Ahead of her upcoming demo, Jenny Chandler explains how she intends to make her Christmas dinner a little more ethical
Christmas is quite rightly an occasion for merrymaking and indulgence, a time to forget about wallets and waistlines, and instead savour traditional treats and great company at the table. But it is also a season when we should surely be particularly mindful about how we source our food—after all, Christmas is a celebration of birth and life, and so tucking into some intensively-reared bird or beast that has lived a wretched existence feels especially unjust.
When it comes to buying your turkey, duck, goose or joint, ‘less meat, better meat’ should be the ground rules. Nowadays, it’s quite possible to track down a turkey crown big enough to feed the entire family for a week, going for a song, but what of its provenance? And will that super-speedily plumped-up breast carve like a piece of cardboard after hours of careful roasting and basting? We’re constantly bombarded with labels suggesting quality—‘traditionally reared’, ‘free-range’, ‘heritage’, ‘premium’, to name a few—but what do they actually mean? Nothing beats chatting to a butcher who knows exactly where and how your meat or poultry has been produced, able to assure you of its high welfare and great flavour, two essential qualities that happily come hand in hand.
So, a Borough Market bird will most certainly grace our table this year, but it won’t be a giant; I’d rather invest in a smaller bird and fill our plates with more economical, but no less delicious, seasonal veg. There’ll still be plenty of bones for our Boxing Day soup, though.
Embracing glorious vegetables
My kitchen has steadily become more plant-focused over the past few years and current messages about reducing our animal protein consumption are difficult for even the most resolute of carnivores to ignore. You might feel that the festive season is hardly the moment to be cutting back, but to the contrary, embracing the huge variety of glorious vegetable dishes, both traditional or Ottolenghi-esque, can be liberating and exciting, adding to the feast with no hint of deprivation.
Many of us will be cooking for vegetarians and vegans over the holiday, too, a challenge that will often be met with despair or, equally depressingly, some highly processed piece of faux meat. It’s great to have a couple of plant-based dishes in your repertoire, dishes that you could serve up to anyone and everyone, that deliver on flavour and just happen to be vegan.
This Thursday, I will be in the Market’s Demo Kitchen, demonstrating some simple recipes to add to your festive menu, including a rich fruit and nut stuffing (with a little optional pork thrown in) to make that poultry stretch further. We’ll be thinking about tricks for do-ahead veg; gratins and purées that fit the bill with no last-minute fuss; a technicolour kalette, beetroot and citrus dish that could work as a starter or side; and a superbly savoury mushroom and chestnut wellington—all perfect contenders for your ethical festive feast.
Join Jenny for tips, tastings and recipes on Thursday 6th December in the Market Hall, 1-2:30pm