CHRISTMAS IN THE WORKHOUSE



CHRISTMAS IN THE WORKHOUSE



 

The Chef is ready


 Christmas Day, and once again I'm the Head Chef for all things British & Lunchtime. Many moon ago,
post divorce, I decided to see what all the "mystique" over this Christmas Lunch thing was all about. As
a child I had lots of fond memories of the said day when of course eating really featured pretty low on
the list as did the enforced silence for the Queen's Speech.



 

My Boss for 30 years tells the Nation "How it is"



  As we grow older our tastes and habits change including those surrounding this special part of the
year. Family rituals as a kid would always be to go to "Uncle Tom's" of Arter Bros fame and of course I
would spend most of the day playing happily with my cousins Tom and Cliff. In our teenage years bikes
entered the fray and the luchtime food became more significant with second helpings being the norm.
Then there was the "pudding ritual" with Grandad slipping extra coins in, so after the first busted tooth,
a bit of ploughing and harrowing was required unless you wanted to swallow a treasured silver 3p bit.
By the time we had, "Queen's speeched", washed up, and laid out Christmas tea I can't remember
anyone wanting sandwiches and Christmas cake although Granny always insisted we had a slice of
bread and butter with the cake as it was too rich for our systems. Home with toys around 10'ish and
then repeat the whole process again on Boxing Day over at my Auntie Madge's, but at least Auntie
Madge would let me smoke at the table after lunch from the age of 11 onwards!





 Well I remember the stories of those Christmas chores and having to be up at some ungodly hour of
the night to get that 30 pounder into the oven to hit the 1 pm deadline. Then, post breakfast, the prep of
vegetables to feed the hordes and cauldrons of water on the kitchen range and of course all the
steamed up windows while all this was going on. As life progressed and after the arrivals and
salutations of Christmas morning, the next ritual of "helping" begins...... and then "what time are you
serving?"...... and the quick departure to the Pub for a couple of pints of Guiness before the mad sprint
back to hit the table time. 



 

 Then its offspring and all the delights that that brings with miles of scalextrix or railways to assemble
while everybody else walks on them or falls over the track. Then the hours of amusement building lego
models that are too advanced for the age group that wants them. Moving on, as Christmas evening
comes round and the duty games and films are completed time to think of the fun of Boxing Day when
one way or another it will either be a Trial or a Pheasant shoot.



 


 So with all those memories time to try the "Lunch Thing". First attempt in USA was an unmitigated
disaster as after preping bird and preheating oven I placed the monster in the oven and then closed
the door latch. Well...... nobody told ME that doing same puts the oven into AUTOCLEAN!  Some 2 hours
later when I return to the kitchen expecting lovely warm smells of roasting bird I discover it's cold and
the oven is off! Time for more cocktails while the two hour delay passes by.

 Finally when I'm familiar with my kitchen I try again and now, with 4 years of cooking Christmas lunch I
can honestly say it is a breeze.



 


  1000, Start the preheat of the  oven, 350F, and now having washed and dried the bird time to make
and stuff the critter. 1 large onion, some celery sticks and a handful of nuts and now add the
"Mrs Cuthbertson's" as Paxo isn't usually available and pour in the Swansons stock. In to the elbows
and it absorbs all the liquid and forms the familiar soggy cement texture which is stuffed up the neck
and in other vacant holes. A serious dosing of salt into the skin and then lightly oil same with a good
"fork oil", a further dusting of salt and the bird is ready. Now take that clever little roasting bag and flour
it and slip the bird in and if you are lucky the stuffing will stay where it was put! A few 3" slashes to the
bag and into the oven for it's 3 hour time for a 20 lb bird.



 

It's in the Bag !



  1030, Time for the first round of the DANGEROUS Christmas cocktails, take 2 sugar lumps, splashed
with bitters, a cherry, and cover same like a wreck with brandy. Allow the sugar to partially disolve in the
brandy and then fill with a medium cheap champagne.

  1100, Now prep the veggies, spuds, parsnips, sprouts and leeks. Time for the bullet hard swede or
rutabega and after peeling time to cut up into 1" squares and get these on the boil. They take forever to
boil and soften and they are going to be mashed so early rather than late is the key here.



 
 
Veg ready



 1130, All cleaned up and with the swede boiling away time for another cocktail! Now that's TWO.........

 Secrets to success means that the bird will take 3 hours, it needs to "rest" under foil for about 20-30
mins, so plenty of time here for cooking the sprouts and leeks as they don't like over cooking and are
much nicer crisp than soft. The potatoes and parsnips are going to be "roasted" so they can be
par-boiled for around 10 mins at some stage then finished off to the lovely golden brown in the deep
fat fryer, and if you fluff them in flour just before the deep fryer they are wonderful!

  1200, Time for another cocktail ..........

  1230, better beat the crap out of the swede with lots of butter and salt & pepper and just a dash of
nutmeg.



 

Swede ready for beating 



 1300, hows the bird?...... not bad just time for another cocktail...... and where am I ? .... and what am
I doing ?? Oh yes, cooking, ... time to get the bird out and let it rest......... veggies on, spuds and
parsnips to the preheated deep fryer...... get gravy boat..... where's my cocktail?



 



Santa helps with the bird






How's that ?


  1330....... all done, start carving, plate up, and use all that leek/sprout water for the gravy.




  

Let's eat


  1430.......    SLEEP !

  1630..... take out dogs, relight fire,...... crack a couple of beers...... so endeth Christmas lunch

  1700..... what's for Tea ?









 



TONY DOWN








 

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Comments

  • 1/8/2009 5:00 PM Outlaw Dave wrote:
    Ah ! what a great story - and great piccies too - Brought back a lot of English memories
    Reply to this
  • 1/8/2009 7:11 PM John Cranmer wrote:
    Hello Tony, I am just writing to say how much I enjoy reading your ramblings .We moved to St George, Utah 10 years ago from Derbyshire .All my spare time was spent with motorbikes ,I rode a bike to work and down to the Manchester 17 club for club night .Club night was great,Dave Rowland was our secretary what a great guy ,he was a real enthusiast even after m.s gave him a five he would show up at our trials and help in any way he could .we also had Jack Mathews,boy what a star,but so noisy.I spent many happy hours standing in the rain in some great places trying to keep my observers card dry and being questioned about every point,they would turn around when they got through the ends card and say ,how many was that, and I would pretend not to here them and look the other way ,next minute they are looking over your shoulder ,what fun it all was.I even saw you flash past way back in 75 at the ISDT ,but I couldnt concentrate on the Riff RAF on those Monarks,(just joking Tony) I was waiting for the bobbies on the mighty cheney Triumphs. To see Dennis Glover on that bike is something that will stay with me forever,I think two of the policemen finished and on the final speed test they all did several laps of part of the TT course ,my brother and I were in the grandstand at the start and finish on Glencrutchery road,and what a sight when the pack came round after the first lap they were flying and the sound,Jawas ,Mz ,Ktm ,Penton,all on knobblies and right in the middle of them was Dennis glover in a sporty boiler suit completely prone on the Cheney his great big coppers feet sticking out behind him .That must have been his plan to stay ahead,they couldnt get past his feet,what magic moments.Well Tony,cheers for now and if your ever coming through St George stop in for a pint. John.
    Reply to this
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