Well, it’s nearly that time again, and with the weekend of indulgence just ahead and approaching rapidly, my little contribution to the festive season is for something that very often gets neglected next to the flashy stars of the Christmas meal – stuffing.
Although, as you will see by the end of this post, it would be more accurate to say – Savoury-cook-separately-ness!
Hmm, might need to work on that as a name…
If I could get just one of you this year to refrain from buying a cardboard packet and to try this instead, then I’ll be happy-clappy.
Traditional stuffing is so simple – basic, almost (breadcrumbs, onions, herbs, stock)- yet it can really add to and enhance a main meal more than ingredients costing ten times as much.
When it comes to the traditional roast meal, though – I have a problem with where it goes and how it usually gets served up.
I understand that, packed inside the poultry of your choice, it’s supposed to impart flavour, but what invariably gets dished up is a big glop of solid stodge to eat alongside some dried up old bird (and I’m not just referring to myself here).
In fact, the more I think about it, the more illogical it seems:
- We calculate the cooking time for a lump of meat based on its weight, and filling it with stuffing obviously adds to that weight.
- If you cook a bird according to its ’empty’ weight, then the stuffing remains a thick lump of glop.
- If you calculate cooking time based on the ‘stuffed’ weight, by the time the stuffing is cooked through, the meat is dried out.
So I say: stuff stuffing the stuffing, cook it separately! That way both the meat and the stuffing can get cooked to perfection and everything is right in the world.
You can bake it in a big slab, or roll it into balls and let it cook around the outside of the meat. Personally, I like to cook it in a bun/ muffin tin, in individual portions (see photo): the outside gets crispy and crunchy, and the inside remains moist and juicy. Traditonally, stuffing contains suet – but I prefer to replace it with butter for two reasons: it means vegetarians can enjoy it as well (make sure you use vegetable stock), and it still tastes great when cold (sammich, anyone?). Cold, congealed suet is not a good taste in anything! So today’s handy hint is: Avoid suet if you’d like to continue to enjoy your stuffing cold.
Now I know you don’t much care for savoury stuff – no fibbing now, server stats lieth not! – And I do have some deliciously sweet recipes coming soon – but try this yourself – go on, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
225g breadcrumbs (4-5 slices)
1 heaped tsp each of dried parsley, sage, thyme, oregano
1/2-1 tsp dried rosemary
salt & pepper
- Grease your muffin tin well.
- Chop the onions and cook gently in the butter until softened and translucent.
- Put all the other ingredients into a bowl.
- Mix in the softened onions and any butter left in the pan.
- The mixture should be moist enough to hold its shape when pressed together.
- Spoon the mixture into the tin and press down gently. I think the crunchy bits on top are the best bits, so I use a fork to just rough up the surface.
- Bake at 200°C, 180°C Fan for 45 minutes.
Cost: £0.80 (December 2011)
 Stale/dry breadcrumbs are fine – use a little extra stock if you think the mix is too dry.