Planning for a turkeyless Christmas
By Sam Wass, Medium Well
Now that Halloween and bonfire night have finally been and gone it's time to get thinking about the real highlight of the winter months, Christmas - possibly our favourite time of the year here at Great British Meat
The costumes and face paint may be freshly hidden in the drawers, the pumpkins are not quite as fresh as they were and there's no doubt weeks worth of fireworks to look forward to before the sleigh bells start jingling away, but you need to be prepared.
Forget hunting for the perfect gift and making sure the decorations are placed in exactly the same locations as last year though, because as we all know the real challenge of the festive season is preparing the dinner.
Every single household across the land has their own routines when it comes to preparing the Christmas dinner - what sauces they use, how they dish out, how the potatoes are cooked, how long you should boil sprouts – but one thing that we can all agree on is that the most important element, the centrepiece of the dinner, is the meat that sits at the heart of the feast each and every year.
A brief history of turkey
These days of course turkey is almost entirely synonymous with the Christmas dinner. Like paper hats and Cliff Richard songs it's an element of the season that there is seemingly no escaping from. For as long as we can all remember, turkey is THE festive fowl.
The British public have been scoffing the birds since the 16th Century, with Henry VIII becoming the first monarch to add it to the palace's menu, whether he had a wife to enjoy it with at the time or not.
Victorian times saw the humble turkey become a fixture of the season, even overtaking the more traditional goose and the rest is history. That doesn't mean though that you have to have your yearly portion of Turkey on December 25th.
Meat, the alternatives
Regardless of whether you, your parents or significant other cook the turkey to perfection each year or end up serving out chunks of meat that are as dry and tasteless as a doorstop, there can be no doubt that a lot of us have simply had our fill of Turkey. Don't worry though, because in fact there are plenty of alternative meats to liven up the dinner, and we're absolute crackers about them… Sorry, couldn't resist.
Here are our picks of the best alternative meats to serve up at your Christmas feast this year, each one is guaranteed to delight and bring a bit of seasonal magic back to the table:
- Beef – You should never underestimate the amount of mouthwatering meals that can be made with the combination of a succulent cut of beef and the right ingredients to complement it. For those craving a change this Christmas the traditional British Beef Wellington, made with a succulent whole beef fillet will provide a beautifully presented centrepiece to the table. With a thick layer of crumbling pastry giving way to the tender meat inside, cutting open the Beef Wellington is like opening another present for the whole family. As if that wasn't reason enough, you can actually do a lot of the preparations on Christmas Eve. If pastry isn't your thing, you can always serve up our Bone-in-Forerib of Beef with a combination of horseradish and prosciutto to set your meal even further apart.
- Gammon – Another meat that is often overlooked during the festive season is Gammon, and gammon could be the ideal way to break away from the tyranny of the turkey dinner. You can choose to boil or roast your gammon, but we'd recommend gently boiling or poaching, as it will give you more natural flavour as well as serving options. The real joy of preparing a gammon for a large meal comes from choosing how to prepare it. We recommend adding spices to the gammon to give it a real kick as well as studding it with cloves and serving it with citrus fruits for extra flavour. Alternatively, following the poaching stage smother with a cranberry glaze and roast to create a tasty seasonal treat.
- Lamb – One of the prevailing criticisms that has been thrown at turkey down the years is that it can be rather dry, often despite the chef's best efforts not to fall into that particular cliché. The same can never be said of a choice cut of lamb though, as it's rightfully regarded as one of the most tender meats in our range here at Great British Meat. There's no feeling quite like gliding your sharpest knife through a steaming hot slice of lamb and we recommend serving family and friends a juicy St. Clements roast lamb. Smothered with thyme and the zest of a few oranges, basted with meat juices and soaked in wine, St Clements roast lamb is a flavourful treat that should emerge from the oven a perfect pink to really get mouths watering.
- Individual pies – Okay, so this one will take a little bit more preparation than simply taking a hunk of beautiful meat, cooking it to perfection and portioning it out equally but it is certain to make a lasting festive impression on your guests. The best thing about cooking individual pies is that there's no limit on the options you have when it comes to choosing which meat to fill them with. If you're feeling extra ambitious you can make several variants (chicken pie for the kids, beef for the parents) or you can pick a suitably festive theme, pour in lashings of special gravy and watch everyone tuck in to their perfect parcels. We'd recommend generous helpings of cranberry sauce and stuffing to really set off each pie.
There you go then, a whole stocking-full of fresh ideas to give the family's taste buds a festive treat that they'll not forget for years to come. If you have any suggestions of your own for Christmas dishes that you'd like to share, then why not let us know by commenting on our social media feeds. Have a merry, meaty, Christmas!