Golden goose: Stuff the turkey, says Mark Hix - this tasty bird makes a great centrepiece for a delicious alternative Christmas feast - Features - Food + Drink - The Independent

Golden goose: Stuff the turkey, says Mark Hix - this tasty bird makes a great centrepiece for a delicious alternative Christmas feast

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Here we go again – it's time for me to give you another idea for an alternative Christmas lunch, and if you've been reading the column for the past nine years, the one thing you will have gathered is that I am not a big turkey fan. When it's cooked in the right hands, turkey can be perfectly all right, but I would rather have a different festive feast such as suckling pig, goose or game birds any day.

I recently created a lunch for Julian Temperley down at Mark's Bar in my restaurant to celebrate the launch of his 20-year-old Somerset cider brandy; we did a very successful goose cooked three ways and basted the breast with his brandy and grated a little apple into the dumplings.

You can get this goose feast ready a day or so beforehand, so the final cooking time on the day is minimal. With a bird like a goose, it's a shame to just throw it in the oven and hope for the best, as the legs are going to take a lot longer to cook than the breasts which is why it makes sense to break the bird down into separate bits.

Prawn and pink grapefruit salad

Serves 8

I've used uncooked fresh Red Sea prawns here with their heads on, so that you can keep the shells and freeze them for the soup that I'll be cooking up in next week's column for a Boxing Day or New Year's Day brunch.

1kg medium-sized raw prawns with their heads on
250-300g small, tasty salad leaves like land cress, rocket, pea shoots, etc
3-4 pink grapefruits, peeled and segmented and any juice reserved
2tbsp sea salt

For the dressing

The juice from the grapefruit

1tbsp cider vinegar
2tsp Tewksbury or Dijon mustard
6-7tbsp rapeseed oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Bring a pan of water to the boil, large enough to accommodate the prawns and add a couple of tablespoons of sea salt. Cook the prawns for 2-3 minutes, then drain and leave to cool. Remove the heads and peel the tails and put them in the freezer for a Boxing Day soup.

Put the grapefruit juice in a pan and simmer it until you have about a tablespoon left, then pour it into a mixing bowl with the vinegar and mustard and gradually whisk in the oil and season to taste.

To serve, arrange the leaves on serving plates with the prawns and pink grapefruit and spoon the dressing over.

Roast goose, cooked three ways

Serves 6-8

The idea of this recipe is to present your guests with goose cooked in three different ways – slow-cooked confit-style thighs, roast breasts and delicious dumplings flavoured with goose.

A 4kg bird served like this should be large enough to serve 6-8 people easily, but if you're in any doubt, then buy a couple of birds as you can always use the bits and bobs up over the festive period.

You should try, if you can, to buy your goose from a good butcher; I can particularly recommend the delicious birds from Donald Russell (donaldrussell.com) or Judy Goodman (judygoodman.co.uk).

This may seem a rather complicated recipe, but once you have broken the goose down and got it all prepared in your fridge, you will have done the majority of the hard work in advance. If you really want to get ahead of yourself, you can make your gravy the day before, or a couple of days in advance, as well as the thighs and dumplings.

1 goose with its livers
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 cloves of garlic, peeled
10 black peppercorns
4 cloves
1 bay leaf
1cm or so of cinnamon stick

For the dumplings

6 large shallots, peeled, halved and finely chopped
1tsp thyme, leaves removed and finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
2 juniper berries, crushed
30g butter
100ml red wine
400g fatty minced pork
The meat from the goose drumsticks, plus any livers from the goose
100g fresh white breadcrumbs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
150g crépinette or caul fat

First you need to break down your goose. Preheat the oven to 160C/gas mark 3. Remove the legs from the goose by pulling them away from the bone, then separate the thigh and the drumstick by cutting them in half at the joint.

Put the drumsticks to one side for the dumplings, then cut the wings off and put with the bones for the gravy.

Now you're ready to make the confit-style thighs; I recommend cooking them a couple of days earlier so that they can just be crisped up on the day while you are cooking the breasts.

Remove any fat and skin from the underneath of the goose on the backbone and put it in a tight-fitting oven tray with the goose thighs, garlic, peppercorns, cloves, bay leaf and cinnamon. Season the thighs and cook for about 2 hours, basting every so often and until the meat is just coming away from the bone so that you get a confit effect. Drain off the fat and use for roasting the potatoes. Put the thighs aside ready to heat up, 25-30 minutes or so before you serve the goose. If you are making this a day or so before, just let the thighs cool down and store them in the fat in the fridge.

Your goose may have the neck still attached; if so, cut it off as close as you can to the main body. With a heavy chopping knife, remove the backbone from the goose so that you are left with just the breasts on the bone. Separate the two breasts by carefully cutting down the centre breast bone. Chop the backbone, wings and neck into small pieces and put aside for the gravy (see below).

To make the dumplings, remove the meat from the raw drumsticks with a sharp knife and trim away the skin. (Chop the drumstick bones and put them with the bits for the gravy that you have put aside.) If you have a mincer attachment, mince the meat or chop it in a food processor or by hand along with the livers.

Gently cook the shallots, thyme, garlic and juniper berries in the butter until soft, add the red wine and simmer until reduced to a tablespoon, then leave to cool. Mix with the rest of the ingredients for the dumplings and season with salt and pepper. Take a small piece of the mixture and cook gently in a frying pan, then taste it to check the seasoning.

Wash the caul fat in cold water, then dry on some kitchen paper. Mould the mixture into eight even-sized balls and wrap a couple of layers of the caul fat around each one. Put in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to rest. If you haven't got caul fat then just mould the mix into balls.

To make the goose breasts, turn the oven up to 200C/gas mark 6. Heat a roasting tray on the stove top, season the goose breasts and place them in the tray skin-side down. Cook them on the skin on a medium heat for about 5-6 minutes, so they start to release some of the fat. Drain any fat off and reserve it and cook the breasts in the oven for about 25-30 minutes, keeping them nice and pink, then remove and leave to rest.

Meanwhile, put the thighs in a roasting tray with the dumplings and cook in the oven for 25-30 minutes while the breasts are cooking. To serve, remove the breasts from the bone with a sharp knife and slice thinly across the breasts with the skin down on the board. The thigh meat can just be carved off the bone, or cut into chunks. Arrange all the meat with the dumplings on a big serving dish or plate it separately and serve with the gravy (see below).

For the goose gravy

With goose, or any other poultry come to that, you'll never have enough giblets and neck to flavour your gravy, so you will need to bring in a few reinforcements. I'd strongly recommend getting in some extra chicken wings, necks and bones to make the gravy up a couple of days before.

500g bones including the goose bones and giblets, chopped into small pieces
1 large onion, peeled and roughly chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
1 stick of celery, roughly chopped
1 leek, trimmed, roughly chopped and washed
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
1tsp tomato purée
1tbsp flour
2 litres chicken stock (a good cube will do)
6 black peppercorns
A few sprigs of thyme
1 bay leaf

Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Roast the bones, goose giblets and 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 some cold water if the stock doesn't cover the bones and add the peppercorns, thyme and bay leaf.

Bring to the boil, skim off any scum that forms and simmer for 2 hours. The gravy 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 it if necessary. If the gravy is not thick enough, dilute some cornflour in a little cold water and stir in.

Roasted Jerusalem artichokes and apples

Serves 4

I love the earthiness of Jerusalem artichokes, and roasted with some chunks of dessert apple, they complement the goose perfectly. If the skins of the artichokes are pretty clean, you can just halve them or keep them whole and cook them in the skins.

700-800g Jerusalem artichokes, scrubbed or peeled if they are dirty
4 dessert apples, peeled, cored and cut into chunks about the same size as the Jerusalem artichokes
3-4tbsp rapeseed oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
80g butter
2tbsp chopped parsley

Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Halve any large artichokes so that they are all the same size. Put them in a roasting tray with the apples and season to taste. Roast for about 30 minutes, turning them every so often. Turn the oven down a little if they are colouring too much and continue cooking until the artichokes are tender. Add the butter and parsley and return to the oven for a few minutes.

Chestnut and chocolate pudding

Serves 8

A bit of chocolate at the end of a meal always goes down well, and I've thrown in a few chestnuts here to add a little Christmas spirit.

You can serve this festive pudding with thick cream, custard or crème fraîche or you could spike your custard with a little rum or cognac.

200g butter, softened
200g caster sugar
4 eggs, beaten, (make sure they are at room temperature)
200g self-raising flour, sieved
150g dark chocolate, chopped
32 (about 150g) canned chestnuts
8tbsp clear honey
Butter for greasing
Custard, cream, or crème fraîche to serve

Cream the butter and sugar, by hand or in a mixing machine, until light and fluffy. Slowly beat in the eggs until well mixed. Gently fold in the flour until well mixed, then fold in the chocolate. Drain the chestnuts and cut them in half.

Grease two large pudding basins, or 8 small individual ones, put the chestnuts in the bottom of the dish/dishes and spoon in the honey, then add the pudding mixture. Cover with a circle of buttered greaseproof paper, then kitchen foil and secure tightly with a piece of string around the edge of the bowl. Put the bowl/bowls into a saucepan with boiling water halfway up the bowl, cover with a lid and simmer gently for 1-1 hours for a large one or 40 minutes for small individual ones, topping up with water if necessary. Remove from the pan and turn out on to a serving dish. You may need to run a knife around the edge of the pudding basin to loosen it. Serve with thick custard or crème fraîche if you wish, heated up with a little water and spooned on top.

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