I cook Christmas dinner for my family every year, since my mother, who loathes cooking, discovered that I can, and relinquished the responsibility with unseemly and undisguised glee. Sometimes I make goose, occasionally beef wellington. Never, ever turkey.

This was a goose year and it was a flipping triumph – perfectly moist, cooked at 180c for 5 hours (it was a 14lb goose, plus stuffing weight, which I forget) for 20 mins per lb. I think the stuffing was key to how well it turned out, because it retains some of the gallons of fat that a goose sweats off during cooking, and keeps it next to the meat.  I’ve never done it stuffed before and it was, as my Dad eulogised, the best I’ve ever done. Now I see the point.

It helps, by the way, to have a beefy sous-chef, because you need to hoist the goose out of the oven a few times during cooking to drain off the hot fat (if you keep an eye on this, it’s abundantly obvious when you need to do it). We ended up with five jars full, which we divided up between us as a kind of post-Christmas treat. I fried some breakfast eggs in goose fat the other day, which was easily in the top five most decadent things I’ve ever done (sadly).

I was also especially pleased with the roast potatoes, I’ve finally figured out how to make them super-crispy, which is by par-boiling them for ten minutes right at the beginning of the day, draining them well, roughing them up a bit and then leaving them to dry out completely, spread out on a tray. All the water evaporates, leaving them able to soak up all the oil. I then poured cold oil over them (I’m told it absorbs better, though I suspect this of being an old wives’ tale) before shoving them in the oven for an hour and a half (basting twice, I think).  Oh, and the sprouts (boiled, drained, dried and tossed in hot bacon fat with bits of streaky bacon at the last minute) were pretty good too. If you don’t like sprouts but your family insists on having them, this is the way to eat them. Because it makes them taste like bacon. And not so much like sprouts.

Yum. Hurrah for Christmas.


…in the beginning

December 3, 2009

This is something of an experiment. A few people have suggested I start a food blog, so here it is. Perversely, however, this first, rather long post (I know, they will get shorter) is about wine, about which I know absolutely nothing. If you do, this will not be remotely edifying, and may even enrage you. It was as a complete novice that I recently found myself at Decanter magazine’s Fine Wine Encounter show at the Landmark Hotel in Marylebone. I was there purely because my friend N’s wife chose to go to the ballet with her mother instead. I can’t get on with dance; I’ve tried but since I spent most of The Stravinsky Project asleep and only woke up when a very tall woman appeared on pointe and dressed, apparently, as an elaborately knitted penis, I’ve given up.

The first thing that hits you at a wine show is the smell. It’s not just the odour of multiple wines, nor indeed of multiple wines which have been swilled around in multiple mouths and then spat out into buckets of sawdust, it’s the reek of multiple people crowded into a room, drinking copious quantities of multiple wines. If I were to describe that particular ‘nose’ I would certainly employ the word ‘sour’, and probably the word ‘bacon’.

Our first stop was at the Bisol & Jeio Prosecco (bisol.it) stand. Our companion’s justification was that Prosecco is a ‘breakfast wine’ (along with, apparently, vintage Champagne, which made me wonder what kind of a fabulously 17th century life he lives). Our first taste, the Jeio Valdobbiadene Brut Prosecco NV, was pretty inconsequential: breakfast wine or not, I don’t think it would hold up against much more than a bowl of muesli. Neither was I impressed by the Jeio Rosé Sparkling Brut NV. It tasted distinctly vegetable. I wrote one word: Cabbage. (I must admit to a slightly uneasy relationship with rosé anyway. I’m 30, single, female – I’d rather resist the opportunity to behave like a massive cliché if at all possible.)

Our unanimous favourite was the Bisol Riserva Millesimato Metodo Classico Brut 2001. This is currently unavailable to buy – B&J only make about 40,000 bottles, apparently for fun. It tasted like a crisp, sweet English apple (possibly a Russet) but as far as I was concerned, the best thing about it was the nose, which was just like that irresistably synthetic hot plastic smell that you get when you bend your credit card back and forth to break it when it expires (if, of course, you’ve managed not to lose it or get your wallet nicked in a shit bar in Islington first).

Next we visited the Louis Jadot stand (louisjadot.com), manned by Quentin Sadler, a wine consultant and blogger. He’s very chatty, and quite funny and was evidently bored out of his mind. Returning to my notes, I find that I have circled the Puligny Montrachet, 1er Cru Clos de la Garenne, Domaine du Duc de Magenta – I can only assume that I liked it. I think, if I try really hard, I can remember that if you don’t often get to drink a really fine white wine, it tastes exactly like what you would imagine a really fine, rather more expensive than you’re used to white wine would taste like. It was around £40-45 per bottle.

Our friend rather grandly announced that he “can’t bear Beaujolais,” but had to eat his words in the face of the Moulin á Vent, Clos de la Roche, Chateau des Jacques 2002. I forget most of what it tasted like, but I do remember vividly that the nose reminded me of the back room of a French bistro – the kind in which you might once have found Toulouse-Lautrec with his head in the scrawny bosom of a skinny whore. Though it has a certain surface refinement, there was a sweaty, slightly rough-and-ready edge to it that gave it a distinctly Montmartresque charm. The Clos Vougeot Grand Cru 2002, a Pinot Noir, was also joyously evocative – not to put too fine a point on it, it smelt like a farm girl wearing too much cheap perfume. Filthy, in a good way, like a roll in the hay, though a roll in the hay would be significantly cheaper.

The last stand that we visited before our notes became completely incomprehensible, was Jean Luc Baldes – Clos Triguedina (jlbaldes.com). They had some really fabulous wines, particularly the reds: the Probus 2000 tasted of both summer pudding and blue cheese, like Willy Wonka’s Three Course Dinner Chewing Gum, while Le Petit Clos 2006 had a distinct hint of Monster Munch (pickled onion flavour, if you’re interested, with a light note of tomato sauce) but was heavy on the tannins. The absolute winner though was their Black Wine 2001, of which there are only 300 bottles available (and probably, by now, considerably fewer). They apparently heat a portion of the grapes before fermentation, though how hot, and what portion was shrouded in secrecy. We were all falling over by this point, and the image of Monsieur Baldes locked away in the grape shed, dancing naked around a blazing fire over which swings cauldron of swelling grapes was almost too much. The nose is unmistakably treacle toffee, and this is how the flavour begins, heading towards raisin as the air gets to it. It is gorgeous. Apparently it can cellar for 50-100 years, though there isn’t a hope in hell it would last that long in my house

We were there for easily another two and a half hours but I was bordering on blind by this point. We then went for a curry, which seemed like a good idea at the time.

I didn’t sleep terribly well.