Monday, October 12, 2009


Even though I'm living in London I really try not to miss celebrating Thanksgiving.
I usually have a couple friends over for a roast dinner but this year I was felt like creating a 'big family feel' , so I invited over extra company. There was 6.8 of us (.8 due to the 2 young children).
I'm not used to feeding more than about 4 people. Combine this with the tiny English oven cooking a Thanksgiving dinner with a couple hors d'oeuvres, and I had a big a challenge I couldn't wait to face!
The timing, as most of you probably know, was terrifying. But somehow, I managed. I managed all but taking photos!!
I know it's not so nice to read a blog post about food without the pictures but just use your imagination ;) It was such a lovely dinner I really would like to share it with you all.
I promise to post photos the next time I roast a chicken or make any of the dishes I mention below. And the fall/winter is opening up this hopefully won't be too long from now :)))

I made just the right amount of food for about 8 people


SPINACH DIP (a classic Canadian dip served at many parties)
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup sour cream
1 can water chestnuts (finely chopped)
1 packet of knorr vegetable soup mix
1 pack of frozen chopped spinach (or 275g chopped fresh baby spinach)

Mix all ingredients together and chill for at least an hour.

Normally this dip would be served up in a hollowed out sourdough loaf, using sourdough pieces for dipping, but I thought that would be too heavy to serve before a roast dinner, so I made some PITA CHIPS

8 pita breads (each cut into 8 pieces)
3 tbps olive
Crystal sea salt (I use Malden) to taste

Toss pita bread pieces with olive oil and salt to coat evenly.

Place spread out as much as possible on a baking tray and bake at 350 F (gas mark 4) for 10-15 minutes. Allow chips to cool, they will go crispy as they cool.

The other hors d'oevres were some tasty BRIE AND CRANBERRY PASTRY PUFFS

1 sheet of puff pastry
150 g brie cheese
3 tbsp cranberry sauce
1 egg (whisked)

On a floured surface cut pastry sheet into 15 x 2.5 inch squares.
Cut brie, divided into 15 even pieces.
Place brie piece on each pastry square and a dollop (about 3/4 tsp) on each piece of brie.
Brush egg wash along the edges of each pastry square the bring 4 corners of each square to create a pyramid. Press edges together (the egg if to help bind the edges).
Place all on a non-stick baking sheet. Brush each with egg wash (this will help create a crisp shine).
Bake in the oven at 375 F (gas mark 5) for 10-15 Min, or until pastries are golden.
Let cool for about 5 minutes before serving (you want your guests to be able to use those taste buds for dinner later!)


(I prepared (pealing and chopping etc) all vegetables, garlic etc in the morning)

2 free range chickens
2 lemons
a few sprigs of fresh thyme
1/2 cup garlic and sage butter (you can add as much garlic and sage as you like. It's all personal. But I used 2 small cloves - crushed, and about 1 tsp dried sage)

- Take the chicken out of the fridge about 30min before cooking.
- Set oven to 425 F (gas mark 7)
- Wash the birds inside and out, then pat dry and place on a roasting pan.
- Gently lift the skin around the breasts and stuff with garlic butter. Also use some garlic butter and spread all over top of the birds skin.
- Pierce each lemon several times with a fork then place a lemon in each bird along with some thyme sprigs. Now truss the chickens.
- Place chickens in the oven covered with foil.
[Usually an average size chicken (1.5 kl / 3 lb) would take about 1 hour to roast however as we have 2 birds I added an extra 15min or so. Plus as there was a whole lemon in each bird (which can take up allot of room in the cavity) it is a good idea to add another 3o min or so to the cooking time. So these 2 chickens cooked for almost 2 hours]
- After 45min remove the foil. Reduce oven to 375 F (gas mark 5).
- Baste the bird halfway through cooking.
- About 30min after the foil has been removed is a good time to check the progress of the chicken. A fully cooked bird's juices run clear when pierced in the thigh, and when the legs seem they will very easily come off when wiggled a bit.
- Continue cooking if necessary using your judgement/instinct of when to check the progress again (make sure not to open and close the oven too much or the heat in the oven will not stay level.
It shouldn't take more than 1.5 hrs for 1 bird or 2 hrs for 2 birds, but every one's oven are different.
- Once chicken(s) cooked remove from oven and let cool for about 30min before serving.

- Transfer onto your nicest serving platter and create a show of carving the bird for your guests, asking each person what part they would like :)
I didn't do that this time unfortunately. I think I let the kitchen stress get to me too much and it slipped my mind. whoops! My man carved up some of the bird and placed pieces on the serving platter.

Juices from the roasted chicken (leave in the roasting pan)
1.5 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup white wine
bisto (use as much to your preference of gravy thickness. I think I used about 2 tbsp)

- Place the bird's roasting pan with the juices on low-medium heat of 2 stove burners.
Do not allow the gravy to bubble throughout.
- Sprinkle some bisto in the juices, whisk around until a paste is forming.
- Pour in some stock and the wine and whisk together. Then whisk in bit more bisto and then the remaining stock. Lower the heat.
- Continue stirring the gravy while it thickens. Add more bisto as necessary for your preferred thickness.

8 slices brown bread (or white, whatever you prefer)
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp unsalted butter
2 celery stalks, sliced
1.5 large onion, shopped
1 cup chopped mushrooms
2 tsp dried sage
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp coarse black pepper

- Set oven to 375 F (gas mark 5)
- Cut bread into little cubes and toss in a large bowl coating with 2 tbsp of olive oil and sprinkled with the salt.
- Toast bread pieces in the oven on a baking tray for about 10 minutes. Take out and let cool.
- In the mean time fry onion, celery and mushrooms in a pan with the remaining olive oil and butter and sage. Cook until onions are translucent and celery has just gone soft.
- Mix bread, onion mix, pepper and stock in a bowl. Stir until all of the stuffing has an evenly moist consistency.
- Bake in the oven for about 30min, or until the top is crisp.

6 large potatoes
6 tbsp olive oil
plenty of sea salt

- Set oven to 400 F (gas mark 6).
Peal and cut potatoes into large chunks. Rinse potatoes in cold water to remove excess starch.
Boil the potatoes for about 10min, then toss around in a strainer to fluff them up (this will help them become crisp on the outside but soft on the inside.
In a roasting pan heat the oil in the oven. Then toss the potatoes gently in the hot oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Roast (turning once or twice) for about 1 hour.

These 2 flavours make a brilliant combination!

1 very large butternut squash
3 red peppers
3 tbsp olive oil
Sea salt to taste

Set oven to 400 F (gas mark 6)
Peel butternut and remove guts and seeds (Tip: to make peeling easier place butternut in the microwave for a few minutes). Cut butternut into large chunks.
Remove insides (seeds etc) of the red peppers and cut pepper into chunks.
In a roasting pan heat the oil in the oven. Then toss the butternut and red pepper gently in the hot oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Roast (turning once or twice) for about 45 min.


I prefer to steam my vegetables rather than boil.
Steaming them takes about 10min
I didn't add anything extra to them like salt as they will be covered with gravy anyways. Yum!

So now, as you can see from all the food above, and most of it being cooked in the oven, it was a HUGE challenge to sort out the timings and still try to have everything that was served as fresh as possible.

I did cook my chickens a couple hours early and kept warm under foil. Then warmed it up a bit towards the end before laying out the buffet :)

Don't think we would leave out the DESSERT!! That would be sacrilige! My friends brought with them a homemade PUMPKIN PIE. They also kindly made a sausage plait from scratch (obviously this was not for dessert) which was delicious and very impressive! We had quite a feast!! Yummmy!!

Since they have an allotment (which I'm hoping they start a blog for soon. Will keep you posted)they took the liberty to make a completely from scratch pumpkin pie. Kudos! I've only ever made it from canned pumpkin.

We served the pumpkin pie with fresh whipped cream.

It's a sin to have Thanksgiving dessert to be anything but pumpkin pie!! mmmm, I have some left in the fridge and now I'm having a super duper craving....gotta run!

I really am kicking myself for not taking photos!! We were all so distracted by all the good food and wine I guess :)

Hope this post will be helpful for you next time you make your roast dinner.


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