Raised for Christmas, a goose is a symbol of the full years cycle on the farm. As seasonal breeders’ geese take a special place amongst our livestock. For more information about our geese and how we raise them, please see “Will’s Meat”.
A goose for Christmas dinner was quite normal in the 16th and early 17th century, remaining predominant until the Victorian era when the Christmas turkey made its mark, although if money were no object then dining on peacock or swan was de riguer! And maybe more common these days as the centrepiece of a Christmas meal in Scandinavian countries, goose and duck are, quite rightly, regaining their popularity in the UK.
Our roast goose recipe benefits from many years’ experience of preparing a Christmas meal and in particular feeling the pressure of family expectation to prepare and cook a feast, for a farming family, that reflects the weight of the occasion. Always served on the ‘family china’ this is a meal that brings us together and reminds us of our family and its roots.
My best advice is don’t be scared – good organic goose and duck benefit from an unhurried approach. Rushing and undercooking the bird may lead to it being tough, much better to be laid back, enjoy some festive spirit, let the oven take the strain, roast for longer at a lower temperature and the result will be a tender, succulent bird full of wonderful flavours.
A large goose (5.5 - 6kg) will feed 6-8 people. If you have more guests (as we usually do) then why not prepare a piece of organic gammon as well (which can be roasted in advance and simply glazed at the last minute) making that wonderful goose go a little further.
Remove all packaging 24 hours before cooking. The goose is better kept unwrapped to allow the skin to dry a little, naturally, ready for roasting. Remove the bag of giblets (inside the cavity) and any extra fat. Rub the goose with a little sea salt all over (inside and out). Pre-heat the oven as hot as you can go, 240C/Gas mark 9.
While the oven is heating up roughly chop some apples, prunes (chunky apple eighth’s and prune halves will be fine) and prepare some handfuls of whole, seasonal herbs, sage, thyme, rosemary and parsley are ideal. Stuff the cavity of the goose with equal proportions of apple and prunes along with the whole herbs. There’s no need to stitch up the opening, oozing appley, pruney, herby juice will only benefit the gravy.
Rub the base of a heavy roasting tray with a little warmed goose fat so that the bird doesn’t stick. When the oven is hot, place the bird in the tray with breast down and then into the oven for about twenty minutes to colour and seal the skin. To achieve colour all over this side you may need to shift it about a bit.
After twenty minutes check that the skin is browned and turn the goose over (breast side up). Turn down the oven to 140C / Gas mark 1-2. Pour 750ml of liquid into the tray around the bird. We like to use cider, but water or light stock would also work. Allow the bird to roast slowly for at least 45 minutes per kg (about 4 hours). Check periodically to ensure the liquid doesn’t dry out, add a little more if necessary.
While the goose is roasting, we like to prepare some apples and figs (if we can get them) cutting them in half, dotting with a little butter and sprinkling with brown sugar. Roasted in the oven or in a pan until caramelized, they will be a soft, unctuous addition to the roast goose.
To check the goose is ready, insert a knife into the thickest part of the breast and pull it straight out. It should come out with very little resistance. Lift the goose out of the roasting tray and onto a warm plate or board where it can be held to rest for at least twenty minutes before carving. Lay the apples, figs and some fresh rosemary around the carving plate.
The remaining liquor in the roasting tray will probably require separating. A nifty piece of equipment such as a fat separating jug is ideal, but if you don’t have one, you should be able to pour off most of the goose fat from the top of the liquor. The remaining liquor is ideal for the base of the gravy. Thicken it by adding a little slaked cornflour, stock from giblets or boiled vegetables. In a final flourish, reduce the gravy to taste and finish with cream … well it is Christmas!
Meg’s Carrot Cake
This is a deliciously moist cake, perfect with morning coffee or afternoon tea. It is a firm favourite in our farm shop and freezes really well, so good to make ahead and have on hand for guests that surprise you! It is super easy to make, particularly good for children to get stuck into making with you.
You will need a 2lb loaf tin, lined with silicone paper or a shaped tin liner.
Pre-heat the oven to 160C.
In a large bowl mix together the dry ingredients ensuring that there are no lumps! Add the grated carrot and orange zest.
In a separate bowl or jug whisk together the egg and oil to form an emulsion. Pour this liquid mixture onto the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly until fully combined. Ladle, or carefully pour the cake batter into the lined tin.
Place the cake in the centre of the oven to bake for approximately 1 hour, 15 minutes. When ready, the cake will be firm to the touch and can be tested by inserting a skewer into the centre of the cake. When the skewer is withdrawn ‘clean’, the cake is ready. If there is still a little wet mixture on the skewer leave the cake for a further 10-15 minutes and test again.
We prefer this cake just as it is without a topping, but if you like, a cream cheese frosting can be added, or a drizzle of glace icing made with the juice of the orange and some icing sugar.
Meg’s Roast Chicken Chowder
This recipe is robust and unfussy, so can take alterations to suit personal taste, which is why the ingredients list may seem a little simple!
It is perfect for the autumn when a Sunday roast dinner leaves behind the potential a comforting bowl of soup, ideal as a healthy snack for hungry children at the end of a long school day.
Shape and adapt it to suit your family. The idea is of hearty vegetables in a good stock with some seasonal corn tossed in when available. A little garlic, some chilli, other vegetables would all add a different twist!
Blanch the prepared cobs of corn in a pan of boiling water. When cool enough to handle cut away the corn kernels by holding the cob firmly on a chopping board and cutting down the side of the cob. Reserve the corn and discard the remaining cob.
Warm the olive oil in a large saucepan on a gentle heat, then add the chopped onions, stirring them around until softened. Add the peeled and evenly chopped carrot and potato, stir together.
Pour in the stock, ideally a stock made from the stripped chicken carcass or a vegetable bouillon and hot water if you prefer.
Bring to simmering point and allow to cook until the vegetables are soft. Roughly blend the vegetable soup and then add the chopped chicken and corn kernels. Warm the soup through and season to taste.
Serve with slices of good, crusty, bread and butter.
Roots Roast Chicken Dinner
There cannot be anything more comforting and satisfying than a proper Roast Chicken Dinner! Nothing quite brings on the ooh's and ahh's in our house more than the aromas of such a dinner cooking.
A popular Sunday lunch "go to" or a midweek treat to boost energy levels until the weekend … Roast Chicken has it all!
Get your oven hot to start with, 200C.
Prepare some root vegetables, peeling and chunking as you go, toss in a little sunflower oil and season.
Prepare the bird (if it's one of ours don't forget to take out the giblets which will be packed in the cavity, essential for good gravy).
Place the bird in a large roasting tray (big enough to leave some space for roasting veggies). Peel and quarter an onion, halve a lemon, stuff them inside the cavity with a handful of herbs. Sage is a traditional herb for roasting with chicken, but parsley and thyme will also flavour the bird well, a combination is ideal!
A Roots Chicken has plenty of fat under the skin so as not to need oil adding, but do scrunch sea salt and pepper over the breast and legs that will crisp up during roasting. Last of all pour a mug of water into the bottom of the tray which I find helps to keep the bird moist during cooking and gets the gravy off to a good start too.
Place the bird in the hot oven for 20 minutes. This is a good point at which to surround it with your prepared veggies for roasting. Turn the oven down to 180C and cook for a further 30 minutes per kg plus 20 minutes.
Once cooked do allow the chicken to rest somewhere warm for 10 minutes or so before carving. This will be enough time to make the gravy with the delicious juices in the roasting tin.
With a heavy bottomed roasting tin this is easily done on the stove. Mix 3 teaspoons of cornflour and a good pinch of mustard powder with a little cold water and tip into the cooking juices. With the heat on low use a small whisk to bring the gravy together. RoaAllow to cook for a few minutes (cooking out the starch) and then you can let down the gravy with stock from boiled giblets, vegetable cooking water or maybe a splash of wine. Keep whisking until the gravy thickens a little.