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.
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
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.
1430....... SLEEP !
1630..... take out dogs, relight fire,...... crack a couple of beers...... so endeth Christmas lunch
1700..... what's for Tea ?