The Alternative Christmas Roasts Collection

Here are some alternative ideas for those who don’t love the good old turkey. Any of these would make a cracking centre piece on your Christmas table.  So be brave and try something a little different, your choices are:

St Clements roast lamb
Roast saddle of venison
Roast goose
Rib of beef with mustard and thyme crust
Parsnip, cranberry and chestnut loaf
Roast gurnard

St Clements roast lamb
900g-1.3kg leg of lamb
4 tbsp thyme leaves, chopped
2 oranges, zested and juiced
2 lemons, sliced
3 tbsp dry white wine, or white grape juice

Method:
Preheat the oven to 180C-190C/160C-170C fan/gas 4-5.

Place the joint on a large chopping board. Make several incisions over the joint and season with salt and pepper on both sides. Rub the thyme and orange zest over the surface of the lamb and into the slits.

Place the orange slices in a large non-stick roasting tin with the lemon slices and put the joint on top. Open roast for the preferred, calculated cooking time – for medium, roast the lamb for 25 minutes per 450g plus 25 minutes. For well done, it will need 30 minutes per 450g plus 30 minutes. Baste occasionally with any meat juices and cover with foil if browning too quickly.

30 minutes before the end of the cooking time, pour the wine or white grape juice over the lamb and return to the oven for the remaining cooking time.

Roast saddle of venison
For the venison:
olive oil
2 kg saddle of venison steaks
6 slices pancetta
sprigs thyme

For the spiced redcurrant jelly
1.8 kg redcurrants
700 ml water
pinches cloves
1 tsp cinnamon
450 g sugar
4 tbsp malt vinegar

To serve
beef stock, and red wine, reduced

Method:
For the spiced redcurrant jelly: put the redcurrants in a saucepan with the water. Add the cloves and cinnamon, bring to the boil and reduce for about 10 minutes.

Using a ladle, strain the mixture through a muslin sieve – don’t press the berries as this will make the jelly cloudy.

Add the sugar and vinegar and mix together. Heat to just above boiling point (104C on a sugar thermometer). Leave the mixture to cool then transfer into a sterilised jar.

For the venison: preheat the oven to 200C/gas 6. Heat a little oil in a pan big enough to hold the venison and brown the meat on all sides. Season the joint with salt and pepper and lay the strips of pancetta on top. Sprinkle the thyme leaves over the top and roast in the oven for 1 hour for medium rare meat, or a little longer if you like your meat well done.

Remove the joint from the oven and keep the pancetta to be served alongside. Leave to rest for about 30 minutes before slicing.

To serve: reduce a mixture of beef stock and red wine to serve with the venison and redcurrant jelly.

Roast goose
1 free range or organic goose, including giblets (approx 5kg)

For the stuffing
2 bramley apples, peeled and grated
1 onion, finely chopped
1 sprig of rosemary, leaves removed and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
a handful of prunes
100 ml armagnac
a large handful of stale breadcrumbs
goose fat

For the gravy
goose giblets
2 onions, roughly chopped
2 sticks of celery, roughly chopped
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp tomato purée
150 ml red wine
leftover roasting juice, from pan

Method:
For the goose: preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Loosen the string of the goose and pull out the legs and wings a little. Trim off the excess fat, prick the flesh of the bird all over and rub with a little vegetable oil and season well.

Lay it on a rack or trivet in the roasting tin and place in the centre of the preheated oven. Cook the goose on its side for 30 minutes then turn onto its other side and do the same. Finally turn the goose onto its back and cook for another hour, draining off the fat from tome to time.

To test when the goose is cooked, pierce the thickest part of the leg with a skewer – the juices should run clear. Transfer it to a warmed serving dish, snap off the wing tips and allow the whole thing to rest for 20-30 minutes. Drain off the excess fat from the goose tin and reserve the other juices for the gravy.

For the stuffing: soak the prunes in the warmed Armagnac for 30 minutes then drain. Mix all the stuffing ingredients together, season and place in a dish with the reserved goose fat and bake for about 40 minutes or until the stuffing has a crunchy topping.

For the gravy: while the goose is cooking, boil the giblets in a large pan of water with the vegetables and herbs. Cover and simmer gently for a couple of hours. When ready to make the gravy, sieve the giblet stock, squeezing through as much juice as possible.

Place the roasting tray over a medium heat and add the tomato puree, wine and deglaze. Then add the giblet stock, mix well and simmer till slightly reduced and thickened.

Rib of beef with mustard and thyme crust
1 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for greasing
2 large onions, roughly chopped
3 large carrots, roughly chopped
2 celery sticks, roughly chopped
4 garlic cloves
Bunch fresh thyme, leaves picked
Three-rib (about 3.5kg) of beef, at room temperature (see tip)
2 tbsp Dijon mustard, plus 1 tsp
100g fresh white breadcrumbs
2 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
300ml red wine
50ml port
500ml beef stock
1 tsp redcurrant jelly

Method:
Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan180°C/gas 6. Mix the oil, chopped veg, garlic and half the thyme in a large roasting tin and place the beef in the centre.

For the crust, mix 1 tbsp of the Dijon mustard with the breadcrumbs, rosemary and remaining thyme, and season. Brush 1 tbsp mustard over the fat of the beef, then press the crust onto it. Cover with well-oiled foil and roast for 20 minutes. Add half the wine and a good splash of water to the tin, turn down the oven to 180°C/fan160°C/gas 4 and roast for 1 hour 20 minutes, adding more water occasionally.

Take off the foil and roast for a further 20 minutes to brown the crust. To check it is cooked, insert a skewer into the thickest part for 30 seconds, then lay it against the back of your hand. If it feels cool, the meat is rare; if warm, it is medium-rare; if hot, it is medium. Remove from the tin and rest, covered with foil, for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the tin on the hob, add the port and remaining wine and bubble for a few minutes. Add the stock, 1 tsp mustard and the jelly and bubble for 5-10 minutes, stirring in the sticky bits and squeezing out the flavour from the veg. Strain into a gravy boat, allow to settle and skim off the excess fat from the surface.

Carve the beef and serve with the gravy, Yorkshire puddings, roast potatoes, horseradish sauce and peas.

Parsnip, cranberry and chestnut loaf
4 tbsp butter, plus a little extra for greasing
3 onions, chopped
15g pack sage, 6 leaves reserved, rest shredded
200g pack cooked chestnuts
100g walnuts
100g breadcrumbs
½ tsp mace
1 egg, beaten
500g cranberries
175g caster sugar
550g parsnips, choose long, thin ones if you can, peeled then halved lengthways
1 tbsp honey

Method:
Melt 1 tbsp butter in a large non-stick pan, add the onions and gently cook for 10-15 mins until very soft. Stir in the sage for 1 min, then tip into a large mixing bowl. Pulse the chestnuts in a food processor until chopped into small bits, then tip these into the bowl with the onions and repeat with the walnuts. Now add the breadcrumbs, mace, beaten egg, 1 tsp salt and some pepper and mix everything together well.

Tip the cranberries and sugar into a pan and simmer for about 8-10 mins over a high heat. The sugar will melt and cranberries will pop and become saucy – keep bubbling until sticky. Set aside to cool. Grease a 900g loaf tin, line with a long strip of baking parchment that covers the bottom and two ends, then grease this as well.

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Throw in the parsnips and boil for 3½ mins. Drain well. From the thinner ends, cut off lengths of parsnip that fit widthways across the bottom of your loaf tin. Keep going until you have enough to snugly line the base of the tin. Roughly chop all leftover parsnip and mix into the nut mixture.

Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Mix the parsnip lengths with 1 more tbsp butter and the honey to coat, then fit them into the tin. Top with ¹/³ of the nut mixture – pack it down well and smooth the surface. Spread ¹/³ of the cranberry sauce on top, leaving a small gap around the edges. Top with the remaining nut mixture and pack down as before. The loaf can be made up to 24 hrs ahead, then covered and chilled, before continuing. Cover with foil then bake for 1 hr.

To serve, melt the remaining 2 tbsp butter in a small pan and sizzle the reserved sage leaves for a minute. Splash water into the remaining cooked cranberries until saucy. Loosen around the sides of the loaf with a round-bladed knife if you need, then turn out. Drizzle with the sage butter and leaves. Serve in slices with extra cranberry sauce.

Roast whole gurnard with roasted winter roots
2 medium leeks, white and pale green part only, cleaned and cut into 4cm chunks
300g celeriac, peeled and cut into 3cm chunks
3 onions, cut into wedges
3 large potatoes, peeled and cut into 4cm chunks
3 large carrots, peeled and cut into 4cm chunks
3 parsnips, peeled and cut into 4cm chunks
4-6 tbsp olive oil, plus a little extra for brushing over the fish
1-2 gurnard (depending on how many you’re feeding), each about 2kg in weight, gutted but left whole
6-8 bay leaves
1 small bunch fresh thyme sprigs
50g unsalted butter
1 small glass white wine
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method:
Heat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Put the prepared vegetables into a large roasting tin and sprinkle on the olive oil. Season generously and turn over with your hands until well coated. Roast for 40 minutes, until the vegetables are softened and beginning to brown. Remove from the oven and turn up the heat to 200C/400F/gas mark 6.

Rub olive oil over the fish, season and lay on the bed of root vegetables. Scatter over the bay and thyme, dot butter over the fish and veg, trickle over the wine and return to the oven for 30-45 minutes, depending on the size of the fish, until just cooked through. Serve with some or all of the trimmings suggested in the intro

(Credits: James Martin, Matt Tebbutt, Anna Burges-Lumsden, Sarah Cook, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, JJMoola’s Kitchen)

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