A xmas shake up and a dam fine Spanish Tomato recipe

Its all over, all the madness, too much food and lots of stress and great enjoyment… for another year.

I came over to the office today on the scooter and I saw an old derelict street man, he smiled and laughed as some white butterflies danced and flew about his head, he waved to me as he crossed the street. It filled me with a sense of awe. We have lost too much, we have most of all lost simplicity. If I had the chance, I would give you all joyful simplicity.

The Xmas shake down is follows…

The hams, great! I must say it was a pleasure to be able to enjoy ham that was from Victoria, cured and packed in Victoria and although not organic, as close as possible. In the end what meant more to me was the honest approach and integrity of the butcher in the gold fields region. His ability to achieve a ham that was cooked to the bone, not filled with extra liquid and with good taste was great. One day he will be one of the greats in Australian charcuterie, which in case any of you had doubts, is unique in the world. No other country produces a ham like we do (I am speaking style not quality). I did as ever, removed the skin, kept it for further cooking use when needed, scored the ham and glazed it, one thing I did was to not chill it after the glazing and so it was eaten at room temperature and I must say that does enhance the flavour.

The rolled turkey was something else… I think I need to fess up…. I am not all that fond of turkey. There I have said it. I must say that my heart skipped a beat with excitement when I was talking to an Italian lady who said that in Italy turkeys were only ever used to make soup. Worked for me.

It is a bit of puzzle why we have adopted the turkey as the absolute ‘must have’ for the xmas festive table, its the same as picking up ‘The Age’ and reading that the primaries (what the hell is that anyway?) are being conducted in Iowa… I don’t care frankly, the politics of the USA with its far right radical Christian elements and then all the other madness, is something about which I am supremely disinterested (I had to get that bit in, it truly makes me ‘disturbed’ that the aforementioned newspaper seems hell bent on informing us of the politics of the USA and yet, hardly a word is spoken of European or UK politics. I wonder who owns the newspaper and where he lives and who he is trying to impress??)

I think turkey soup or ‘brodo’ is the best solution for a bird that can be very VERY tasteless and which, on boxing day, presents a dilemma about what to do with the balance of the mostly half eaten bird which, usually I suspect, finds its way quickly to the rubbish tin. A sad end to a noble animal. Mind you the post that I did before Xmas of a recipe from Georgio Loccicelli could work well for turkey since the rolled stuffed bird is poached or steamed over a broth made from the bones and discards of the bird and served with a ladle of the broth, along with some ravioli stuffed with a simple cheese.

However that said, let me say that Roast Goose is also not a fave of mine, very fatty and yes, I know that there are many ways to make the bird less fatty, but I am also not that keen on the fatty gamey taste. I think for me, next year will be the year of the duck or indeed as some Italian friends of mine did, a wonderful long slow cooked shoulder of lamb and a dam fine hunk of beef roasted at speed and we all need to remember that this festive occasion is a feast, and not a celebration of American or British eating habits. Let me raise here what may well become my obsession for 2012… if I said the word ‘capon’ how many would know what it is? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capon and I for one want to eat this again. As I think about this, my family at every hatching of the eggs of the many chickens that inhabited our backyard, sorted through male and female, the females were destined as egg layers and later to be consumed, the cockerels were destined for the table after they had been ‘caponised’ which was done by my father and one of his brothers, adept in the fine work. It produces a fowl better flavoured and plumper. We need to pursue this matter with our poultry growers.

But that’s another battle to be entered.

The boning of a turkey is a challenge… I had forgotten how much of the bird is taken up with tendons that really should not be called tendon, but in fact look like bone and almost have the same degree of toughness as bone. It is much more of a challenge, it requires a dedication that can be daunting. That said, there is also a slight issue with the separation of the breast and legs needing some careful handling or it will result in the Ballotine splitting when it is cooked… again I urge on you all, do not over stuff the bird even though you are trussing the bird, that may not be sufficient to hold it together, under stuff is the rule.

A friend, David Young was chatting with me about this cooking style, his way of tackling the job was similar but slightly more interesting. He boned the turkey and in fact used the same Persian stuffing that I had published, the difference was that he removed the flesh from the skin, leaving the skin intact of course and then flattened the meat (this can best be done with a heavy flat bladed knife or a steak mallet handled deftly, the meat should not be pulped, but simply flattened) David then returned the meat to the skin and essentially spread it over, then topped with the stuffing (remember to leave a two centimetre piece of skin all round to be able to properly encase the contents). Rolled and tied, he then wrapped the turkey in foil and steamed it until cooked, removed the foil, glazed the outside skin and popped it into a hot oven for twenty minutes. he said it was delicious and I believe him.

My way of tackling the job was to bone stuff (with the delicious Persian stuffing), truss and steam for a bit and then roast to finish… the trick being to know when the steaming has been enough and then into the hot oven to give an attractive (and desirable) golden brown. Since the bones have all been removed, it does require much less cooking time and so I would suggest that the rule be 25 minutes per kilo of dressed and stuffed weight plus 25 minutes extra this should cover all the time in both the steamer and the oven. You will of course be left pondering the sauce as the roasting is not long enough to create a depth of brown crusty bits and juices. My family will not allow any piece of warm poultry onto the table unless it is accompanied by a brown gravy. being forewarned is great and I had taken the precaution of having a bit of chicken stock on hand and that became the basis for a great sauce.

As is my want, I had rounded on the whole family and essentially raved about how we should not have to follow tradition with vegetables (roast potato, roast pumpkin, cauliflower cheese, etc etc ) I decided to make a potato gratin, all cream, garlic and some anchovies, some oven baked vegetables served warmish with some toasted cumin seed and a couple of salads, including a salad from Spain called Asadillo. This salad is not as easy as it appears, it requires ingredients of impeccable quality. Made well and served at room temperature, this is a fine dish.


10 red capsicums

3 large brown onions, unpeeled

3 garlic bulbs

Sea salt flakes

2 tbsp olive oil

10 tomatoes, peeled, deseeded, cut into wedges

1 handful flat-leaf (Italian) parsley, chopped

100ml extra virgin olive oil

150ml sherry vinegar

1 tbsp freshly ground cumin


Preheat the oven to 180°C


Put the capsicums, onions and garlic in a large roasting tin, sprinkle with the sea salt and drizzle with olive oil. Roast the vegetables for 40 minutes. The capsicums are ready when they are soft and a little browned. Remove the capsicum and garlic, put in a bowl and pour over the cooking juices. Return the onion to the oven and cook for 20 minutes or until very soft.


When the capsicum are just cool enough to handle, remove and reserve the skins and seeds. Reserve the cooking juices. Break up the capsicum flesh into broad strips and put in a separate bowl. Cut off the tops of the garlic bulbs and squeeze out the now paste-like interior. Add the tomato and mix through, letting the residual warmth from the capsicums soften the tomatoes just a little.


When the onions are ready, remove them from the oven and set aside until cool enough to handle. Remove and discard the skin. Cut the onions into rough wedges and mix through the capsicum and tomato mixture.


Measure out 100ml of the reserved cooking juices, strain, and then add to the salad with the parsley, extra virgin olive oil, sherry vinegar, and cumin. Mix thoroughly.


Serve immediately or refrigerate. If refrigerating, allow the salad to reach room temperature before serving.


But perhaps not a Xmas dish. Just one of those dishes that you eat with a fine crusty bread and a glass of good red wine.

Jennifer always colludes with one or two of her children (those attached to the old ways and reluctant to embrace the new) and as much as I howl with shock and horror, protest, sulk and shriek loudly, a dish of roasted potato and in this case a dish of cauliflower cheese appeared. Further, my son from Castlemaine arrived and proceeded to round on my refrigerator where he found a couple of large ripe aubergines and in no time flat had whipped up some middle eastern number that he had, I suspect, either been influenced by or directly copied from Ottolenghi. We were, not too put to fine a point on it, knee deep in vegetable and salad dishes as opposed to the refined, controlled and succinct elegance I had planned. In other words, a quite normal xmas meal.

I am bewildered about this meal, my confusion stems from the apparent ability of many people to simply extend their stomach to include limitless amounts of food. How does one have an entre of seafood, a huge serve of some main meal, including as per above, a desert that is designed for the cold climates and then cheese, all this accompanied by too much booze. My stomach will simply not handle this, it cannot stretch that far and I am limited to a main meal, even desert eludes me.

My nekta daughter Seryn had thrown away all stops and had made a very rich and delicious chocolate marquise ( a recipe that I had garnered many years ago from some famous French chef ) a pavlova, I think decorated with raspberries and white nectarine. I of course had the pudding on standby and it continues to this day, on standby, untouched and pristine, with a bottle of Dr Kitchener’s pudding sauce and a pot of rum butter in the same condition. I also had made a white peach and vanilla ice cream, just in case.

Just in case of what I hear you say!!

Well, the next course of cheese was also untouched. It was not my call this year, my country son had elected to provide the cheese and we were given some very spiffy fine cheeses from Spain and France, to enjoy, but now with stomachs bulging, we simply admired his superb good taste and ate nothing. I of course had provided some bread, I like cheese with bread and not with those dry biscuits that are now much loved. Bread went stale.

Can you see where I am going with this, I do not understand this sudden attack of gluttony which seems to overwhelm us and make us, if not consume, provide and we seem unable to handle the concept of feast.

Can I cite a simple example of what I would consider a meal of utter simplicity, but delicious… I purchased a kilo of 100% organic 40% fat beef mince, simply added a piece if white bread (just one slice) soaked in a small splash of milk, with some salt and pepper, worked it well and formed it into flat patties. This was fried in a small bit of butter, just a minute or two on each side and then I sat down with a plate of the first home grown tomatoes of the season, a pot of my own Dijon mustard, salt and pepper and that was it. The taste was stunning, the simple pleasure of great meat, great tomatoes and great mustard was completely unbeatable. Was that not a feast?

My world now is consumed once again, my eldest is getting married and I am planning a small escape to meet and greet some of our customers in Asia. I have also to locate a new factory since this one is being sold, but for the moment I plan to relax, enjoy moments of leisure and plan the year. Happy new year and all the very best wishes for 2012.




~ by peterwatson on January 12, 2012.

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