Set amongst the small cobbled streets of Clerkenwell sits the Bourne and Hollingsworth Kitchen, led by Michelin Star Executive Chef Andy Gray, the kitchen hosts an array of courses from Sausage making to Cake Baking.
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Theo and I arrived early, greeted in exclusive fashion and offered our morning caffeine fix. Chef Andy introduced himself to the group and showed us upstairs to the group kitchen. A beautiful green and light wood theme, we sat around the large centre tables with all of the ingredients set in the middle ready for us. Andy gave us some stories of his past ventures and experience and set out the itinerary for the day. The idea for the day wasn’t to break any gastronomical feats in Christmas cuisine but rather to make an already set tradition even more perfect. We were doing the standard two courses, a salmon starter and then a roast turkey with all the trimmings.
Due to timings we started straight on the turkey and were told why our standard turkey at Nans house that drier than a desert and took 3 days to cook. The sinews and tissue in turkey legs are thick are sharp and this is that takes the longest to cook, so to kill two birds with one stone (and avoiding the annual “who gets the leg” argument”) we sliced the legs off and prepared the crown for roasting. With the legs we were going to make a stuffing roll, and this was delicious by the way and such a good use of the legs.
First we were shown the benefits of using a real sharp knife. We de-boned the leg intricately and then removed the sinews. Leaving us with a lovely boneless leg and thigh portion. We then went on to score this carefully, not to cut the skin. Whilst we did this another part of the group prepared the stuffing mixture; by combining Cumberland sausage meat with milk finely chopped apricots, soft pungent chestnuts and finely chopped sage.
Mixed by hand, the stuffing was massaged and then set in the middle of the flattened leg portion. We then set around getting the stuffing rolled in the turkey. I was shown how to prep two sheets of foil and then butter a square in the middle we then put the turkey leg with the stuffing piled in the middle and rolled it into an enticing meaty log. These were then placed in the oven with the turkey crown, and following Andy’s advice, we put the turkey on a tray with a suspended grill, with a couple of pints of water in the base of the heated tray. This will create steam in the oven making the skin go perfectly crispy and also reducing the smoking in the oven.
Now that the main event for the party is set we moved on to getting the starter (prepared the day before) and the garnishes prepared. For the salmon we took a half side and filleted into equal portions. This was then to be marinated overnight and sliced finely raw. For the marinate we heated black treacle, English Mustard, fennel seeds and seasoning. We brought this to heat to make it pliable then coated it over the salmon and refrigerated.
On to the veggies! We grabbed a bunch of organic carrots and cut off the green heads to about an inch to leave a neatly trimmed top. we peeled and trimmed to make them all uniform. Then comes the ever so French twist to make this part of the dish have some finesse. Boiling carrots in water is ‘oh so 1800s’ and chef Andy at this point pulled out 3 bottles of sparkling spring water to boil the carrots. The water should then be seasoned and sprigs of tarragon added, then placed to boil for 10-14 minutes.
In the meantime, we also peeled and boiled King Edward Potatoes for 15 minutes and then “chuffed” a term suggested by one of the group that could not be verified as a technical term by the chef. Basically they were shaken in a colander before placing them in a piping hot tray of oil and roasted for 30-40 minutes.
Okay so the marmite of the Christmas dinner has to be sprouts. Love them or hate them they are a staple of the meal. We ditched the spherical bundles of green and opted to go with sprout tops which are the delicately flavoured leaves on the top of the plant. We finely sliced these and put them aside for the moment as we were going to fry these with bacon lardons. We took a small joint of smoked back bacon and then sliced into strips then again into smaller slices. We then boiled these for a few minutes to take out the impurities that are normally left in the pan from frying bacon, this will ensure the bacon doesn’t poach in its own fat and water but cooks crispy and enhances the flavour.
Roast Parsnips are something people can get so right but oh so wrong too. Avoiding this was simple. We made a parsnip puree! We started by peeling, top and tailing and then cutting out the inner core of the parsnips. Then following this we popped them into a large pan, covered with milk, under a thin layer of parchment paper with a small hole in the middle to let out the steam. After boiling for 20 minutes we then strained the mixture and blended in a food processor.
Now that everything was ready we put the dishes together, the turkey was carved and the stuffing sliced into succulent pieces. We each served our own veg and then were treated into a masterclass in Christmas cocktails whilst we dined on our hard earned perfect Christmas dinner.
The day was such a fun and fascinating day and everyone seemed to thoroughly enjoy the cooking experience, whilst taking away some tasty recipes to try ourselves when we got home. I will certainly be making some of the elements of the dinner this Christmas and maybe even in to the new year with my weekly roast dinner.
Thank you to our chef Andy who was delight to be around all day, and his sense of humour and friendly personality made us all feel very welcome!
*Thank you to Bourne & Hollingworth who invited me and Theo to experience one of their cookery days, of course all opinions are my own and I wanted to write about this and share my experience with you!
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