Coming from British heritage, Christmas is not Christmas without turkey. This year we did our sixteenth turkey. Don’t know how our turkeys became known as Fred, but that first one did. It must have been because a turkey takes so long to defrost that he kind of lives with one for quite a while before he’s dressed for the kill, as it were. Ever since, and with apologies to some of my readers, the appellation has stuck.
As I’ve mentioned before, the turkey is central to our Christmas meal. And we always do it on the Weber. This year was no different, and Fred was stuffed two ways: a pork mince with sage, apple and macadamian nuts, with the other, bacon and prune. Not typically English: my mother would have done the sausage meat sans nuts and the other would have been chestnut (she bemoaned, until she died, not being able to find decent chestnuts in South Africa). The second stuffing reflects Dutch South African flavours and is traditionally used with venison. Also untypical is the cold meal: in McGregor, and Africa particularly, it’s usually far too hot to contemplate roast potatoes, gravy, brussels sprouts, etc. Besides, these are not available, fresh, at this time of the year. So, salads it is.
The stuffings are started on Christmas Eve – some of the bits need to be cool before they can be mixed with the other ingredients, let alone being stuffed into the turkey. Both stuffings include fresh bread crumbs, onion and garlic, (the last two from our 2014 harvest). I have found that the flavour of the stuffing is improved if you sauté the onion and garlic and allow it to cool before combining with the other ingredients.
I usually make much more of this than we really need: it is wonderful cold and on sandwiches. I also freeze the stuffing I don’t use and cook it as one might cook meat loaf and/or under a chicken at another time.
This year is the first time I have used sage – ever. Usually it’s oreganum, thyme or rosemary, with loads of Italian parsley. After five years at boarding school and another five years in residence at university, when the roast chicken always included sage and onion stuffing, I really had had too much of a good thing. Anyway, this year, I decided to use sage because I have, at last, managed to grow some and have it fresh. Fresh herbs are not nearly as strong as dried herbs and this is especially so of sage.
To about 1 kg of pork mince, I add about 250g coarsely ground macadamia nuts, a third to half a cup of bread crumbs, an onion and a clove of garlic, chopped, sautéd and cooled, an egg and freshly ground black pepper, as well as about 2 teaspoons of chopped fresh sage. The macadamia nuts were salted and roasted, so I didn’t add extra salt.
This year, instead of making little balls, I divided the excess pork stuffing into two portions and them rolled in foil. One of these was placed into the drip pan about 45 minutes before the turkey was ready to come off the fire. The other is in the deep freeze for another time.
Bacon and prune
This stuffing has a bread crumb base to which I add the sautéd onion and garlic. Fry, until crisp, a pack of streaky bacon (because you need the fat); add the hot crispy bacon and fat to the bread crumbs, onion and garlic. You also need between 6 and 10 pitted prunes, finely chopped. This year, instead of using a commercial stock, and because I was not making gravy, I used a stock made from the the giblets (boiled with a clove of garlic, bay leaf and peppercorns, as well as other herbs to make a bouquet garni if you so please). The chopped, cooked liver and heart, as well as the meat off the neck (the gizzard was discarded) and added this to the bread mixture with some of the stock to make a nice moist mixture. Finally, I added an egg and some freshly ground black pepper (no salt because of the bacon).
So, on Christmas day, as the fire is being prepared, Fred gets lucky…
Stuffed, Fred is placed in the Weber for some three and a half hours or so, depending on his weight.
Both these stuffings have very different textures and flavours, notwithstanding the common ingredients. In the firm, quite savoury pork stuffing, the macadamia nuts stay quite crunchy, while the other is softer and has a sweet-salty flavour and has some crunch from the bacon because it doesn’t absorb too much moisture.
A word to the wise: Fred is usually too heavy for the kitchen scale which copes with a maximum of 5 kg. What we do, as a consequence, is base the cooking decisions (about 20 minutes per 500g plus 20 minutes) on the weight on the packaging. This work has worked well over the years… You could also weigh the turkey before it’s stuffed; weigh the stuffing before you use it and then weigh what you can’t fit into the bird, subtracting the remaining weights and then adding the two remainders to the turkey weight to determine the final weight and cooking time.
The Christmas table
Once on the Weber, I leave Fred to his own devices to prepare the salads and dress the table. The table, different every year, was very simple because there were only four of us. That said, it did mean that we were able use the crystal and stemware that usually live in the display cabinet because we had enough for everyone without having to resort to an eclectic mixture of odds and sods!
The star coasters are keepsakes: our guests took them home as mementos of Christmas 2014.
Our 2014 menu
- Pickled fish
served with Springfield’s Life From Stone Sauvignon Blanc. This is a particularly fruity Sauvignon Blanc which worked well with the sweet and sour, curry pickling sauce.
- Cold turkey with two stuffings
Seasonal red salad (marinated beetroot, red cabbage with light vinaigrette, balsamic roasted red onions, pickled red peppers, plums and cocktail tomatoes)
Mediterranean carrot and bean salad (beans dressed in olive oil, lemon juice and chrushed garlic, with the carrots dressed in roasted sesame seeds, cumin, coriander and paprika with olive oil and apple cider vinegar) with olives (inspired by Daniel Jardim)
Potato salad and home made mayo
Served with Lord’s Pinot Noir 2010 and/or Weltevrede’s Cherrychoc Merlot.
We chose these wines not just because they complimented the meal, but more importantly because our guests enjoy the local reds.
We ended the meal with a delicious citrus dessert loaded with Triple Sec and which our guests had brought, along with the most decadent chocolate cake to with the coffee and/or tea. These last were also accompanied by Christmas mince slices and rosemary shortbread. Although we had selected a lovely white muscadel and an eu de vie to go with the sweets, discretion was the better part of valour at that point in the evening…
The following morning, all that remained of our fabulous evening and the feast, was this elfin shoe!