How to cook Christmas turkey and stuffing

Stuffing is an essential accompaniment for any Christmas dinner and of course stuffing comes in a multitude of flavours.

The history of stuffing is somewhat sketchy but appears to been around since at least roman times as the earliest recorded is in the Roman cookbook, Apicius’ “De Re Coquinaria” which appears to contain recipes for stuffed chicken, hare, pig, and yes…dormouse – excuse me if I don’t!

The majority stuffings here seem to consist of vegetables, herbs and spices, nuts, and spelt*  and frequently contain chopped liver, brains, and offal (any other meaty bits left over)

*Spelt is a wheat and was a staple in parts of Europe from the Bronze Age to medieval times, but it now survives as a relict crop in Central Europe and northern Spain and has found a new market as a health food.

Anyway stuffing is basically forced into animals cavities before baking and my favourite is homemade Sage and Onion which is from Mrs Beeton, you can find it here

Here is Ruth Goodman with some top suggestion for Turkey and Stuffing.


Mock Turtle Soup recipe

Have you seen the Mock Turtle yet?”
“No” said Alice. “I don’t even know what a Mock Turtle is”
“It’s the thing a Mock Turtle Soup is made from” said the Queen

Soup was an essential part of the Victorian Meal, and the Victorians tended to eat most things.

Mock Turtle Soup was a standard for the rather well to do but having to remove the brain from a calf’s skull just doesn’t do it for me but I don’t think Victorians were that squeamish

So what do we need?

Well according to the world-renowned Mrs Beeton we need:

*1/2 a calf’s head
1/4 lb. of butter
1/4 lb. of lean ham
2 tablespoonfuls of minced parsley
a little minced lemon thyme
sweet marjoram
2 onions
a few chopped mushrooms
2 shallots
2 tablespoonfuls of flour
1/4 bottle of Madeira or sherry
*force-meat balls
salt and mace to taste
the juice of 1 lemon and 1 Seville orange
1 dessert-spoonful of pounded sugar
*3 quarts of best stock, No. 104.

*The calf’s head you may be able to get from a good local butcher but I doubt if you are likely to get it in Tesco or Waitrose!

*Force-meat balls I always took to be stuffing but they are really more like falafel. Here’s a recipe from Michael Willis from his 1831 publication Cookery made easy: being a complete system of domestic management, uniting Elegance with Economy.

*Best Stock 104.

4 lbs. of shin of beef
4 lbs. of knuckle of veal
3/4 lb. of good lean ham
any poultry trimmings
3 small onions
3 small carrots
3 turnips (the latter should be omitted in summer, lest they ferment),
1 head of celery
a few chopped mushrooms
1 tomato
a bunch of savoury herbs, not forgetting parsley;
1–1/2 oz. of salt, 12 white peppercorns,
6 cloves,
3 small blades of mace,
4 quarts of water.

I have made this in a slightly different form and cooked it for only 2 hours and the result was a really wonderful tasting stock or it can be used as a table gravy.

Best Stock 104 instruction – Line a delicately clean stewpan with the ham cut in thin broad slices, carefully trimming off all its rusty fat; cut up the beef and veal in pieces about 3 inches square, and lay them on Continue reading

Christmas Goose Pie recipe

Goose at Christmas was certainly a traditional fayre for the Victorian era although many people did have Chicken as well as Turkey:

“What’s to-day?” cried Scrooge, calling downward to a boy in Sunday clothes, who perhaps had loitered in to look about him. “Eh?” returned the boy, with all his might of wonder. “What’s to-day, my fine fellow?” said Scrooge. “To-day?” replied the boy.  “Why, Christmas Day.” “It’s Christmas Day!” said Scrooge to himself.  “I haven’t missed it.  The Spirits have done it all in one night. They can do anything they like.  Of course they can.  Of course they can.  Hallo, my fine fellow!” “Hallo!” returned the boy. “Do you know the Poulterer’s, in the next street but one, at the corner?” Scrooge inquired. “I should hope I did,” replied the lad. “An intelligent boy!” said Scrooge.  “A remarkable boy! Do you know whether they’ve sold the prize Turkey that was hanging up there — Not the little prize Turkey: the big one?” “What, the one as big as me?” returned the boy. “What a delightful boy!” said Scrooge.  “It’s a pleasure to talk to him.  Yes, my buck.” “It’s hanging there now,” replied the boy. “Is it?” said Scrooge.  “Go and buy it.” “Walk-er!” exclaimed the boy. “No, no,” said Scrooge, “I am in earnest.  Go and buy it, and tell them to bring it here, that I may give them the direction where to take it.  Come back with the man, and I’ll give you a shilling.  Come back with him in less than five minutes and I’ll give you half-a-crown.” From Stave 5: The End of It – Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

But back to the goose. Now if you are going to cook goose it’s worth remembering that the fat content of goose is higher than poultry and most other game birds, however it is comparable to or maybe even less than many cuts of beef or lamb. It is also a good source of protein and iron so there is some balance.

Mrs Beeton was advising that turkey was best boiled and served with celery sauce as it was apt to be dry and stringy. But our best bet is find local butcher explain exactly what you want and they are sure to help…my butcher is excellent. So here is a recipe for a Goose Pie from ‘Directions for Cookery; being A System of the Art in It’s Various Branches by Miss Leslie (Author of ‘Seventy-five receipts)’ published in 1837.

These pies are always made with a standing crust. Put into a sauce-pan one pound of butter cut up, and a pint and a half of water ; stir it while it is melting, and let it come to a boil. Then skim off whatever milk or impurity may rise to the top. Have ready four pounds of flour sifted into Continue reading

Christmas Dinner recipes – Plum Pudding Recipe

These are a few menus for an authentic Victorian Christmas Dinner from Miss Leslie’s Lady’s New Receipt-book from 1850.

Christmas Dinner Recipe 1 

Boiled turkey with oyster sauce

Two roast geese with apple sauce

Roasted ham, Chicken pie

Stewed beets, cold-slaw, turnips, salsify*, winter-squash

Plum pudding, Mince pie, Lemon custards, cranberry pie.

Christmas Dinner Recipe 2

Roast turkey with cranberry sauce

Boiled fowls with celery sauce

Boiled ham, Goose pie

Turnips; Winter squash

Salsify, Cold slaw, Beets

Mince pudding boiled, Lemon pudding baked. Pumpkin pudding.

Christmas Dinner Recipe 3

Mock turtle soup

Roast Turkey with cranberry sauce

Boiled turkey with celery sauce, Roasted ham;
Smoked tongue, Chicken Curry, Oyster Pie

Beets; Cold-slaw, Winter-squash, salsify, Fried celery

Plum pudding, Mince pie, Calves’feet jelly, Blanc-mange.

So three 1850 menu’s, it’s give us something to think about as start to consider what we’ll cook for Christmas Day Dinner. Here’s a recipe to start us off.


Take a pound of the best raisins, and cut them in half, after removing the seeds. Or use sultana raisins that have no seeds. Pick, and wash clean, a pound of currants, and dry them before the fire, spread out on a large flat dish.

Cut into slips half a pound of citron. Then mix together, on the same dish, the currants, the raisins, and the citron, and dredge them thickly with flour to prevent their sinking or clodding in the pudding; tumbling them about with your hands till they are all over well covered with the flour. Mince very fine a pound of beef suet.

Mix a pint of West India molasses with a pint of rich milk. Sift into a pan a pound of flour. In another pan beat eight eggs very light. Stir the beaten eggs, gradually, into the mixed molasses and milk ; alternately with the flour, and half a pound of sugar, (which should previously be crushed smooth by roiling it with a rolling-pin,) a little at a time of each. Then add, by degrees, the fruit and the suet, a little of each alternately.

Beat and stir the whole very hard, till all the ingredients are thoroughly mixed. Take a large clean square cloth of coarse strong linen, dip it in boiling water, shake it, spread it out in a large pan, and dredge it with flour to prevent the pudding from sticking to it when boiled. Then pour the pudding-mixture into the cloth ; leave room for it to swell, and tie it firmly, plastering up the tying-place with a bit of coarse dough made of flour and water. Have ready a large pot full of water, and boiling hard. Put in the pudding, and boil it well from six to eight hours. Less than six will not be sufficient, and eight hours will not be too long. Turn it several times while boiling, and keep at hand a kettle of hot water to replenish the pot as it boils away. Do not take it up till immediately before it is wanted on the table. Then dip it for a moment into cold water, untie the cloth, and turn out the pudding. Serve it up with a sauce-boat of sweetened cream, seasoned with nutmeg; or with butter and sugar beaten together till light and white, and flavoured with lemon. What is left of the pudding may be tied up in a cloth and boiled again next day for an hour or more. It will be equally as nice as on the first day. This is a much better way of re-cooking than to slice and fry it.

This pudding may be made with sifted yellow Indian meal, instead of wheat flour.

Christmas Pie recipes

1859 and The Modern Cook has a wonderful somewhat challenging recipe for a Christmas Pie.

The book makes claim to some very good credentials so off we go.

‘First, bone a turkey, a goose, a brace of young pheasants, four partridges, four woodcocks, a dozen snipes, four grouse, and four widgeons (These are freshwater duck of Eurasia and northern Africa related to mallards and teals) then boil and trim a small York ham and two tongues.

Season and garnish the inside of the fore-named game and poultry with long fillets of fat bacon and tongue, and French truffles ; each must be carefully sewn up with a needle and small twine, so as to prevent the force-meat from escaping while they are being baked.

The Christmas Pie

When the whole of these are ready, line two round or oval braising- pans with thin layers of fat bacon, and after the birds have been arranged therein in neat order, and covered in with layers of bacon and buttered paper, put the lids on, and set them in the oven to bake rather slowly, for about four hours: then withdraw them, and allow them to cool.

While the foregoing is in progress, prepare some highly-seasoned aspic-jelly with the carcasses of the Game and poultry, to which add six calves-feet, and the usual complement of vegetables, &c, and when done, let it be clarified: one-half should be reduced previously to its being poured into the pie when it is baked. Make about sixteen pounds of hot-water paste (No. 1251)


Ingredients:—One pound of flour, four ounces of butter, a teaspoonful of salt, about a gill and a half of hot water.

Place the flour on the pastry-table, spread it out with the back of the hand, so as to form a well or hollow in the centre, into this put the salt. Next, put the butter and water into a stew pan over the fire, and when they are sufficiently heated, so that one can just bear the finger in, pour them both gradually in upon the flour, and mix them quickly together with the hand, taking particular care to knead the whole firmly, and at once, into a compact paste: then press this smoothly together in a napkin, and afterward keep it covered up in a stew pan in a warm place till used.

and use it to raise a pie of sufficient dimensions to admit of its holding the game and poultry prepared for the purpose, for making which follow the directions contained in the foregoing article. The inside of the pie must first be lined with thin layers of fat bacon’ over which spread a coating of well-seasoned force-meat of fat livers (No. 247)


Take the whole or part of a light-coloured calf’s liver, or several fat livers of any kind of poultry, if to be obtained. If calf’s liver be used, cut it into rather small square pieces, and, if time permit, steep them in cold spring water, in order to extract the blood, so that the force-meat may be whiter. Take the pieces of liver out of the water, and place them upon a clean rubber to drain the water from them. Meanwhile cut some fat ham or bacon (in equal proportion to the liver) into square pieces, put them into a sauté-pan on a brisk fire to fry, after which add the pieces of liver, and fry the whole of a light brown colour; season with cayenne pepper and salt, and a little prepared aromatic spice (No. 1250)


Take of nutmegs and mace, one ounce each ; of cloves and white pepper-corns, two ounces each ; of sweet-basil, marjoram, and thyme, one ounce each, and half an ounce of bay-leaves : these herbs should be previously dried for the purpose : roughly pound the spices, then place the whole of the above ingredients between two sheets of strong white paper, and after the sides have been twisted or folded over tightly, so as to prevent as much as possible the evaporation of the volatile properties of the herbs and spices, place them on a baking sheet in the skreen to become perfectly dry ; they must then be pounded quickly, sifted through a fine hair-sieve, corked up tightly in a dry bottle, and kept for use.

some chopped mushrooms, parsley, and three shallots. After this, take the pieces of liver and ham out of the pan, lay them on a chopping-board, and Continue reading

Christmas Deserts – Apple Snowballs


This wonderful desert comes from Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management Published in 1861 and is guide to all aspects of running a household in the Victorian Era.

Its 2751 entries from tips on how to deal with servants’ pay and children’s health, and above all a wealth of cooking advice, instructions and recipes. It was an immediate best-seller, running to millions of copies within just a few years.

Isabella was born at 24 Milk Street, Cheapside, London. She was sent to school in Heidelbergin Germany and afterward returned to her stepfather’s home in Epsom, not too far from me really…!

On a visit to London, she was introduced to Samuel Orchard Beeton, a publisher of books and popular magazines, they married on 10th July 1856.

Soon after she began to write articles on cooking and household management for her husband’s publications and on it went from there. Sadly Mrs Beeton died at the young age of 28…I had always imagined she was a Mrs Bridges (Upstairs downstairs) type but no, she was a young house wife who brought help to millions in her book.

Now I have taken it upon myself to try some of the recipes and shall in time introduce them but i’ll start with this one as it is easy, very tasty and just a little bit different for dinner parties.

So gather the ingredients, all are readily available:

Rice pudding rice
Cooking Apples
Muscovado Sugar
Muslin Cloth
and just follow the instructions.

I have cooked these at least 4 or 5 times and whilst quite filling they go very well with ice Cream.