Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Cheaper Alternatives to the Christmas Roast Turkey

I understand the argument that everyone deserves to feast at Christmas.  I not only understand it, I support it.  Fact remains, especially right now, the money might well not be there to enable that feast.  By offering alternatives, I am not supporting the idea that the poor should be glad of crumbs; this is not me declaring, "when there is no dough, let there be dough..." We must tackle the long term causes of course, but the short term also needs to be taken care of.

In that spirit, let me share some ideas that we have served even when we could have afforded a turkey (which I probably should have begun selling these recipes with, rather than clarifying my political stance.)  I was always squeamish preparing a roast bird, we had a family member who did not trust meat unless it was roasted until desiccated, and I wanted something that was easily carved... hence the trusty pie.  It was easily made, easily served up to look neat on the plate, and as you can see from the photograph will feed a few quite nicely.

Making the pastry and cooking

I line a loaf tin - it cuts neater, looks more grand, and gives a nice deep fill; it also seems to go further without a serving seeming stingy.  If you are not confident that the pie will come out easily, then line the loaf tin with greaseproof baking paper so you can lift it out without worry.

300g plain flour
150g solid fat - you can use all butter (we like Pure) or half-and-half butter and white fat
pinch of salt and pepper
Cold water to mix

Stir the salt and pepper into the flour.  Rub the fat into the flour with your fingertips until the mixture resembles rolled oats.  Mix in enough cold water to bring the mixture together in a dough which shouldn't be sticky.  Roll out around two thirds of the pastry to line the loaf tin, then when your filling has been put inside (see options below), roll out the remaining pastry to place on top.  Pinch the edges of pastry together.  Make shapes out of pastry scraps for the top if you like; one year I shaped a cute "Merry Xmas" message which I sadly don't have a photo of.  Bake at 180C for 1 hour.

Turkey and Stuffing Pie

You will need:

boxed stuffing (4 of these for 60p)*
walnuts and dried cranberries (optional)
turkey slices (£1.79)**
garlic powder and lemon juice if liked

Make up a box of stuffing or make your own if you feel so inclined.  Mix in broken walnuts and cranberries if you have some, but these are by no means necessary.  I find boxed stuffing is quite strong in flavour so usually add 2 slices of bread worth of crumbs, adding about 1/2 tsp garlic powder and 1 tbsp lemon juice from a bottle.  Pile this into a pastry case.  Layer the turkey slices over the top of the stuffing so you have a couple of layers - a whole pack or even two would be good.  Follow cooking instructions given above.

Sausage, Walnut and Cranberry Pie

You will need:

sausage mix - we use this (for £1)*, but you can use the equivalent of made-up sausagemeat which would be around 500g for the same price
stuffing mix (2 of these for 30p)*
100g walnuts (£1.76)*
50g dried cranberries, roughly chopped (35p)*

Make up the stuffing and sausage.  Squidge made-up sausage mix or sausagemeat with the stuffing, squidging in the walnuts and cranberries too.  Pile into the pastry case and cook as in instructions above.

Sausage, Pease Pudding and Pear Pie

You will need:

sausage mix- we use this (for £1)*, but you can use the equivalent of made-up sausagemeat which would be around 500g for the same price
yellow split peas (64p for 500g - you will only need about half for this pie,but you could make up the whole lot into pease pudding to keep the rest for sandwiches)
stock or yeast extract/soy sauce and a bay leaf
butter - I like Pure for its flavour
around 6 pears (78p)
salt and black pepper

This might sound a bit mad, where the traditional partner of pease pudding - ham - is replaced with sausage, but we all love it at Acorn Towers; it is festive in that it is reminiscent of the original Christmas pies mixing savouriness and fruit; just think apple sauce for the pears if you need to convince yourself the orchard fruits will work with the sausage.  Make up your pease pudding by boiling yellow split peas  in stock or boiling water with a spoonful of yeast extract or soy sauce and a bay leaf for an hour until the peas break down; drain very well if necessary and pop into a food processor or blend until smooth, adding salt and pepper to taste and 50g butter. Make up the sausage if using a mix; place sausage in the bottom of the pastry case.  Peel and slice the pears into wedges then toss them in salt and black pepper before laying them on top of the sausage. Spoon the pease pudding over the pears.  Bake as instructed above.  This is best served after it has settled for about half an hour for the pease pudding to set up somewhat and make it easier to slice; indeed it is very nice at room temperature as a grabbed-lunch on its own.

Simple Christmas en Croute

You will need:

boxed stuffing (2 of these for 30p)
2 slices of bread
sausage mix - we use this (£1), but you can use the equivalent of made-up sausagemeat which would be around 500g for the same price
turkey slices (£1.79)**
bacon slices - we like maple cured rashers for £2.49 **
pastry, shortcrust as given instructions for above is also more than fine, but this really simple flaky pie crust posted by Proverbs 31 Woman from her new Pie book would be perfect

This makes a full round of Christmas turkey and accompaniments in one package.  Make up the stuffing; I like to mix in the crumbs of 2 slices of bread worth of crumbs as the stuff is usually quite strongly flavoured.  Also make up the sausage if using mix rather than meat.  Take a piece of stuffing, then wrap a double or triple layer of turkey slices around it.  Mould sausage mix around turkey.  Wrap a slice of bacon around the sausage.  Finish by rolling out the pastry and cutting it into rounds; place the fistful of Christmas yumminess onto a circle of pastry then bring the pastry around it and pinch together, like a little Christmas gift.  Bake at 200C for 20-30 minutes, taking out when browned.

* Asda Online accessed 16/12/15
** Vbites accessed 16/12/15

Do you have any ideas for feasting on a budget at this time of year?

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