How chefs impart extra flavour to Christmas roasts

Everyone has their favourite part of a traditional roast. Whether it’s a crispy wing or leg, a Yorkshire pudding, bread sauce or pigs in blankets, a Sunday lunch or a Christmas meal would be incomplete without it. For many people, that crucial ancillary dish is stuffing. canada goose parka That herby, pungent mixture that doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of anything yet can bring such intense flavours to the plate.

As Christmas is a time really to go overboard on the side dishes (on top of everything else), it is pretty much mandatory that stuffing features on your menu, whether or not you are a fan. And shame on you if you’re planning to sneak a packet of Paxo into your Christmas shopping trolley.

We’ve been guilty of laziness over the years with our stuffing, whether that’s making do with adding water to grey powders, having our heads turned by strange innovations (Nigella’s gingerbread stuffing, anyone?) or letting Delia and Waitrose take the strain with a stuffing “kit”, when rustling up a fresh stuffing is actually incredibly cheap and easy. You can even prepare it the evening before, meaning all you need to do on the big day is stick it in the oven.

It’s called “stuffing” because it is traditional to stuff the meat with whatever concoction you should choose. However, these days chefs tend to disagree over whether the stuffing should be put inside the meat or cooked separately, either in a baking dish or rolled up in balls on a tray.

“I prefer to put it inside the meat as it gets all the flavours from the animal when it’s cooking,” says Vincent Menager, head chef at The Balcon in St James’s, London. While this method can certainly result in a tasty stuffing, it is not without its drawbacks. Raymond Blanc is one chef who believes that stuffing should be cooked separately from the meat. “It allows you to cook your meat and stuffing correctly,” he argues. “If you were to stuff the cavity of your bird and cook them together, you would need to overcook the bird to enable enough heat to reach the stuffing.”

Simon Wadham, head chef at the Rivington Grill in east London, also recommends approaching stuffing meat with caution. “Cooking stuffing inside the bird has been given a bad name over the years with people not doing it properly and getting salmonella and that type of thing. You’ve really got to know what you’re doing.”

Other than ensuring your stuffing is cooked correctly, there are few other rules when it comes to its constituent parts. Try new herbs and flavours and don’t shy away from using a different meat in the stuffing from the one you’re roasting. There are no hard, fast rules here. “A little bit of pork belly in your goose stuffing mix will not only add flavour, but the fat will add moisture to the stuffing,” says Blanc.

So, what flavours go with each type of meat? “Sage goes very well with all poultry it brings some very nice flavours to it,” Menager says. “Rosemary or something a bit spicier goes nicely with beef. With lamb, I like to go for nuts, perhaps walnuts or almonds, or something a bit sweeter like apricots. Pork goes well with apple and cinnamon.”

With so much potential for injecting different flavours into your roasts, it’s time that stuffing started to get the attention it deserved and stopped being relegated to a culinary afterthought or outsourced to supermarket chefs. “Stuffing can transform a simple roast into something extraordinary!” Blanc enthuses. “By adding all sorts of different spices, fruits and nuts to your stuffing, you will succeed in bringing a little extra flavour and texture to your meal.”

100g dried cranberryMix all ingredients together, roll in plastic wrap (clingfilm is fine) and steam for 20 minutes.

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