Friday, 24 December 2010

Dad's Chestnut Stuffing

You'll know, if you do read my blog regularly, that Christmas is a time for remembering my Dad, as he died just 8 days before Christmas. I don't really want Christmas to be a sad time because we had so many good times at Christmas. When I was a child, Dad did a lot of cooking when his very long working hours allowed him. Before I was born, my mum had been quite ill and very often had no appetite so Dad would cook. He did a lot of the Sunday roast stuff and he did a lot at Christmas - full dinner on Christmas Day, mince pies, the lot.

When I was about 10, Dad was given a recipe for chestnut stuffing by a friend of his called Don. Don ran a vintage wedding car hire business, was brilliant at restoring cars - until it came to lifting the bonnet. Dad used to do extra work for him in the evenings and at weekends fixing and restoring engines. Dad was never happier when tinkering with cars.

I helped Dad to make this the first Christmas but we did everything down to boiling the chestnuts. We had (and my mum still does have) the tiniest of galley kitchens to work in and in the hour that it took to boil the chestnuts, the place got so hot, I felt faint. I really can't be bothered with that anymore so I tend to buy tins of chestnut puree but you can also buy vacuum packs of cooked chestnuts that you can mash - or just chuck in the food processor.

I reckon I have made this every year that I have cooked Christmas dinner. I actually honestly do love doing it - I plan it carefully and have a timetable to follow so that I don't forget anything. And this year, I will be following the advice in English Mum's great guide. But my one constant is this recipe to go with the turkey (a crown in this house, as we have such a small oven). Mum still has the original recipe, written in Don's handwriting, with notes from Dad, as well as Dad's signature and address scrawled on the page for some odd reason. I have two photocopies of it but I typed it up a few years ago so that I never lose it. I've amended it for my purposes these days and as I have a food processor, make it really simply by bunging it in there and mixing. I cannot do Christmas without this now - it reminds me of Dad and helping him in the kitchen. Of happier times. Don also passed away a few years ago and it reminds me of both of them. Sadly, for me, the last conversation I had with Don was over the phone - telling him that Dad had died.

Oh, and the recipe contains this dire warning if you do boil your own chestnuts in large letters - pierce chestnuts BEFORE boiling!

Chestnut Stuffing 
serves 4-6

Ingredients
1 small packet of sage and onion stuffing
1 small onion, peeled and quartered
225g/8oz pork sausagemeat (or 4 good sausages, skins removed)
1 small egg, beaten
50g/2oz breadcrumbs
2 rashers streaky bacon
225g chestnut puree (or similar amount of cooked chestnuts)

Snip the bacon into small pieces. Place everything in the bowl of food processor and mix. Season with salt and pepper.

If you don't have a food processor, snip the bacon into a bowl, and chop the onion finely. Add the sage and onion stuffing, and breadcrumbs and stir to combine. Add the sausagemeat, the chestnut puree or chestnuts (whole ones should be mashed with a bit of butter first), and beaten egg. Season and mix together (you may need to use your hands to knead it together.)

The stuffing can be made into balls or do as I do - I make double quantities and pack it into a loaf tin, which saves space in my oven! This freezes well uncooked - I made mine a few weeks back and I'll take it out of the oven today ready for the big day tomorrow. It takes at least 40 mins to cook (allow up to 50 mins) so can be cooked once you have the turkey out resting. I sometimes do a bit of butter on top, or spoon over some of the juices from the turkey to keep it nice and moist.

I love cold leftovers of this as much as I do having it with my Christmas dinner. And, of course, when I eat it, I think of Dad - and smile.

Merry Christmas everyone! Have a great time and a wonderful New Year. Thanks for reading my blog during 2010.
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