Taste Scene

Michael Devlin

The stuff of dreams

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Looking forward to Christmas? Me too. We took the wains to see Santi last week – twice, if you don’t mind, us being millionaires and all – and on both occasions I was struck with how joyous this time of year can be for children.

Grey Decembers in Tyrone can be perfectly un-festive, what with the grizzly weather, the ever-present cumulus and my general skintness. But add a thin or even badly failed Santi into the mix, with a community centre full of little humans high on fizzy juice and early selection boxes and you can’t help but be swept away on a (yule)tide of Christmas spirit. It’s infectious.

Meanwhile, I’m in stuffing mode this week, which will also go some way to increasing your responsiveness to Christmas cheer.

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There’s only one rule: Make your own from scratch and you literally can’t go wrong (unless you fall asleep while the stuffing is in the oven).

Whilst I like to experiment with foods over the course of the year, I like my stuffing plain and simple. No pork mince or any of that malarkey. No chestnuts. No cranberries. No sweetcorn. I like sage and onion and sage and onion likes me.

This stuff, whilst great on the plate with your turkey and gravy and all the rest, is elevated to a whole new level later in the evening when making that all-important Christmas sandwich. Possibly… stuffing could be my favourite part of Christmas (after roasties done in goose fat and dipping slices of bread into the gravy after a few drinks on Christmas night).

This is a basic recipe for stuffing. But the simplicity is deceiving. Fire up a batch of this stuff on Christmas day and it’ll taste like God’s been cooking in your house.

It’s also perfect if you’re not stuffing the bird.

INGREDIENTS
• 1 large onion, finely chopped
• 1 heaped tbsp of butter
• 1 tbsp of fresh sage, finely chopped (if you’re using dried sage, use a teaspoonful)
• between a quarter and a half a loaf of ordinary white bread, blitzed into breadcrumbs
•salt and pepper
•1 egg, beaten
• two heaped tbsps of salad cream (secret ingredient)
• 2/3 tbsps of the juice out of the turkey

THE PLAN    
Soften the onion in the butter over a low heat without colouring – about ten minutes.

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Mix the sage through the breadcrumbs and then add the softened onion, the salad cream and the juices from the turkey – the latter two ingredients will help keep the inner stuffing moist. Taste and then adjust the seasoning and only then mix through the beaten egg.

You can either take handfuls of stuffing and roll into balls, setting these on a roasting tray and roasting in the oven for about half an hour. Or, or heal the lot into a casserole dish and blast in the oven for 30-40 mins, until crispy on top and irresistible.

If you wanted ultra-decadence you could even lay rashers of streaky bacon along the top of the casserole of stuffing. But in my world there’s a lot to be said for a bit of crispy stuffing.

On the other hand, that crispy bacon would come in handy for the sarnies later on.

Decisions, decisions.

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