Last weekend we celebrated Bishopston Supper Club’s 2nd anniversary by having festive back-to-back suppers on Friday and Saturday. I wanted to incorporate some ingredients that we associate with Christmas, without making the meal too clichéd and Christmassy. Hence the baked oysters with shaved sprout, kohlrabi and beetroot salad, a bit like a light winter slaw, which has definitely converted me to sprouts after despising them for over 30 years.
The main event was a ‘3 bird roast’ with confit celeriac, leeks, crispy shallots and port jus. The bird in bird in bird trick is satisfying, if a little fiddly, to prepare and works well for a family or small group of friends but is difficult to get 30 portions the same shape and size so for the supper club I decided to make ballotines. This works for any number of people, whether it be 1 or a 100, can be prepared in advance and is a really tasty option for Christmas day. I used turkey, duck and pheasant from my local independent butcher, Dave Giles, but you could use pretty much any birds you fancy. I think lots of people feel they should be eating turkey at Christmas as it’s traditional but are not overjoyed by the blandness, and tendency for dryness. The 3-bird-ballotines are stuffed with a pork and pheasant sausage meat stuffing and wrapped with smoked streaky bacon so are basted during cooking from the outside and from within, making them ultra succulent. I made my own sausage meat for the stuffing from pork belly and the leg meat from the pheasants but you could buy good quality ready-made sausage meat from a butcher.
For each ballotine (aim for one per person but if large you could get 2 portions out of one ballotine): Take a slice of turkey breast escalope about 15 cms by 12 cms and about 1/2 cm (or less) thick. You may need to flatten the escalope out by bashing with a rolling-pin. Next, lay a thin slice of duck breast on top of the turkey, a slice of pheasant breast on top of the duck and finally a roll of sausage meat stuffing.
Roll the turkey up so the stuffing stays in the middle. Wrap with streaky bacon to finish (it also helps to keep the ballotine together). Wrap tightly in cling film into a sausage shape, tying each end to secure.
Poach the ballotines, still in the cling film, in a big pan of water on the lowest heat for about 12-15 minutes (depending on the size and number of ballotines). This can all be done in advance (up to 3 days). When you’re ready to cook them, remove the cling film and brown the ballotine in a pan with a little oil and butter. Season and then pop in the oven for about 10-15 minutes at about 200c. Leave to rest, ideally, before carving into slices. The ballotines should be cooked through to the middle by this point but still be moist.
Sausage meat stuffing: (Quantities vary depending on how much you need to make) Onion, garlic, pork belly, pheasant leg meat all go in a food processor to be blitzed up. Add thyme, salt, pepper, mixed spice, breadcrumbs and an egg. Mix together. (Also makes ace sausage rolls.)
Confit celeriac: Slices of celeriac browned in a frying pan then cooked in duck fat, with thyme and garlic at 160c until tender. Season to taste.
Leeks were just sliced, washed then softened in butter and seasoned.
Port jus: Reduce chicken or turkey stock with red wine and port, add a little redcurrant jelly or similar to sweeten, if desired.
Crispy shallots: Finely slice peeled shallots, toss in milk and drain. Then toss in seasoned flour. Use fingers to shake off any excess flour and separate the rings of shallot. Fry in hot oil (about 190c) until golden and crispy. Drain on kitchen paper.
Cranberry sauce: Pour about 500g fresh cranberries into a saucepan, add a couple of dessertspoons of sugar and a glug of port. Heat gently until the cranberries soften.