Here’s something that very often gets neglected next to the flashy stars of the Christmas meal – stuffing. If I could get just one of you this year to refrain from buying a cardboard packet and to try this instead, then I’ll be happy-clappy.
Traditional stuffing is so simple – basic, almost (breadcrumbs, onions, herbs, stock) – yet it can really add to and enhance a main meal more than ingredients costing ten times as much.
When it comes to the traditional roast meal, though – I have a problem with where it goes and how it usually gets served up.
I understand that, packed inside the poultry of your choice, it’s supposed to impart flavour, but what invariably gets dished up is a big glop of solid stodge to eat alongside some dried up old bird (and I’m not just referring to myself here).
In fact, the more I think about it, the more illogical it seems:
We calculate the cooking time for a lump of meat based on its weight, and filling it with stuffing obviously adds to that weight. If you cook a bird according to its ’empty’ weight, then the stuffing remains a thick lump of glop. If you calculate cooking time based on the ‘stuffed’ weight, by the time the stuffing is cooked through, the meat is dried out.
So I say: stuff stuffing the stuffing – cook it separately. That way both the meat and the stuffing can get cooked to perfection and everything is right in the world.
You can bake it in a big slab, or roll it into balls and let it cook around the outside of the meat. Personally, I like to cook it in a bun/ muffin tin, in individual portions: the outside gets crispy and crunchy, and the inside remains moist and juicy. Traditonally, stuffing contains suet – but I prefer to replace it with butter for two reasons: it means vegetarians can enjoy it as well (make sure you use vegetable stock), and it still tastes great when cold. Cold, congealed suet is not a good taste in anything. So today’s handy hint is: Avoid suet if you’d like to continue to enjoy your stuffing cold.
Makes 12 portions
225g breadcrumbs (4-5 slices)
1 heaped tsp each of dried parsley, sage, thyme, oregano
1/2-1 tsp dried rosemary
salt & pepper
- Grease your muffin tin well.
- Chop the onions and cook gently in the butter until softened and translucent.
- Put all the other ingredients into a bowl.
- Mix in the softened onions and any butter left in the pan.
- The mixture should be moist enough to hold its shape when pressed together.
- Spoon the mixture into the tin and press down gently. I think the crunchy bits on top are the best bits, so I use a fork to just rough up the surface.
- Bake at 200°C, 180°C Fan for 45 minutes.
 Stale/dry breadcrumbs are fine – use a little extra stock if you think the mix is too dry.