Roast parsnips and pears with thyme

I have made this first time for 2009 Christmas dinner and it worked wonderfully. The pears are lighter than other vegetables and add an extra dimension to the side dishes flavours.

Serves 6-8

1kg (2lb 4 oz) parsnips
5 medium onions
6 conference pears unpeeled
juice of 1 lemon and rind of 1/2
4 tbsp olive oil
25g (1oz) butter melted

Wash the parsnips and peel if they are particularly dirty. Cutting lenghtways, halve or quarter them, depending on size. Halve the onions and cut each half into six wedges. Quarter the pears lengthways and remove the core from each piece. Toss the pears the lemon juice and rind. Parboil the parsnips for three minutes then toss them and the onions and pears in a large roasting tin (you want everything to be able to lie in a single layer) with the oil, butter, thyme and some seasoning. Turn everything over to make sure it is all coated in fat. Sprinkle the brown sugar over the top and roast for 25-30 minutes in an oven preheated to 200C/400F/gas mark 6 (the roast should be out by now). You need to turn them over once or twice (once is fine if you are too busy with other dishes). Everything should be tender and slightly caramelised.

Christmas goose

I found this recipe a couple of months before Christmas 2009, as I was deciding what to roast for Christmas dinner. It is Gordon Ramsey’s recipe and I followed it to the letter apart from the browning, which turned out to be unnecessary.


4-5.5kg fresh goose
4 lemons
3 limes
1 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
small handful each of parsley sprigs, thyme and sage
3 tbsp clear honey
1 tbsp thyme leaves

Serves 6 Prep: 35 mins. Cook: 1 hr 20 mins – 3 hrs 30 mins

  1. Calculate the cooking time (see tips, below). If the goose is ready-trussed, then loosen the string and pull out the legs and wings a little – this helps the bird cook better. Check the inside of the bird and remove any giblets or pads of fat. Using the tip of a sharp knife, lightly score the breast and leg skin in a criss-cross. This helps the fat to render down more quickly during roasting.
  2. Grate the zest from the lemons and limes. Mix with 2 tsp fine sea salt, the five-spice powder and pepper to taste. Season the cavity of the goose generously with salt, then rub the citrus mix well into the skin and sprinkle some inside the cavity.
  3. Stuff the zested fruit and the herb sprigs inside the bird and set aside for at least 15 mins. Can be done a day ahead and kept refrigerated. I left the goose stuffed and rubbed like this overnight.
  4. Heat oven to 240C/fan 220C/gas 9. If you want to give the bird a nice golden skin, brown in a large frying pan (or a heavy-based roasting tin), using a couple of tbsp of oil. Holding the bird by the legs (you may like to use an oven glove), press it down on the breasts to brown.
  5. Once browned, place the bird in the roasting tin. Drizzle with the honey and sprinkle with thyme leaves. Roast for the calculated time, turning the heat down after 10 mins to 190C/fan 170C/gas 5. Cover the goose with foil if it is starting to brown too much.
  6. Every 30 mins or so, baste the bird with the pan juices, then pour off the fat through a sieve into a large heatproof bowl . You will end up with at least a litre of fat – save this for the potatoes and other veg. At the end of the cooking time, leave to rest for at least 30 mins, covered loosely with foil. The bird will not go cold, but will be moist and much easier to carve.

Whilst the goose was settling down out of the oven, I managed to roast potatoes, parsnips and brussels sprouts. For the full Christmas menu see here.

As for the goose, it came out perfectly, juicy and flavoursome – the citrus fruits worked their wonder and the five-spice some warm magic.

Chicken with olives and lemons

A very delicious and light way of preparing whole chicken. One of those first time recipes that will definitely be repeated. I buy King olives in the North End road market in one of the Middle Eastern shops, probably for a fraction of price I’d pay in a supermarket or a deli. 🙂

Serves 6

1 very large chicken (I used corn-fed chicken from my local butchers which wasn’t that large but was enough for 3 people plus one left over portion)
3 whole lemons quartered (I used 2 due to smaller size chicken, see above)
24 green and purple giant olives (I used about 18 olives from a jar of king olives I found a jar in a middle eastern deli in North End Road, which were fabulously flavoursome)
1 kg new potatoes
60ml olive oil (these days I use light & mild olive oil)
salt & pepper

Heat the oven to 170C / gas 3. Season the chicken inside and out, fill its cavity with most of the lemon pieces and olives and shake.

Take a large cast-iron pot and put the potatoes in the bottom. Mix the oil with the rest of the lemon pieces and olives and squash them slightly. Put the chicken in the pot on top of the potatoes and pour the oil and lemon mixture over it, letting the bits roll off on to the spuds. Season well, then put the pot in the oven and shut the door for at least 90 minutes.

Check the chicken is cooked by sticking a skewer between the legs and breast. If the juice runs clear, it is done, otherwise put it back in the oven.

When done, lift the chicken from the pot and pour all the bits from inside the cavity over the potatoes. Place the pot over a high heat and bring to the boil while you cut the chicken into big chunks. Add the chicken pieces back to the pot along with any juices, turn off the heat and take the whole lot to the table.

Everything just fit into my new Le Creuset oval pot roast dish, but any larger chicken or more potatoes would be too much in which case I would use 26 cm casserole Le Creuset. I added some green peas on the side, both for taste and colour.

I served the meal with white Burgundy: Blason de Bourgogne Montagny 1er Cru

1. Nick adds turmeric to the dish for colour.

2. originally found in the Sunday telegraph but google search only shows the same recipe in the Times online.