Few things can be more splendid than the sight of the festive table, groaning with a traditional Christmas dinner and all its trimmings. Whilst the classic roast turkey is a firm favourite, Christmas day itself is always a frantically busy time. Relatives are visited, friends drop by and there’s generally a thousand and one things to do around the house. This makes the four-hour roasting-time of a whole turkey more than a little problematic and stressful!
To combat this, a wonderful alternative is roasted poussin. Not only does this offer sublime results in a fraction of the time; there’s also a feeling of utter decadence when guests are presented with a whole Christmas bird all of their very own! There’s something innately cheering about a festive platter stacked to the gunnels with individually roasted fowl. It’s a sight that’s as mouth-watering as it is delicious.
When you cook this, you’ll find it hard to believe that this dish is low carb. It’s every bit as hearty and satisfying as its starch-laden counterpart, but offers none of the bloat, soaring blood sugars or feeling of being as stuffed as the very bird itself! Unlike traditional Christmas dinners of old, you may even find yourself ready and raring to tackle a low carb pudding or two (watch this space). As such, this delicious variant is absolutely perfect for diabetics, those on a ketogenic diet and paleo fans alike. It’s also gluten free, so those with an intolerance to wheat can enjoy this as much as the rest of us.
Beyond mere nutrition however, this dish is everything a Christmas Dinner ought to be! Nothing is missed out or compromised; it’s wholly true to the classic. This will come as a relief, as working out what to cook at Christmas can be hard on a low-carb diet. This solves all the problems in one fell swoop!
Start with the Stuffing. Finely chop an onion, one courgette, and a handful of sage. Add these to a large mixing bowl then stir in 2 handfuls of roughly diced mushrooms, the same volume of bite-size chunks of sausage-meat (or sliced sausage) and circa 400g of ground almonds. If you fancy it, you can add the grated zest of half an orange and a small pinch of nutmeg. These lend the dish a festive freshness and give the whole kitchen that delicious Christmassy aroma as they cook. Season the mix really well and stir in some dried sage in addition to fresh. Beat three eggs and mix these in, so that you have a texture which clumps and sticks together with a pleasing denseness.
Butter a baking-dish, then spread your mixture to minimum one centimetre in depth. Generously spot the top with knobs of salted butter, then bake for 1 hour, until brown and crunchy on top, and wonderfully aromatic!
Next, move on to your celeriac. Peel ‘the big ugly’ and dice into 1.5 inch chunks. Bring to the boil in a pan of water, then strain, and tip into a roasting-pan. On the hob (or in the microwave) heat goose fat until good and hot. You’ll know when it’s done if a droplet of water ‘spacks’ when added. There’s no obligation to use goose-fat; sunflower oil will do as an alternative, but nothing quite rivals the rich taste, or provides an equal degree of richness. Ladle your fat over the celeriac, then sprinkle on a liberal pinch of seas-salt. I like to follow this with a good grind of black pepper and a light dusting of dried herbs. Into the oven they go for an hour until crisp and brown.
Roughly quarter two large onions and arrange these in the bottom of a second roasting-dish. Place your pousssin breast side down atop the onion and liberally season the skin. Why upside down? The fat will soak into the breast and mean that the meat is succulent and tender. Sprinkle with dried sage, then into the oven it goes alongside the celeriac. After half an hour (or once the underside has browned), turn the birds the right way over and season the breast-skin. A few more dried herbs will give the top a fine speckle add to the aroma. Place the dish back into the oven and cook for a further 20 minutes, to brown on top.
Once golden, remove the poussin from the oven and pour the meat-juices into a separate saucepan. Cover the birds with a thick coating of tin-foil to allow the meat to rest.
Just before you turn the poultry, prepare your ‘pigs in blankets’. You have a choice here. You can use chipolatas, sausage-meat balls or cut the sausage-meat into rondelles. I chose the latter for speed and convenience. Wrap the sausage-meat in smoked streaky-bacon then season. Place these onto a baking-sheet and roast for 30-40 minutes until brown and succulent.
Meanwhile, make your gravy. Place the saucepan with your meat juices onto the hob, then add a tiny splash of vermouth, white-wine or sherry. Top up with an inch of hot water, crumble in a chicken stock-cube, then simmer for ten minutes on a low heat. Just prior to service, swirl a good glug of double-cream into the pan and taste to adjust the seasoning.
Finally cook your vegetables. Here I chose baby leeks, sprouting broccoli, mange-tout and baby-corn. Surprisingly enough, young corn-cobs are reasonably low carb. As they get older, they gain in sugar and starch, so mature corn-on-the-cob is best avoided. Steam these in a shallow pan of water, ensuring that the water goes no higher than ‘waist-height’ on the vegetables. Once tender but still retaining their bite; strain and place back into the pan with the lid on to keep them hot. A knob of butter can also be added for richness, but that’s entirely up to you!
All should now be in readiness. Transfer your rested meat onto a warmed serving-platter then pile your roasted celeriac to one side. You can keep the stuffing in its own dish, or spoon around the poussin if you prefer. Place the sausage-meat ‘pigs in blankets’ around the dish, then tumble on your vegetables. Finally ladle a little gravy all around, retaining the rest in a warmed sauce-boat to serve at table.
Your Christmas feast is ready! Carry the serving-platter to your hungry diners and let everyone dig in. They certainly won’t be disappointed!
Be sure to keep reading for more festive dishes over the coming weeks! Check out The Low Carb Christmas for details.
Enjoy the festive season and thank you for reading.