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Stuffing - what the turkey is really all about

"the way it manages to sponge up the heart and soul of the bird. Time to give stuffing a second thought." Nigel Slater

In my family for the Christmas dinner the stuffing is the first thought. On the left turkey filled as much as possible with stuffing with an extra large dish of stuffing on its own on the right. And when everyone is sitting at the table - what is the star ingredient on the plate? The stuffing.

Traditionally turkey stuffings seem to include things like chestnuts and sausage meat. As a child we just bought Paxo stuffing in a packet and used that. I'm not sure which one we had for the turkey - sage and onion or parsley and thyme? I remember it came in a packet dehydrated, and you added boiling water to make it plump up. We actually liked it and used it at other times of the year too for stuffing other things - like lamb's hearts - now that was the parsley and thyme. I loved that.

People still buy Paxo stuffing. Or here I guess we have Tandaco as well. I think this is probably the kind of stuffing that you find in the roasted chickens from the supermarket and the chicken shop. And so brainwashed am I at the thought of stuffing that I sometimes eat it, even with pleasure. Not so much these days though.

A quick little aside that pleased me and showed yet again how full of coincidence life is. Paxo stuffing was invented by a butcher called John Crampton in 1901 in the town of Eccles. Stuffing seems to be the thing there. The business didn't take off that quickly because the poultry that it was designed for was pretty expensive back then - not the meat that we can all afford today. Today it is owned by Premier Foods, but I couldn't find out anything else about them, other that you can buy it in Coles, and that Premier Foods, have brought out new 'gourmet' stuffings made with things like focaccia and ciabatta.

But really why would you - it's so easy to make stuffing - some bread, some herbs, some fat, some vegetables and there you are. The recipe that we use is from Jane Grigson's book Good things and you can find it on the Great British Chefs website. It's so much lighter than a meaty stuffing and the lemon and celery blend together perfectly to complement the turkey. If there is any left over - and that is always a big if, then it is piled on the next day's turkey sandwiches. Bread on bread - now how weird is that? But it's pretty yummy.

Of course you can stuff just about anything and it's a really good place to experiment, because you can use just about anything to make a stuffing and indeed you can stuff just about anything too. It needn't even be breadcrumbs that soak up the juices - rice, couscous, the dreaded quinoa ... They say the earliest recorded evidence of stuffing was on an Iraqi clay tablet 3700 years ago, so it's an honourable tradition.

Not a lot more to say about that but I really wanted to share the stuffing recipe. Try it next time you roast a chicken or a fish, but heed Jane Grigson's words of warning:

"Never stuff poultry, or anything else, too tightly; the breadcrumbs need room to swell in the cooking."


David got up on the roof and blew off all the leaves (yes I know he shouldn't) - so it rained leaves and then just when he had more or less finished cleaning up the mess it rained. Almost perfect timing if it hadn't been for drains blocking up.


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