Paul Flynn: An easy, no-fuss Christmas main course

I’m putting stuffing on the side for the first time ever this year and pairing it with some interesting vegetable dishes

Roast crown of turkey, sage, onion and date pudding, sherry chestnut gravy. Photograph: Harry Weir Photography

Roast crown of turkey, sage, onion and date pudding, sherry chestnut gravy. Photograph: Harry Weir Photography

 

I’ve decided to pare things back this year and not cook a whole turkey; the crown will do. I’m not a mad fan of the legs anyhow, but I will miss the sight of the whole bird. Another minus is that there is nowhere to put the stuffing. So, I have to come up with another plan.

Often, during one of my Christmas cookery classes, someone will ask if I stuff my bird. I always quip that it’s called stuffing for a reason. A stuffing that’s baked on the side is a rude impostor, I’d say. I have always argued that to make a stuffing properly delicious, it needs those juices from the turkey as it roasts. It is a missed opportunity otherwise.

This year, for the first time ever, I am putting the stuffing on the side, but I’m calling it a pudding to spare my blushes. I’m cooking the crown over slices of celeriac, with some smoked bacon and optional but delicious porcini mushrooms. The stock is there to help steam the bird for the first part of cooking, then I’ll leave it uncovered to colour up. I’ll strain the mushroom juices for this somewhat decadent sauce, and crush the celeriac for another flavour-imbued vegetable, to make life easy.

The stuffing recipe is a bit of a hybrid, half stuffing half pudding. In case you’re not having ham, I’ve put some bacon in it. I personally couldn’t live without a ham at Christmas, whatever about the turkey. You can cook this pudding the day before if you like, then cut slices off it and warm them according to your needs, or simply cook and serve on the day. I’ve made extra for the obligatory sandwiches later.

Crushed sprouts with nutmeg brown butter. Photograph: Harry Weir Photography
Crushed sprouts with nutmeg brown butter. Photograph: Harry Weir Photography

I’m giving you a couple of options for vegetable dishes, although I would suggest that if you serve the celeriac, you might not need the parsnips. Sometimes more is more just for the sake of it, plus it’s another thing to wash up. All you need then is a few roasties to complete the picture and everything should be perfect.

Recipe: Crown of turkey, sherry chestnut cream
Recipe: Sage, onion and cranberry pudding
Recipe: Crushed sprouts with nutmeg brown butter
Recipe: Parsnips with cinnamon and ginger ale

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