I never get to eat stuffing. We might have a Sunday roast from time to time but there is never a stuffing. Except at Christmas. Then it is one of the essential treats which add up to make the meal such a special occasion. The traditional version of sausage meat stuffing spiced with pepper and enriched with softened onions and sage remains a stalwart but not my personal stuffing of choice, if I am honest . If you’re going to the trouble of making a stuffing – and Christmas lunch would be unthinkable without it- then I would rather indulge in luxurious ingredients such as chestnuts or dried fruits: apricots steeped in sweet wine are especially irresistible; prunes soaked in brandy are nothing short of historic. You can ring the changes with the sausage meat too, incorporating a spicy chorizo or nuggets of pancetta, fried to crisp first to intensify the flavour. The stuffing receipt here can be used to stuff the neck cavity of your bird if you wish, or you could fill the boned out legs of the turkey before tying and roasting them . I always do a dish of baked stuffing as well to serve on the side. I never feel I’ve had enough until I am stuffed.
Prune, chestnut and apricot stuffing
500g cooked vacuum packed chestnuts, crumbled up by hand roughly
1 medium oniondiced
250g fresh white breadcrumbs
80g soft dried apricots
80g pitted prunes
600g good quality sausages
1 dessert spoon of thyme,
the grated zest of a small lemon
1 dessert spoon of chopped parsley
a drizzle of olive oil
1 small Spanish onion, peeled and finely diced
200ml white wine
120g unsalted butter
a decent sized glass (or just enough) of Armaganac or madeira or another alcohol such as brandy or port, to soak the dried fruit
1. warm the Armaganc (or your chosen alcohol) and place the dried apricots and prunes in it to soak for ten minutes, then lift them out and chop them finely but roughly.
2. Boil the liquid now until it reduces to a syrup. While doing this, place the onion in a small pan with the olive oil then sweat over a very low heat stirring regularly until the onion is soft, but not coloured.
3. In a large bowl, combine the softened onion, the breadcrumbs, the chestnuts and the soaked, chopped fruit to the bowl. Slit the sausages’ skins and peel them away, then mix the meat in with the other ingredients. Add thyme leaves, the zest of the lemon and a handful of chopped parsley, then season thoroughly with salt and a little pepper. Stir in the reduced alcohol at this point. Set aside to chill, this can be done several days in advance, according to the use by date of your sausages
4. To finish, either stuff in the cavity of the bird (it is not recommended to stuff the birds body cavity as this can prevent air circulation and prevent safe cooking); or bake in buttered earthenware dishes at 180c for 30 minutes or until piping hot, covered with tin foil.