Sensational Stuffings

Posted on: 30 November 2007 by Gareth Hargreaves

A cornucopia of ideas for creating the perfect stuffing.


It’s a pity we think of stuffing mainly as accompaniments to the Christmas turkey. They’re a great way to turn plain roasts into something special, and the most inexperienced of cooks can make them. These recipes give you enough to stuff a 1.8kg (4lb) chicken or boned leg of lamb, or 4 poussins.

All of these should be stuffed into the cavity of a bird or inside a boned leg of lamb before cooking. If you prefer not to stuff poultry, bake the stuffing alongside the meat, covered with foil for 30 minutes, then remove the foil and cook for another 10 minutes.

Chorizo, Red Pepper & Potato

Sauté 150g (5 ½ oz) sliced chorizo (pull the papery skin off first) with a chopped and deseeded red pepper and tbsp olive oil. Add 200g (7oz) finely cubed waxy potatoes (don’t worry about peeling them) and cook for another couple of minutes, until the potato is pale gold and the pepper is quite soft. Season and add some chopped parsley or fresh coriander and a squeeze of lemon. Let the stuffing cool. Good for chicken or poussins.

Potato, Olive, Fennel & Pancetta

Remove any tough outer leaves from 2 fennel bulbs. Trim at the top and base, quarter the bulbs and remove the core. Discard these bits but keep any little fronds of fennel to add to the final stuffing. Chop the fennel flesh then sauté it in 3 tbsp olive oil with 200g (7oz) finely cubed waxy potatoes (no need to peel them), ½ finely shopped small onion, 55g (2oz) chopped black olives flesh and 100g(3 ½ oz) finely cubed pancetta. Add the grated rind of ½ lemon, season and leave to cool. Use to stuff chicken, poussins or boned leg of lamb.

Watercress, Apricot and Hazelnut

An idea shapelessly stolen – and little changed – from the wonderful chef, Shaun Hill. Sauté a finely chopped onion in 25g (1oz) butter. Mix with 75g (2 ¾) finely chopped dried apricots (he kind that don’t need soaking), 100g (3 ½oz) wholemeal breadcrumbs, 55g (1oz) butter, cut into little chunks, and 1 beaten egg. Combine everything well. Use to stuff chicken or spoussins.

Georgian Stuffing

Gorgeous and exotic. You can use dried sour cherries – soaked and drained – in place of the pomegranate seeds. Just mix 75g (2 ¾ oz) walnut pieces with 200g (7oz) crumbled feta cheese, 3 crushed garlic cloves. The seeds from ½ ripe pomegranate, a handful of chopped fresh coriander, 4 tbsp olive oil and seasoning. Stuff a chicken or poussins with this, drizzle with olive oil, and scatter on salt, pepper and ½ tbsp ground cayenne. Roast and serve with wedges of lemon, a green salad and a big bowl of bulgur wheat.

Fruited Couscous

Pour 125ml (4fl oz) boiling water or stock over 125g (4 ½ oz) couscous and leave for 15 minutes. Fork through the grains to separate them, add 2 tbsp of olive oi ad eason well. Stir in 100g (3 ½ oz) shopped dried fruit (soaked and drained raisins, apricots, cherries and cranberries are all god) and the zest and juice of ½ lemon is good, too, and you can add chopped pistachios or almonds as ell, plus chopped parsley, mint or coriander. For chicken, poussins or a boned leg of lamb.

Prune, Sausage & Brandy

Put 150g (5 ½ oz) pitted and chopped prunes in a small saucepan and pour over enough brandy just to cover. Simmer over a very low heat for 15 minutes. The fruit will plump up. Sauté a finely chopped onion in 35g (1 ¼ oz) breadcrumbs, a good handful of chopped parsley or some thyme leaves and season. Mix and add the prunes and their soaking liquid. Leave to cool. For chicken or poussins.

Aliza’s Chestnut, Cranberry & Oat

Don’t just use this at Christmas or Thanksgiving (it’s my friend’s Thanksgiving stuffing) – it’s to good. Sauté 1 roughly chopped small onion in 75g (2 ¾ oz) butter until soft but not coloured. (You can also sauté finely cubed pancetta or bacon, or chunks of sausage meat with the onion.) Add 75g (2 ¾ oz) fresh cranberries and cook until they have softened, then add 75g (2 ¾ oz) dried cranberries and 4 heaped tbsp cranberry sauce or jelly. Stir until the jelly or sauce has melted, then add 150g (5 ½oz) oatmeal, 150g (5 ½ oz) cooked vacuum-packed chestnuts (roughly chopped) and season really well. Stir. The mixture should be quite moist and shinny – add more butter if it isn’t. Leave to cool. Use to stuff chicken or poussins.

Aubergine & Date

One for using to stuff boned lamb. You could serve the tahini dressing on page 118 on the side, or a bowl of yogurt seasoned with some chopped mint and crushed garlic. Cut and aubergine into small cubes and sauté in a frying pan in 3 tbsp olive oil until golden on all sides. Season and put into a bowl. Using another 2 tbsp olive oil, sauté ½ finely chopped onion until soft but not coloured. Add a crushed garlic clove and 1 tsp ground cinnamon and cook for another minute. Stir into the aubergine along with 200g (7oz) chopped stoned dates, the juice of ½ lemon, salt and pepper and 12 torn mint leaves.

Cherry & Dill

Scandinavian-inspired and lovely with chicken in the spring. Sauté a finely chopped medium onion in 55g (2oz) butter until soft but not coloured. Mix this into 150g (5½oz) white breadcrumbs, 85g (3oz) chopped watercress (leaves and fine stems only) and 115g (4oz) dried pitted sour cherries that have been soaked in boiling water for 15 minutes and drained. Add a beaten egg, a small bunch of shopped dill leaves, salt and pepper. Eat your stuffed chicken with a bowl of sour cream mixed with chopped cucumber and a crushed clove of garlic.

Polish Stuffing

Melt 45g (1½oz) butter in a frying pan and cook a small, finely chopped onion until soft but not coloured. Add 100g (3½oz) finely chopped chicken livers and cook for a few more minutes. Put into a bowl with 100g (3½oz) good cooked ham, chopped (get stuff cut from a whole ham at the butcher’s or deli counter), 300g (10½ oz) white breadcrumbs, 4 tbsp chopped dill, 1 small beaten egg and seasoning. Mix everything together. Use to stuff a chicken and serve with roast beetroot (see page 126), drizzled with a little buttermilk or daubed with soured cream.

A photo of the book Cook Simple.This extract is taken from Diana Henry's latest title Cook Simple, published by Mitchell Beazley, and costs £20 from all good bookshops. Alternatively you can purchase it from Amazon for only £12.

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