Christmas dinner.It’s the biggest culinary challenge of the year for most ‘home-cooks’ (the phrase being ladled out on The Taste), especially when it comes to these particular quandaries: “How many people will one turkey feed?”, “Do parsnips smothered in oil, still count towards your five-a-day?”, “Great Aunt what’s-her-name doesn’t eat meat, is it ok to just give her veg???”. I chose to rid myself of these worries and indulge in a decadent dinner for two, and surprisingly it went incredibly well… ’til I realised I had ordered a pheasant, not my much-anticipated guinea fowl. Oops.
Despite my minor cock-up ordering the wrong bird (no offence meant Mr. Pheasant), I am really pleased with how my dinner went: my timings went perfectly to schedule, and there was enough room in the oven – with a little help from my new slow cooker, and I didn’t burn anything, or myself for once!
A whole Christmas dinner with all the trimmings for two people might seem like a lot of effort, but it is so worth it – especially as you will have lots of lovely leftovers to make some gorgeous thrifty meals with. (Recipes to follow, promise!)
So, what’s on the menu then?
Roast pheasant, served with Herbes de Provence seasoned roast potatoes; braised red cabbage; mashed swede; honey & mustard glazed carrots, parsnips and sweet potatoes; steamed broccoli and spring greens; and some cheating trimmings… pigs in blankets from Tesco and pork stuffing with caramelised chestnuts from M&S Food; all smothered in a rich gravy made from my veg stock and game drippings.
Pheasant and gravy
I splashed some olive oil into the slow cooker (the wide and shallow variety, rather than the pot shaped ones), while it was heating I topped and tailed all of my veg and added the ends to the slow cooker, as well as some roughly chopped white onions, and arranged in a bed for the pheasant to sit on. I allowed the veg to start to sizzle, then turned the heat down, and put the pheasant on top of the veggies and put the lid on, so the pheasant steams and stays lovely and juicy! I had basted the pheasant with butter and seasoned with salt and pepper, making sure to rub the butter in between the skin and meat, then popped a lemon quarter into the cavity. I cooked the pheasant in the slow cooker for one hour, then transferred it to the oven for 20mins to crisp up.
Once you have removed the pheasant to the oven, pour about 750ml chicken stock into the slow cooker and turn up the heat. Scrape any crispy bits off the bottoms of the pan and allow the stock to simmer for a couple of mins before slowly adding some instant gravy granules (I used chicken) to thicken. Once heated through carefully sieve the gravy to remove the veg. Yummy!
I parboiled my large peeled and chopped maris piper potatoes, then drained the excess water and shook the bowl up to make them fluffy. Then in a deep roasting tray, which I had lined with tin foil, I threw in the potatoes and drizzled with olive oil (it makes them SO much crispier than duck or goose fat does) and seasoned with salt and pepper, then sprinkled them with my little bag of magic: Herbes de Provence. This mix of herbs provides a subtle flowery perfume which goes deliciously with these crispy spuds! Whack the potatoes in the oven for an hour on a high heat ’til they reach that infamous golden brown.
Braised Red cabbage
I used Guy Fieri’s Braised Red Cabbage recipe from the Food Network website, as it was super quick and really easy. If I was to do it again (when not so rushed off my feet), I would cook the cabbage for longer, as this came out a little too al dente for my taste.
Plain old mashed swede is one of my favourite roast accompaniments, who wouldn’t want some sort of mash with their roast?! Simply peel and chop up the swede into 1cm chunks, then boil on the hob for about 20mins, or until soft, then mash with a knob of butter and salt & pepper. It’s just so tasty.
Honey & mustard glazed carrots, parsnips and sweet potatoes
I love root veg sooooo much. This method keeps these three veggies sweet and juicy. Mix up a glaze of mustard, oil (rapeseed works well), honey, salt and pepper. I like to use grainy mustard for this, as it provides little bursts of flavour, but on this occasion I only had regular Dijon mustard in the cupboard, but it worked well too. Brush the mix lightly over the roughly chopped veg, don’t peel any of them (the skin helps the caramelisation), and throw in a couple of crushed garlic cloves for good measure. Put your tin foil lined tray with your veggies into the hot oven for an hour ’til soft.
Broccoli and spring greens
Simple steamed green veg adds a much needed savoury (and healthy) element to this indulgent dinner.
I hope you’ll give one of these recipes a go for your next Sunday roast, why wait ’til Christmas?! Comment below for any further advice, and I’ll pass on all my tips and tricks.