Everyone’s familiar with the good old Christmas turkey, but who says you have to stick with tradition this year? There are plenty of other birds worthy of a spot on your festive table, as the gorgeous recipes in this month’s Jamie magazine prove.
Turkeys have been eaten in Britain since the 16th Century, and Henry VIII is widely believed to have been the first monarch to have eaten one with his Christmas dinner, but the bird’s place on the festive menu was truly cemented during Victorian times. They’re now a firm fixture on the Christmas table, with more than 10 million sold in the UK last Christmas alone. But that doesn’t mean you have to do the same, why not give these other brilliant birds a chance this year?
As it reaches its prime by winter, goose was traditionally the bird of choice before the more affordable turkey had a surge in popularity. It’s a bird worth splashing out on, though, with insanely good crispy skin and lots of flavoursome fat. Tim Wilson, founder of London’s renowned Ginger Pig butcher, agrees. “It’s a much darker meat, with a richer flavour,” he says, “and the fat naturally bastes the bird, making it virtually impossible for the meat to dry out.” For the perfect goose, look for a bird weighing between 4.5 and 7kg, and be sure to wrap the less-meaty legs in foil for the last 30 minutes of cooking to stop them drying out.
Goose makes a spectacular turkey alternative
Try Jamie’s traditional recipe, which uses all of that delicious fat to make the best-ever gravy and irresistible roast potatoes. If you have any left over, store it in a jar. “It will last in the fridge for a couple of months,” says Tim. Use it for mind-blowing roast veggies, or stir it into a cassoulet to provide an instant hit of flavour.
Another bird with enough flavoursome fat to make epic roast potatoes, duck has a rich flavour that marries incredibly well with festive spices – think cinnamon, clementine and cloves. When slow-roasted, the meat will fall off the bone and you can create a platter for everyone to tuck into – bash some pomegranate seeds over the top for a special seasonal twist. Just make sure you rest it thoroughly, advises Tim. “Always for at least 15 minutes, but the longer the better,” he says. “This allows the juices in the meat, which naturally travel to the middle during cooking, to disperse evenly through the whole joint, making the meat super-tender.”
Jamie’s traditional roast duck with a Christmas twist
Try this traditional roast duck stuffed with warming Christmas spices and rub the marinade over the skin the day before, if you can, for an extra flavoursome result.
Thought roast chicken was just for standard Sundays? Paying attention to sourcing means you can choose a chook that’s worthy of the big event, too. Tim advises going for a free-range bird, that’s “grown slowly, which means it’ll have a better breast-to-leg-meat ratio than intensively reared commercial birds.”
This amazing recipe proves roast chicken isn’t just for Sundays
Head to your local butcher to ask about what’s available near you – you’ll often find bigger, 4kg birds at this time of year including the classic large French chicken, poulet de bresse. Stuffed with fresh herbs, with porcini and pancetta butter smeared under the skin, the ultimate roast chicken from this month’s Jamie magazine is no ordinary roast dinner. And when you’re done with the bird, be sure not to throw anything away. “Keep the bones or carcass of the roast along with the vegetable peelings, and make stock,” suggests Tim. “And if you have any leftover meat, try it in a risotto or Vietnamese- style noodle broth.”
For more ways to mix up your Christmas dinner this year, as well as lots of other seasonal inspiration, check out the bumper seasonal special of Jamie magazine, out now.