We immediately think about turkey when we discuss Christmas dinners but, with over half of Britain’s free-range turkeys being destroyed, everyone is looking at Christmas dinner differently this year and seeking Christmas dinner alternatives.
Short supply and the UK’s worst-ever outbreak of bird flu means that the price of fresh turkey has rocketed, leaving many of us with Christmas Day dinner dilemmas.
Amended legislation allowed farmers to slaughter turkeys early this year but the idea of a blast-frozen turkey doesn’t sound that appealing to most people.
Although cheaper than the fresh variety and with the reassurance of a largely unaffected texture, the turkey still carries the burden of being the blandest of all birds and it may not live up to expectations in its post-frozen form.
Unlike last Christmas when we were heralding the turkey’s popularity – https://citreuscatering.co.uk/get-creative-this-christmas-with-citreus-catering/ – the turkey has taken a verbal basting. In fact, this year, the turkey has received more online hate than honest opinions on Twitter.
And – with honesty in mind – after the poor turkey has met its demise in a process that doesn’t sound too dissimilar to the carbon freezing technique trialled on Han Solo in The Empire Strikes Back, you may want to opt for some of our Christmas dinner alternatives.
What Christmas Dinner Alternatives will you try?
In the midst of a Christmas cost of living crisis, you are going to want to hear about value for money. And when we are considering cheaper Christmas dinner alternatives that also bring flavour and creativity to the table, nothing ticks the advent calendar boxes better than the swine (more on pork later).
But what’s wrong with chicken as a Christmas dinner alternative?
Absolutely nothing at all. Ideal for smaller families, Chicken is a much cheaper and sweeter Christmas dinner alternative to Turkey, plus, if there is enough meat on the bones, there is always the added benefit of making a Boxing Day chicken soup.
Don’t give up the goose.
To quote from last year’s Christmas blog, it wasn’t until the 1700s when “…the turkey gradually replaced the goose as Britain’s favourite Christmas cull.”
Yes, the goose was once the top dog – or bird – of Christmas dinners and it could still take the top spot this year as the perfect festive centrepiece.
Many people do go straight for the goose when the turkey is out of the question but, with a 4-6kg gander costing around £17.00, it’s not exactly a cheaper alternative.
Asda is currently selling a sizeable 8kg goose for £32.00 and the deeper flavour that results in the succulent goose fat for roasting the spuds is considered by many to be a worthwhile investment and the only alternative to Christmas day dinner.
If you are in a position to give a goose a home this Christmas, check out these five delicious recipes:
With turkey out of the way, beef is going to be a big hit this Christmas. There are many cuts to choose from but the highly recommended, untrimmed tenderloin has no bones or fat to contend with and it’s highly presentable and easy to cook. Here are some tops tips for the tenderloin –
Full-English Christmas Dinner alternatives
Talking of tenderloin…
The precise name of origin is unclear but one thing is for sure: Beef Wellington is a true English classic that has been observed as a well-established part of English cuisine for over a century.
Similar to the French fillet de boeuf en croute (fillet of beef in pastry), the early 20th Century recipe is a wrapped, baked and sliced tenderloin perfect for all the family.
Here is our very own Christmas Dinner Alternatives recipe for Classic beef Wellington with sautéed hispi cabbage, roasted carrots and roast Parmentier potatoes in a red wine jus. Enjoy…
Classic Christmas Dinner Alternatives – Beef Wellington
· 1x 500g beef fillet – Ask the butcher for the centre cut for Beef Wellington
· Olive oil, for frying
· 500g mixture of wild mushrooms, cleaned
· 1 thyme sprig, leaves only
· X1 sheet puff pastry
· 8 slices of Parma ham
· 2 egg yolks, beaten with 1 tbsp water and a pinch of salt
· Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
· X1 hispi (Sweetheart) cabbage
· X4 large Maris piper potatoes
· X4 large carrots
Red wine sauce –
· 2 tbsp olive oil
· 200g beef trimmings (ask the butcher to reserve these when trimming the fillet)
· 4 large shallots, peeled and sliced
· 12 black peppercorns
· 1 bay leaf
· 1 thyme sprig
· Splash of red wine vinegar
· 1 x 750ml bottle red wine
· 750ml beef stock
· Wrap the piece of beef tightly in a triple layer of cling film to set its shape, then chill overnight (Ideally)
· Remove the cling film, then quickly sear the beef fillets in a hot pan with a little olive oil for 30-60 seconds until browned all over and rare in the middle. Remove from the pan and leave to cool.
· Finely chop the mushrooms and fry in a hot pan with a little olive oil, thyme leaves and some seasoning.
When the mushrooms begin to release their juices, continue to cook over high heat for about 10 minutes until all the excess moisture has evaporated and you are left with a mushroom paste (known as a duxelle). Remove the duxelle from the pan and leave to cool…
· Lay a large sheet of cling film on a work surface and place 4 slices of Parma ham in the middle, overlapping them slightly, to create a square. Spread half the duxelle evenly over the ham.
· Season the beef fillets, then place them on top of the mushroom-covered ham. Using the cling film, roll the Parma ham over the beef, then roll and tie the cling film to get a nice, evenly thick log, then chill for at least 30 minutes.
· Brush the pastry with the egg wash. Remove the cling film from the beef, then wrap the pastry around each ham-wrapped fillet. Trim the pastry and brush all over with the egg wash. Cover with cling film and chill for at least 30 minutes.
· Meanwhile, make the red wine sauce. Heat the oil in a large pan, then fry the beef trimmings for a few minutes until browned on all sides. Stir in the shallots with the peppercorns, bay and thyme and continue to cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the shallots turn golden brown.
· Pour in the vinegar and let it bubble for a few minutes until almost dry. Now add the wine and boil until almost completely reduced. Add the stock and bring to the boil again. Lower the heat and simmer gently for 1 hour, removing any scum from the surface of the sauce, until you have the desired consistency.
Strain the liquid through a fine sieve lined with muslin. Check for seasoning and set aside.
· When you are ready to cook the beef wellingtons, score the pastry lightly and brush with the egg wash again, then bake at 220°C/Gas 6 for 35-40 minutes until the pastry is golden brown and cooked.
Rest for 10 minutes before carving.
· Meanwhile, reheat the sauce. Serve the beef wellingtons sliced, with the sauce as an accompaniment.
· Thinly slice the hispi cabbage as thin as you can. Heat a non-stick frying pan with a splash of oil and a knob of butter. Add the cabbage to the pan and cook until just soft, season with salt and pepper.
· Peel the carrots and slice in half-length way. Boil a saucepan with salted water and blanch the carrots in the water until just cooked. Drain from the water and allow to cool, place into a roasting tray, drizzle with olive oil and roast in the oven at 200c for 25 minutes until golden brown and cooked.
· For the parmentier potatoes, slice the ends off the potato then each side so you have a large rectangle of potato. Cut in half then length ways, then cut into cubes around 1cm big. Place into a pan of boiling salted water and boil until just cooked. Drain from the water and place into a roasting tray, drizzle with olive oil and roast in the oven 200c until golden brown and cooked.
Let’s Talk Pork
Pork is a perpetual crowd-pleasing promise not to be proportional prohibited.
The cheapest and most cheerful, pork is a winner for Christmas Day dinner, and a 2kg loin will generously feed 6-8 carvery enthusiasts.
For a truly delightful crackling, score the pork and salt generously before leaving it to sit uncovered for two hours in the fridge.
Pat the skin dry with kitchen towel and baste it regularly with the rendered oil as it roasts, turning the oven to full for the final few minutes.
The great thing about pork it that it really holds up to creativity. Chestnuts, cider, pineapple, mushroom, black pepper, mustard and, of course, apple all make great Christmas dinner alternatives to turkey and cranberry sauce.
And if you want to turn our aforementioned Beef Wellington number into a Pork version, the BBC have some great Christmas kitchen ideas for a Pork Wellington – https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/collection/christmas-pork-recipes .
You don’t eat lamb at Christmas!
If you think lamb is better left as a traditional roast at Easter, think again and open your mind to lamb at Christmas.
Who says you can’t eat lamb at Christmas? I know it’s not a cheap alternative – probably on par with the goose – but it is a Christmas dinner alternative with a touch of class.
The kids will turn their noses up at lamb because “it’s too fatty, Dad” but if you choose the rump from the back, the cut is lean, tender and full of flavour.
We don’t usually throw the big names about on here but Jamie Oliver does know a thing or two all about choosing the best cut – https://www.jamieoliver.com/features/ultimate-guide-to-lamb-cuts/#:~:text=The%20rump%20comes%20from%20the,reveal%20its%20blushing%20pink%20centre. – and these guys – https://www.allrecipes.com/gallery/christmas-lamb-recipes/ – know how to talk lamb, winter flavours, and how to create a touch of elegance at Christmas.
But what if you don’t want Christmas Dinner Alternatives?
You may not fancy any of our Christmas Dinner Alternatives as we appreciate that turkey remains a traditional treat on the table for many families.
If turkey is your Christmas superpower in the kitchen – and you can get one – just go for it and follow the Citreus Catering lead from last year when turkeys were in abundance and we could all afford to put the heating on:-
Young, plump, short-necked and supple…
A good turkey should be young and plump, short-necked with a supple windpipe, and with the wishbone removed – it’s easier to carve.
A great tip for cooking the turkey is to roast it upside down. It certainly sounds unorthodox but it’s all about moisture and flavour, and if you cook the turkey upside down for an hour, all the juices will flow into the breast, adding succulent flavour where needed.
Don’t let turkey ruin Christmas. Ensure that you allow 20 minutes of roasting per 450g (1 lb in old money), ideally at 16 ֯C (325֯F, Gas mark 3) to avoid any trouble from your bird.
Add season under the skin with butter, rosemary, cumin, or Italian seasoning, and season the outside with garlic, olive oil, salt, and other favourites.
You can even baste with butter, beer, wine or juice every hour.
The legs take the longest to cook so it is advisable to remove the legs and cook them for 30-minutes before the rest.
Stuffing has taken a bit of a back seat over the last 20 years but, having said that, a lot of the traditional ingredients still work well with turkey.
Keep breadcrumbs to a minimum and don’t over-stuff the beast. Use dessert apples, oranges, wild mushrooms, chestnuts and rosemary to help penetrate deep down into the meat.
If you are opting for a crown this Christmas – as many people did when they had different lives prior to a worldwide pandemic, Brexit, and a cost of living crisis – remember to royally roast it with bacon strips to turn up the intensity, and ask your butcher for some turkey bones to use for stock.
Regularly add the juices to introduce moisture while it’s cooking, and cover with foil if it starts to brown.
Serve with the strained cooking juices and garnish with watercress.
About 85% of us will be having roast potatoes with our Christmas dinner this year and it’s vitally important that you get the oil hot if you want that tasty crunch.
Coconut oil is perfect for adding extra crunch https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/videos/techniques/how-roast-potatoes-video but goose fat – as previously touched upon – gives the best flavour, with butter being the best vegetarian option.
We like roasted veg at Citreus, it always works well with turkey. Don’t crisscross the sprouts either because it causes them to retain too much moisture and, when catering for large families, arrange the food like a carvery to allow guests to help themselves and relieve the stress of serving.
One area where you can get creative this Christmas is with a selection of canapes for your quests. Check out these treats: https://www.delicious.com.au/recipes/collections/gallery/best-canape-recipes/92a6ap69?page=2%20.
You could go retro with glazed salmon or mix it up a bit with rare roast beef and mustard, or play it safe by introducing chicken satay skewers as a light snack.
Whatever your plans are, we hope you enjoy your food with good company and we wish you all a very Merry Christmas. We hope to see you all again in the new year and don’t forget to let us know if you need professional catering assistance for a celebration in 2023 – https://citreuscatering.co.uk/contact-us-citreus-catering-nottingham-weddings-events/
Best wishes and a Happy New Year from everyone here at Citreus Catering.