I have a confession to make. On Monday, I went to an official Christmas thing. A blogger’s Christmas thing in fact. I even ate a mince pie and it’s still November. Shush. And had a slurp of something alcoholic before midday. Double shush. What were my Keep Christmas Special (or at least till 1 December) ideals coming to?!
Well, when a blogger is offered a chance to meet up with other bloggers, have the most incredible array of Christmas freebie treats laid out before her, and then run away clutching the best gingerbread house to surprise a blogger friend’s sick child in hospital, I think we can let her cast her ideals aside for a day. And what a super, fantastic, marvellous array of Christmas edible goodies there were. Morrisons had surpassed itself. Yes, this was the supermarket responsible for this serious assault on my self control, who’d teamed up with the parent blogger network, Britmums, to showcase its finest festive food.
Christmas puddings, jewelled fruit cakes, chocolate everything (I can’t list the full array of delicious chocolate cakes) adorable mini Snowmen & Santa cakes perched on top of reindeer, and my favourite, Reindeer Bread. Think fruit bun in shape of a 2D reindeer but with chocolate orange dough and chips instead of sultanas. Yum.
But the bit I enjoyed the most was the Christmas dinner pep talk given by Morrisons’ impressive head chef, Neil Nugent (proper title Executive Producer of Product Development).
Very wisely, he didn’t attempt to smooze us all with words on how wonderful Morrisons was, instead he gave us a load of tips on preparing vegetables in advance, what to serve as a vegetarian alternative (Mushroom & Spinach pie with Lancashire cheese), that Maris Pipers are the best roasters (my fav potatoes too) and, most importantly, how to cook the perfect turkey.
This is where it got interesting. And, I have to say, where refraining from giggling became rather difficult.
Ok girls. First of all, make sure you take the bird out of its cold home, the fridge, a couple of hours before it is due to go in the oven so that it is at room temp when it goes in. That way you reduce the classic problem of it not cooking in the expected time.
Next, grab it by its legs and give it a good and vigorous shake. A what? Yes, a good and vigorous shake! Why? To ensure its joints are all loosened up and there’s no chance of hotspots. Oh heck. This is where my imagination ran wild. You want me to do what? Do you know how big that thing is? Visions of large headless birds slipping out of hands and flying inadvertently around kitchens across the country were filling my mind, to the tune of Peter Gabriel’s pop video Sledgehammer. And I wondered if the NHS would have its hands even more full than normal as guests suffer minor blows from flying turkeys…..I jest. Sorry, Neil, I’m sure most people would be much more sensible with the thing than me.
Then, rub softened (not melted) herb butter under its skin. Neck end, not bottom end or the skin will split. Hmm, interesting tip.
Cook it for 20 mins per kg, 160/180 degrees, Gas Mark 4, and, wait for it, NO FOIL. Apparantly foil steams the poor thing, and then overcooks it.
The ruffles of doubt and uncertaintly rippled across the room. No foil? Isn’t that going to make it dry? Not if you don’t cook it too long, he reckons. And, of course, keep basting it often. Try telling that to my mother, I could imagine all of us muttering. In one short breath, he cast aside a long-held British tradition, and possibly put a sizeable dent in Lakeland’s profits. After all, Lakeland is the go-to place for all things extra large or specialist in the kitchen, isn’t it? What will they do with all that Turkey Sized Aluminium Foil……?
Last tip. Get a probe to check its temperature which should be 72 degrees. And stick it in it’s….
‘Where?” someone said?
“In its armpit.”
I never knew turkeys had armpits. But I do now.
And of course, let it rest. But don’t put that foil on it, not until its cool enough not to start steaming again. (Ah, so we will need that extra large foil after all….phew, Lakeland shareholders can rest easy).
All very useful practical tips.
We then turned our attention to the sandwiches, hot salmon and delicious white wine. I glanced at my watch. It was the morning side of midday. Wine at this time? Very naughty. But maybe just a snifter, Suzanne from 3Childrenandit suggested (love that word).
What was great about this blogger ‘do’ was the limited number of bloggers there (80 officially but it felt more like 60) which meant we could actually find each other and have decent conversations. Other meetings can be so large that its easy to feel like you’ve joined an ant colony full of highly intelligent, conversant women.
Meeting Emma from Life as it is was another highlight. I’d got to know her over the months through our blogs and it was a delight to meet her. Putting a face to a name months after getting to know someone is quite the social experiment.
As the event drew to a close, the organisers announced we could take any of the food left over home. In the twinkling of a fairy light, the group of women I was eating lunch with suddenly dispersed and made a dash for the tables, leaving a baby (not saying whose!) to enjoy the twinkly lights beside her. The mention of free food does interesting things to people. Can you imagine what its like to be in the Philippines right now, where they are genuinely starving….the mob factor must be so hard to resist.
Anyway, after surveying the table, and wondering if I really could take some mince pies, I noticed people helping themselves to whole cakes. A thought dawned on me – I could take that Gingerbread house to Great Ormond Street Hospital where I was about to go and visit my friend Renata (from Just Bring the Chocolate) and her son who has been there since 10 September recovering from complicated surgery.
The issue, of course, was how on earth was I going to get it in one piece across London via public transport along with goodie bags and the presents I already had for him from his school friends…..cue learning Extreme Art number Two.
There were no boxes to put it in, so we salvaged a piece of silver cardboard from another cake, popped it on it and placed it carefully in a Sainsburys’ plastic bag. Morrisons didn’t have any of their own and I happened to have one in my bag. The ironry wasn’t lost on me.
I was then offered a goodie bag not just for myself but for Renata which I could hardly turn down despite the weight, filled as it was with chocolate, ginger bread men, mince pies and a very generous £10 gift voucher.
Well, I can report that Mission Gingerbread House was accomplished and after travelling on one bus, and 2 tube rides it arrived very safely at its destination. Here’s the proof (with a few toppled Smarties).
Thanks must go to the lovely Susanna and Jennifer from Britmums for organising this event and to Morrisons for sponsoring it.