Take the stress out of Christmas Day by keeping the cooking to a minimum – you really don’t need any more than a nice joint, a couple of veggies and one of these fantastic recipes, says Bill Granger.
Deep breath, we're almost there... Christmas is around the corner. So, if it's not too late, this is my last chance to remind you, and myself, to keep it simple. My most stressful Christmases have been those where I haven't been able to stop myself, and suddenly find I'm juggling 12 dishes. What a disaster!
Over the years I've learnt it's much better to make a few really memorable dishes: you'll enjoy the cooking more, and have a much better meal in the end. Who needs more than a joint of meat, a couple of vegetable dishes and a stuffing? If you really love preparing the whole shebang, great, go for it. But not me; to be frank, I'd rather be sitting around the Christmas tree.
The stuffing has always been one of my favourite bits of the meal, so much so that I like to make it into a dish in its own right by cooking it outside the bird. You get a much more delicious texture that way and it also shortens the cooking time of the big roasts – and any time saved on Christmas Day has to be a great thing. All the recipes here would suit any roast, be it a bird, pork or even lamb.
This is almost like a savoury bread- and-butter pudding – it's all lovely and soft on the bottom and crispy and crunchy on the top.
1 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, chopped
200g/7oz pancetta, diced
2 sprigs rosemary, leaves chopped
4 sprigs thyme, leaves chopped
6 ready-to-eat dried figs, roughly chopped
Handful golden sultanas, roughly chopped
70g/3oz roasted walnuts, roughly chopped
100g/3½oz sourdough bread, torn into bite-sized pieces
300ml/½ pint good-quality chicken stock
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas4.
Heat the oil and butter in a large, high-sided frying pan. Fry the onions and pancetta until the onion is soft and the pancetta crisp. Tip in the rosemary, thyme, figs and sultanas, and fry for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.
Stir the walnuts and bread into the onion mix, break in the egg and stir well. Pour in the stock, mix again, then transfer to a baking dish and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the top of the stuffing is golden and slightly puffy.
Sausage-and-fennel stuffing balls
This is my fresh take on stuffing balls – lighter and fluffier than the traditional and with a bit of zing. I tend to roast them in the oven as the turkey rests, but if you prefer, you could also add them to the tray with the bird.
450g/14½oz floury potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for greasing
2 onion, chopped
1 fennel bulb, chopped
1 tsp toasted fennel seeds
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
6 good-quality sausages, squeezed out of their skins
1 Bramley apple, grated
50g/2oz fresh breadcrumbs
For the topping
1 shallot, sliced
Zest of 1 lemon
½ red chilli, chopped
Handful flat-leaf parsley
Cook the potatoes in salted boiling water for 10 minutes until tender then drain and roughly mash. Set aside. Heat the oil and butter in a large, high-sided frying pan over a low-medium heat, add the onion and fennel and fry for 8 minutes k until softened. Tip in the fennel seeds and chilli flakes and fry for a further minute. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.
Preheat oven to 180C/350F/Gas4. Add the cooked potatoes, sausage meat, apple and breadcrumbs to the fennel mix and stir to combine. Form into rough balls. Place on to a greased baking tray, drizzle with a little oil and cook for 35 to 40 minutes, turning the balls occasionally, until the stuffing is cooked through and golden.
To make the topping, mix the shallot, lemon zest and chilli with the parsley. Scatter over the stuffing balls before serving.
Adding this rice stuffing to the tin in which the roast is being cooked ensures it soaks up all the lovely juices from the meat while the top crisps up. If you're having vegetarians over, set some of the cooked rice aside, so they also get the chance to enjoy it.
1 onion, sliced
3 cardamom pods, bashed
1 cinnamon stick
2 tsp ground cumin
A pinch of saffron
250g/8oz basmati rice
500ml/17fl oz good-quality chicken stock
50g/2oz roasted pistachios, chopped
50g/2oz roasted almonds, chopped
Zest 1 orange
100g/3½oz pomegranate seeds
Small bunch mint, chopped
Small bunch dill, chopped
Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas6. Heat the butter in a heavy-based pan with a tight fitting lid. Add the onion and cook for 5 to 8 minutes until starting to soften and turn golden. Tip in the cardamom, cinnamon, cumin and saffron.
Stir for 1 minute then add the rice and toast, stirring for a further minute. Pour in the chicken stock, bring to the boil then cover and cook for 12 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave covered, to continue cooking in its own steam for another 10 minutes, until the rice is tender.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes before stirring in the nuts, orange zest, pomegranate seeds and herbs. Twenty minutes before your roast is ready, tip the cooked rice into the tin so that it crisps up while the meat finishes cooking.
Bill's restaurant, Granger & Co, is at 175 Westbourne Grove, London W11, tel: 020 7119 9111, grangerandco.com