Tired Of Turkey?

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Tired Of Turkey?

Words by Mr Tom M Ford | Photography by Mr Benjamin McMahon

27 November 2014

Try these alternative Christmas feasts from the red-hot London chefs of Chiltern Firehouse, NOPI, Ceviche and The Quality Chop House.

It’s a well-worn cliché that Christmas time can become punctuated by family disputes around the dinner table. What is not usually up for “discussion”, however, is what’s on the table. In many parts of the world, the UK and US included, turkey is a mainstay of the Christmas feast. And for good reason. It’s comforting, it goes well with stuffing and cranberry, and it will feed a huge family (with plenty left over for sandwiches the next day). And people – especially the British – like routine and order. So why shun something we’ve enjoyed since the 16th century?

Let’s admit it – the turkey has never yielded the most flavoursome meat. And being the cumbersome game bird that it is – it can get rather dry. In fact, we’d go so far as to say (or perhaps whisper) that we don’t actually particularly like turkey. Would you choose it on a menu in a restaurant?

With this in mind, we tasked some of world’s best chefs – who are equally unenthused by Christmas dining protocol – to come up with some delicious alternatives. Inviting us into their kitchens, the likes of Mr Yotam Ottolenghi and Mr Nuno Mendes cooked up their ideal festive feasts, and then gave us the recipes. We say: swerve the turkey, and give these a try…

Mr Ottolenghi, the chef-patron of the Ottolenghi delis and NOPI restaurant and writer of a weekly column in the Guardian’s Weekend magazine, knows a thing or two about what makes a good dinner. He has published three bestselling cookbooks: Plenty; Ottolenghi: the Cookbook; _and _Jerusalem, and also offers his expertise to TV – the Mediterranean Feast series on More 4 and the BBC Four documentary Jerusalem on a Plate to name just two. Plenty More, his latest cookbook, is out now.

“I've always preferred a Christmas table full of lots of smaller plates and dishes – rather than the tradition of one enormous bird dominating the table, with her minion vegetable sides – so cooking poussins feels much more proportionate and attractive to me. They take a lot less time to cook as well, so don’t come with the fuss that can surround the big birds. Flavour-wise, this is perfect for Christmas – the cinnamon, the oranges. The blood oranges are particularly special – that maroon colour and the hint of raspberry make them so lovely to look at and eat – but the dish works very well with regular navel or another sweet orange. The fruit’s sweet acidity both flavours the meat and, with all its freshness, cuts through its richness at the same time.”


4 whole poussins (2kg)200ml blood orange juice (the juice from 3-4 oranges), plus 1tbsp finely grated orange zest2 large onions, cut into 2cm-wide wedges (450g)2½tbsp pomegranate molasses3tbsp red wine vinegar40g muscovado sugar, plus ¼tbsp for the sliced oranges2 large cinnamon sticks, broken in half (20g)2 red chillies, sliced in half lengthways but with their stems held intact and seeds in3tbsp olive oil4 bay leaves20g thyme sprigsSalt and black pepper2 blood (or 1 large regular) oranges – topped and tailed and sliced into 5mm rounds, skin on (250g)1tbsp ghee or clarified butter3tbsp coriander seeds

Place the poussins in a large bowl with all the remaining ingredients apart from the extra quarter teaspoon of sugar, orange slices, ghee and coriander seeds. Blood oranges look great here, if you can get them. The season is short, though, so use regular oranges if they aren’t around. Add one teaspoon of salt and some black pepper, mix well and leave to marinate for at least two hours or, preferably, overnight, stirring a few times to make sure that everything is well coated. Preheat the oven to 200°C.

Line a large high-sided baking tray (around 40 x 30cm and 5cm deep) with baking parchment. Place the poussins over the paper, evenly spaced apart, breast-side up. Pour the marinade around the poussins and then sprinkle them with a third of a teaspoon of salt. Cover the tray tightly with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and increase the temperature to 220°C. Remove and discard the foil, baste the poussins and add the orange slices to the tray, spreading them between the birds.

Return the tray to the oven and cook for 35 minutes, uncovered, until the poussins are cooked through and browned. Lift the poussins and orange slices out from the tray and pour the marinade into a small saucepan. Return the poussins to the tray and cover with foil, to keep warm, until ready to serve. Place the marinade on a medium-high heat for 10-15 minutes, to reduce slightly, until you have about 150ml liquid left in the pan. Remove from the heat and set aside. Spread the orange slices out on a small parchment-lined baking tray, sprinkle with the remaining quarter teaspoon of sugar and return to the oven for 10 minutes, until staring to caramelise, and then set aside.


Place the poussins on a large platter, pour over the thickened marinade and arrange the oranges in-between the birds. Place a small frying pan on a medium-high heat and add the ghee. Once it has melted add the coriander seeds and fry for about one minute until they are golden-brown and aromatic. Spoon the seeds over the poussins and serve at once.

Mr Morales is the founder of the Ceviche and Andina Peruvian restaurants in London and the author of the bestselling Ceviche Peruvian KitchenThe Sunday Times Cook Book of the Year 2013. He has also pioneered the sale of Peruvian spirit pisco in the UK. “There used to be 500 bottles sold a year – now there are about 30,000,” he says. “Most are coming out of our two restaurants.” When he’s not thinking about food or pisco, he is involved in music and arts projects including running his own Peruvian soul, funk and jazz label – Tiger’s Milk Records.

“A causa is a traditional layered dish made primarily of cold mashed potatoes and different toppings. I created this recipe for Christmas at Ceviche and named it after Lolo Fernández – a famous Peruvian football player, loved by the people for being skilful and charismatic. There are so many tired ways of cooking at Christmas, and turkey can dry up really quickly. Salmon is a fish eaten the world over at this time of year, and this is a different and delicious way of presenting it – so it’s the perfect starter. In Peru, we celebrate Christmas Eve; Christmas Day is like Boxing Day for us, when we all go to the beach to cure the hangover.”

INGREdients (serves four)

CHILLI PASTE1 medium-strength red chilli¼ yellow pepper½ white onion, chopped1 garlic clove, choppedSalt and pepper to season

De-vein and de-seed the chilli and yellow pepper. Finely chop and sauté in a dash of olive oil with the onion and garlic until soft, not caramelised. Season. Blend and keep in the fridge.

THE BASE500g floury potatoes – peeled, boiled, mashed finely and chilled1tbsp chilli pasteJuice of 1 limePinch of salt

To the potato mash add the chilli paste, lime juice and salt. Mix thoroughly together and from the mixture make four round, flat, cold potato cakes about 2cm high. If you wish, use an 8cm cake mould and press the mash mixture into this.

THE TOPPING240g fresh salmon2 finely chopped spring onionsJuice of 3 limes4 coriander sprigs, finely choppedSalt and freshly ground black pepper1 large ripe avocado, chopped and lightly mashed

Chop the salmon into small very cubes, add the spring onion, lime juice, coriander and season with salt and black pepper. Mix well.

CHILLI MAYO¼tbsp chilli paste1tbsp home-made mayonnaise

Mix the chilli paste and home-made mayonnaise together.

final assembly

Place a potato cake in the middle of each small plate. Add a teaspoon of chilli mayo to the side of each cake. Spoon the mashed avocado on top of the cake and season with salt and pepper. Place the salmon mixture on top of the avocado, making sure that it doesn’t fall off the cake. Garnish with chopped coriander. This dish can be freshly made before serving, or prepared an hour beforehand. Once made, it should be refrigerated for 10 minutes before serving.

Referred to by The Times' food authority Mr Giles Coren as “every restaurant critic’s secret favourite cook”, Mr Mendes is currently heading up hip London restaurant Chiltern Firehouse. The Portuguese-born chef began his career with a short stint at El Bulli before managing cult London eatery Bacchus. Opening innovative supper club The Loft Project, he went on to run the Michelin-starred Viajante in the East End – where he became known for his experimental food prepared in cutting-edge fashion.

“Iberico pork is one of our most celebrated products in Portugal; the tradition of mixing shellfish with pork meat is in our gastronomic DNA. I don’t particularly like turkey – this meat is better. Challenge things and show off: you want to win over your guests on Christmas Day. The core of the recipe is at the centre of our rural heritage, when the only products available to us were bread and a couple of cheap garnishes. I have adapted this dish to represent Portuguese ingredients in a new way. Christmas is about celebration and comfort food. If you think about turkey and stuffing – the pork and the bread is a variation on that. Shellfish and mussels are slightly unusual, but you have the carrots so there are plenty of Christmas-like flavours on offer.”

ingredients (serves four)

IBERICO PORK 600g Iberico presa (presa is the type of cut and specific to Iberico) 4tbsp extra virgin olive oilMaldon sea saltFreshly ground black pepper2tbsp olive oil1tbsp unsalted butter

Cut the pork into four even pieces of 150g each. Place on a plate, season liberally with olive oil, Maldon salt and crushed black pepper, and set aside to marinate for two hours. Roll the pork in the olive oil every half an hour to ensure it is well covered.

Bring it to room temperature before cooking. Heat a heavy-bottomed pan to a high temperature and sear the meat with olive oil for about one minute on each side. Lower the heat and keep cooking for about another minute per side; be sure to role it frequently so it cooks evenly. Raise the heat again, add the butter to the pan and glaze all sides of the meat constantly with the foam that the butter creates. Remove the meat from the pan and place it on a rack to rest for about seven minutes. Carve each piece before serving and re-season with Maldon salt before plating.

PORTUGUESE SEAFOOD BREAD PUDDING2tbsp olive oil4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped just before cooking1 small shallot, chopped finely (approx 150g)100g smoked bacon, chopped roughly1tbsp smoked paprika400g large whole prawns – chopped, with heads and shells removed and saved for the stock1kg mussels500ml water50g coriander, chopped2tbsp extra virgin olive oilJuice of 1 lemon2 red peppers – roasted, peeled and chopped600g brioche, toasted and cut into 2cm cubesUnsalted butterJuice of ½ an orange, plus lemon juice to taste

Clean and de-beard the mussels in lightly salted water, and scrub until any visible grit comes off.

In a medium-sized pot with a lid, add two tablespoons of olive oil, the chopped garlic, shallot and the bacon and gently fry until fragrant and soft. Add the paprika and stir for one minute before adding the prawn heads and shells. Fry gently for another six minutes, taking care not to let the mixture burn. Then add the mussels, the water and the coriander, cover with the lid and cook on a medium heat until all the mussels have opened (approx five minutes). Remove the lid, season with the extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice, then strain the broth through a fine sieve and set aside.  

Remove the meat from the mussels, chop roughly and mix with the roasted and chopped red peppers and the toasted brioche. Place this in a low-sided container and spread out evenly. Stir in 300ml of the shellfish stock so it is well incorporated, and let this soak for 30 minutes at room temperature.

Cook the remaining 200ml of reserved stock down to reduce by half so it is thicker. Add a teaspoon of butter to glaze. Just before serving, season with orange and lemon juice.

Heat a non-stick pan and add a tablespoon of butter. Let it brown slightly before adding the chopped prawns and cook for 10 seconds before adding in the bread mixture. Fry this gently until crispy around the edges but still quite soft in the middle. Be careful not to overcook the prawns! Re-season to taste with lemon juice, orange juice and salt, and set aside.

BABY CARROTS16-20 baby carrots, scrubbed clean. Remove the green tops, wash them carefully and pick into small sprigs to use as a garnishWater for blanching1tbsp unsalted butterMaldon sea salt

Blanch the carrots (without the tops) into a large pot of boiling, well-salted water until cooked but still crunchy. Drain and refresh in iced water to stop them cooking further, then drain again until dry.

Just before serving, gently heat the carrots in a shallow pan with some butter and salt, taking care not to let the butter or carrots brown.

final assembly

Place a large spoonful of the bread pudding on four hot plates and add the sliced pork and the carrots. Sauce the plate with the reduced stock and garnish with the carrot tops.

Mr Searley was previously head chef at Bistrotheque in East London and developed his cooking ethos at Paternoster Chop House in the City of London. He is now head chef at The Quality Chop House – a restaurant that works with small producers for high-quality, seasonal ingredients. First founded in 1869, and reopened in November 2012, the “dining room, wine bar and butcher” seeks to replicate the feel of the original site while adding its own modern take on a menu that changes twice a day to keep up with seasonality.

“A rib of beef is one of the best cuts. It can be expensive, but it feeds a lot of people. You’re getting different tastes and textures from one cut – the eye of the meat is really tender, you have the fat surrounding the eye, the chain [the long, ropy connective tissue] will cook a little bit further, and you have the crispy fat on top. You can just stick the beef in the oven and forget about it, do the remoulade ahead of time and the mushrooms cook quickly. The chips are the hardest thing to do but they deliver on flavour – trust me. I think it’s important to spoil yourself at Christmas. You can be generous with this – the accompanying dishes make it very convivial, and it’s unpretentious.”

Ingredients (serves six)

12-HOUR ROAST RIB OF DEXTER BEEF1 3-boned rib of beef (around 3kg)Sea saltFreshly milled black pepper1 large onion1 large carrot ½ garlic bulbSprig of thyme 

Ask your butcher to chine the rib for you. This will make it easier to carve later on. 

Score the fat in a criss-cross fashion and season generously with sea salt and freshly milled black pepper. Transfer to a cold and dry (no oil) pan on a low-to-medium heat. Once the fat has started to render you can turn it up to a medium heat. This should take about five to 10 minutes or until the fat is golden brown all over.

Brown both sides of the beef, remove from the pan and throw in some roughly cut onions, carrots, garlic and thyme. Sit the beef on top of the vegetables and cook at 58°C for 12 hours. Carve into even slices.

CONFIT POTATOES1kg King Edward potatoes300ml beef dripping20g salt

Peel, wash and slice the potatoes as thinly as possible, then mix with the dripping and salt. Line a tray (around 20 x 20cm and 8cm deep) with parchment paper. Begin to layer the potatoes on top of each other, keeping it all as flat as possible. 

Once the potatoes are all used, top with parchment paper and bake at 120°C for approximately three hours or until the potatoes are completely cooked through. 

Sit a same-sized tray on top of the potatoes and add some heavy weights. Chill in the fridge overnight. Remove from the tray and cut into 1cm chips. 

When you are ready to serve the beef, fry the confit potatoes at 180°C for four to six minutes. Season with salt.

WILD MUSHROOMS AND CHICKEN LIVER PARFAIT250g girolle mushrooms250g trompette mushrooms250g chanterelle mushrooms250g chestnut mushrooms 2 large shallots, finely diced Olive oilButter100ml dark chicken stock 50ml red wine100g chicken liver parfait (can be purchased in The Quality Chop House shop) 

Add the mushrooms and shallots to a hot pan with some olive oil and butter. Stir fry for a couple of minutes, add the chicken stock and red wine, quickly reduce by half and serve with a large spoonful of parfait. 

CELERIAC REMOULADE, COBNUTS AND CHICKWEED1x medium celeriac 250g mayonnaise 100g crème fraîche50g Dijon mustard50g wholegrain mustard 100g cobnuts (or hazelnuts)50g chickweed (or watercress)Olive oilPinch of salt and a squeeze of lemon

Peel, thinly slice and shred the celeriac into thin strips. Mix together with the rest of the ingredients, except the nuts and chickweed. Toast the hazelnuts and sprinkle over the remoulade. Wash the chickweed, lightly dress with olive oil and salt, and add to the remoulade.

final assembly

Finally, bring all the elements together. Remove the bones from the beef and carve into even slices, and transfer the remoulade to a serving bowl. Ensure the confit potatoes and mushrooms are piping hot and correct the seasoning if necessary.