When I was little, Christmas Day meant presents. I was an annoying child for Santa and my poor parents though, I never really knew what I wanted. So, every year, realising that knowing what you were getting anyway was a bit rubbish, I would ask for a "surprise". I'm sure my parents looked at each other with forced smiles at my letter for Santa saying through gritted teeth "that's great honey, we'll just let Santa know to get his thinking cap on..."
I would love to say I'd grown up into an easier adult but frankly it's not true. I love thinking really deeply about what someone might like for a present, what makes them tick. I don't get it right every time but when I do, I love the feeling. I love the feeling more than I love getting presents because, let's face it, I'm a difficult person to buy for. So that's why I love Christmas, the sense of surprise but also the joy of getting presents for people that they never would have thought of asking for but actually are perfect for them.
After presents though was the joy of Christmas lunch. For breakfast I would only eat grapefruit so my stomach would be rumbling come 2pm for the joy of Turkey, chipolatas, potatoes, brussels sprouts (picked that morning), carrots, peas, turkey liver wrapped in bacon, parsnips and of course, chestnut stuffing. It was a once a year treat. My mum would start the night before by roasting the chestnuts in the oven and getting me and my sisters to peel them. Even though it was really annoying and the skin got under your nails, it was worth it knowing what you'd be eating tomorrow.
Nowadays, as with everything, we are kind of spoiled. You can buy ready cooked, ready pureed chestnuts in a tin (which, shhh, I actually think makes better stuffing than whole chestnuts). It does mean that a once in a year treat becomes a once every 2 months or so joy. Is it diminished because of that? Maybe a little, perhaps all things are diminished slightly when they are more accessible but it is still a wonderful thing and a very tasty thing. I first made this for my son for Christmas 2011 when he was 18 months old. He had a little pot of it just to himself (because he was going to be napping during Christmas lunch). To say he loved it may have been understating things... I love the fact I'm now passing on a love of another food close to my heart to my son.
|I am not great at carving joints as you can tell...|
Chestnut Stuffing - easily makes enough for 6 people but leftovers are good (see below)
1 tin of unsweetened chestnut puree, mine was 435g, 15oz (you can substitute whole cooked chestnuts but whizzing them up at home does give a coarser result and the flavour doesn't come through quite as well)
1 tsp Herbs; choose what you like, nothing too strong, e.g. thyme, parsley
600g, 21oz Sausagemeat, I buy decent herby, meaty sausages and squeeze it out of the skins
30g, 1oz ish Breadcrumbs (see below)
Empty the puree into a bowl. I find the texture of tinned chestnut puree can vary from being quite soft to very firm. If the puree is soft, you might want to add a few more breadcrumbs.
Add the sausagement slipped out of the sausage skins, breadcrumbs and herbs.
Now get your hands in. Squidge it all together until it makes a firmish textured stuffing. Some people stuff their chickens or turkeys, being a food scientist, I don't because I want the bird to cook as quickly and as safely as possible. Put the stuffing into a baking dish to about 4cm, 1.5 inches deep. Bake alongside whatever roast you are doing at about 200oC / 400F for 45 mins or so. It's pretty tolerant, if you're cooking your roast at a lower temperature, just cook for a bit longer. Cover with foil if it's starting to brown too much.
Take out and serve. It's still good when it's warm rather than hot in case the timings all fall away (don't they always with a roast dinner?)
A must for Christmas day or Thanksgiving.
This is great for toddlers and older babies will have a go I would think, certainly baby led weaners.
As I said, leftovers are good. This is almost like a terrine when cold, it's great in sandwiches or why not make a soup with leftover chicken and bones and add some stuffing to it? It kind of melts into the soup slightly making it thick and delicious. Alternatively I will be posting a pie recipe shortly so keep your eyes peeled!
I've linked this up to Mum's Crazy Cooking Thanksgiving Stuffing linky.