Big birds have little birds Replacing bones and inner slime. And little birds have lesser birds... And so on through to dinnertime.
(With apologies to all the fellow geeks out there who know the original.)
On Saturday I took my long-awaited turn to cook a pre-Christmas feast for a group of friends. We've been doing this more or less without interruption for the past dozen years or so but this is the first time I've volunteered to cater, citing insufficient space and a dearth of chairs as my (reasonable) excuses. I'm not sure why I thought it would be any easier this year, especially as my flat currently has the twin complications of a recently moved-in girlfriend and a half-finished building project, but for some (boozy) reason I insisted it was my turn and, rather more quickly than anticipated, the weekend was soon upon us.
So while Antonia was doing a frankly amazing job using some garden chairs, a few clothes pegs and a pair of trunks to turn a slightly scruffy front room into a glorious festive dining salon, I was doing something like the opposite: turning an incomplete-but-functioning kitchen into something resembling a charnel house. (This is not a post for the squeamish.)
I'd decided to have a go at cooking a multi-bird roast rather than venture down the well-trodden turkey route, inspired among other things by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's heroic ten-bird roast and Jeffrey Steingarten's typically obsessive attempts to perfect the turducken. My version was to be a goose stuffed with a chicken stuffed with a pheasant stuffed with a festive partridge, which presumably makes it a goochiphetridge, which is a less successful portmanteau, I'll admit, but at least avoids the nasty association with turds.
Anyway, the good people of Wyndham House had done me proud, not only sourcing the birds for me, but also taking most of the bones out too. And so it was that on Friday, this was the scene that an oblivious cat was ignoring in a small kitchen in SE4:
With layers of forcemeat stuffing to bind it all together, the hybrid bird begins to take shape:
Mid-way through a grizzly suturing process:
The finished article:
There were various other feastly items to be prepared (three different terrines, some clementine sorbet, pannacotte bread and butter pudding... even a multi-layered vegetarian option) but the birds were the star of the feast, and they went down a treat:
A final word must go to my lovely guests, who not only put up with a tedious potato-based wait for the main course but also rose magnificently to the various cheese and wine-based challenges I set them in advance. Well done everybody - and thank you.