Along with those other popular Christmas traditions of carols and crackers, pantomimes and paper-chains, turkey has long been a festive favourite, thanks mainly to its size which is guaranteed to serve all the family, with leftovers for Boxing Day. But there’s a fine line between tradition and getting stuck in a culinary rut, finds Anna Pocock.
Now that turkeys are available all year round, why not make your Christmas dinner really memorable by choosing something you don’t – or can’t – eat everyday.
Before turkeys ruled the roost, GOOSE was the go-to bird for Christmas. It still makes a wonderfully seasonal treat since the whole birds are only available in December. Thankfully, it’s easy to find good quality, free-range geese on the Island – order from your high street butcher or directly through Brownrigg Poultry, who farm their own. The naturally dark meat is rich, tender and juicy and a large goose will feed ten people. An added bonus is the delicious goose fat that makes perfect roast potatoes. When you cook goose, place the bird on a rack above a deep roasting tin so you can use the accumulated fat to cook your roasties in.
Or try a Royal Roast, where a boned goose is stuffed with two smaller birds such as Turkey and Pheasant, making a boneless joint that feeds up to twenty. Hamilton’s Fine Foods will make a royal roast to order – so if you’d like a nod to tradition, opt for a turkey joint but have it stuffed with duck and pigeon to ring the changes.
WILD GAME is in season from October to January, so it’s worth making the most of its short-lived availability for a special Christmas or New Year’s feast. Most independent butchers will supply a selection of local game such as pheasant, grouse, rabbit and partridge, as well as occasional offerings of mallard and guinea fowl. Game is one of the healthiest meats around, being lean and low in cholesterol. Although small in size (you’ll need one pheasant for every two diners), a little goes a long way when it comes to flavour.
Woodford & Sons in Bembridge have found that VENISON has increased in popularity in recent years. This exceptionally lean meat, which they source from the New Forest in nearby Hampshire, is best seared before roasting on a low heat with the best cuts for roasting being saddle (loin) and haunch (back leg).
With so many other options around, perhaps it’s time rethink the traditional Christmas dinner. Now, where are the mince pies?