat beneath to flow out.

The bird should then be allowed to dry. I find that the best way is to put it on a wire rack by an open window for a couple of hours, or preferably longer.

The end result of all this palaver should be moist flesh and parchment-like skin without the usual goo. Believe me, it is worth doing.

Towards the end of this treatment, pre-heat the oven to 425F/220C/gas 7. Rub salt all over the goose and sprinkle some inside the cavity as well, with some pepper.

Boil the potatoes in salted water until tender, drain well and coarsely mash. Fry onions in the butter, goose or duck fat until golden brown. Add chopped garlic and stir into the mashed potato along with sage, lemon rind and pepper. Pack this mixture into the cavity of the goose, but do not overstuff, as too much filling has a tendency to a) spill out and b) not become thoroughly hot all the way through.

Put the goose in a roomy roasting tin, perched on its wire rack, and place in the oven. Roast for 30 minutes, then reduce temperature to 350F/180C/gas 4. Cook for a further 2 1/2 hours or so. This is one of those rare instances when basting is not required, as the more the fat runs off the goose, the better. And when the fat builds up in the tin, periodically pour it off into a metal bowl. This fat will later be precious for roasting potatoes.

The best method of roasting potatoes, by the way, is always to take them as far as you dare when parboiling. Not completely cooked through, but enough so that the edges are getting woolly. It is this that allows the potato to achieve its gorgeous shaggy and crisp coating. Do also make sure that whatever fat you are using is very hot before adding the potatoes.

While the goose cooks, make the gravy. Fry the bacon in butter, goose or duck fat in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, until it is crisp and brown. Add giblets and cook until well coloured; ditto the vegetables. Pour off any excess fat and add the calvados and madeira. Bring to the boil and reduce until syrupy.

Pour in chicken stock and redcurrant jelly and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain through a fine sieve into a clean pan. Allow to settle and lift off any fat that is floating on the surface with some kitchen paper.

Whisk in the arrowroot and bring the gravy back to a simmer until it is clear and slightly thickened. Keep it warm. Note: do not let it boil, or the arrowroot can break down and thin the gravy.

When the goose is cooked, remove from the oven and allow to rest for 15 minutes or so before carving. Do serve, if you wish, roast potatoes alongside the potato stuffing, as the contrast is really good.

Any other green vegetable is a matter for you, but an accompaniment of big bunches of watercress is de rigueur in my book.

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