Last week I gave you recipes for festive roasts – so this week I'm showing you how to cook all the accompanying bits and bobs in advance, so that you won't have to do too much last-minute rushing around in the kitchen.
I find that jellies and fruity sauces can be made well in advance and it's often nice to have a few different ones on the table to choose from. If you live in the countryside you may well have access to some odd fruits such as quince and even medlars, which make great jellies for game, poultry and roast joints.
Cranberry and red onion sauce
This is a slightly more savoury version of the sweet cranberry sauce that we have become accustomed to in this country. The red onions and orange juice take the edge off the cranberries – and it makes a great accompaniment for turkey, goose or game.
1 large red onion, peeled, halved and finely chopped
2tbsp vegetable or corn oil
250ml orange juice
150-200g Demerara sugar
250g cranberries, fresh or frozen
Gently cook the red onion in the vegetable oil for a couple of minutes until soft, add the orange juice and 150g of the sugar and simmer until it has reduced by half. Add the cranberries; continue simmering for about 10-12 minutes until the cranberries begin to break up. Stir in more sugar if necessary; remove from heat; leave to cool.
Goose fat potatoes
This is a great alternative to roast spuds for a festive treat and it works best if you have a good non-stick, deep, frying pan. You can add slices of garlic or thyme leaves in among the layers of potato if you wish.
1kg large potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
20g goose or duck fat
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat one 26cm or two 20cm cast iron or ovenproof non-stick frying pans on top of the stove or in the oven. Remove from the heat, then rub the bottom of the pan with a little goose fat and lay the potatoes around, covering the surface (the bottom will become the top). Continue to lay the potatoes, lightly seasoning every couple of layers and rubbing the potatoes with a little more goose fat until it's all used up.
Bake in the oven for 1 hour. If the potatoes are beginning to turn brown on top, cover with foil and test whether they are cooked with the point of a knife in the centre. Turn the potato cakes out on to a chopping board; cut into equal wedges.
Medlars look like a cross between a small apple and a rosehip; there are still a few trees knocking around and you do see imported medlars in specialist shops. Jelly and jam is about as much as you can do with them but it's well worth the effort.
1kg medlars, roughly chopped, skins on
500ml apple juice
Approx 500g jam or preserving sugar
A couple of leaves of gelatine (6g)
Put the medlars, apple juice and water in a saucepan, bring to the boil and simmer gently for about an hour until the medlars are soft. Tip into a sieve over a bowl or use a jam clot; leave overnight. Measure the juice and weigh the same amount of sugar. Place in a heavy saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Boil rapidly until it has reduced by one third. Spoon a little on to a plate and place in the fridge or freezer and test if it sets; if not, continue boiling until it does. Soak the gelatine leaves in cold water for a few minutes, squeeze out the water and dissolve in the medlar liquid. Take some sterilised kilner jars and fill them with the hot liquid and seal them. You can store this in a cool place for up to 6 months.
Spiced quince sauce
This works very well with poultry, game birds or roast pork dishes.
4 quince, peeled and cored
A small piece of cinnamon stick
6 juniper berries
200g granulated sugar
1 lemon, halved
Place the quince in a large saucepan with the rest of the ingredients. Cover with water, bring to the boil and simmer for about 45 minutes, or until the quince is soft enough to mash. Drain the quince in a colander over a pan, reserving the juice for a jelly and leave to cool. Cut the quince in half, then blend the flesh in a food processor to a purée or leave it with a coarse texture. To serve, reheat with a little of the cooking liquor.
Perfect gravy (made the day before)
Over the years I've witnessed many people messing around at the last minute making gravy while the bird is getting cold and the vegetables over-cooking. This can be easily made a day in advance and if there is any left over you can freeze it for future use. I've added some cider here, or you could use wine (if you do, use half the quantity).
500g chicken wings, chopped
1 large onion, peeled, roughly chopped
2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
1 stick of celery, roughly chopped
1 leek, trimmed, washed and roughly chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
1tsp tomato purée
1 tbsp flour
500ml cider (optional)
2ltrs chicken stock (2 good cubes will do)
6 black peppercorns
A few sprigs of thyme
1 bay leaf
Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Roast the chicken wings, the vegetables and garlic for about 15-20 minutes until lightly coloured, giving them a good stir every so often. When they are a nice golden brown colour, add the tomato purée, then the flour, and stir well with the bones and vegetables in the roasting pan. Return the pan to the oven for another 10 minutes.
Remove the roasting tray from the oven to the hob. Add a little of the stock and give it a good stir over a low flame. This will remove any residue from the tray and begin the thickening process. Transfer everything into a large saucepan, cover with the rest of the stock and the cider, if using, and some cold water if the stock doesn't cover the bones. Add the peppercorns, thyme and bay leaf. Bring to the boil, skim off any scum that forms and simmer for 2 hours. The pan may need topping up with water to keep the ingredients covered. Skim occasionally as required. Strain through a fine-meshed sieve and remove any fat with a ladle. Check its strength and reduce the gravy if necessary. If the gravy is not thick enough, dilute some cornflour in a little cold water and stir it in.