Watch Your Fingers Jonny Boy!

Saturday 25/12/2004 - Christmas Day

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Diary and Notes

"Oh dear, he's cooking a goose, take cover."

There may be a few people who would have opinions of this sort. I think if I polled my friends about what I should do in order to prepare a fine goose for Christmas dinner, the advice would probably be the following list of suggestions:

  • Alert the hospital
  • Remove all sharp objects
  • Make sure the first aid kit is well stocked
  • Get somebody else to cook it

    And the reason for this caution? The last time I cooked a roast goose for christmas dinner - twenty three stitches, several trips to hospital and gangreen (or stinky finger syndrome as it was then known).

    It was a few years ago, back in the days of The Happy Mondays, John Major giving Edwina Currie one on the sly and bucket bongs. I was sharing a house in Manchester with some friends and we had organised a big Christmas dinner (though it was a few days before Christmas) and invited twenty four people. The dinner was going to be a magnificent affair utilising both ours and our next door neighbour's ovens. The centrepiece for this feast was a huge goose, larger than a steroid fed super-ostrich, which unfortunately was too big for our oven.

    In order to remedy the problem of the oversized bird, I decided to hack its feet off so as to squeeze it into the oven. Using a giant cleaver I lopped off the first foot and was about to do the same to the second one when my friend Gavin bumped into me, sending my aim off by a small fraction and causing the blade to enter my right index finger just below the knuckle. What joy, what rapture. The cleaver sliced straight through the skin almost to the nail and lodged itself in the bone to a depth at which I could release my grip and it stayed in place. I believe I may have used strong words at this point such as; blast, gadzukes and even odds-bodkins. (I should also like to point out that Gavin had some weeks previously, knocked my arm in a similar fashion whilst I was deep frying some spring rolls, causing the very same finger to be fried along with the food.)

    Anyway, here I was, with twenty four guests and blood pouring on the goose, what to do? I should perhaps have gotten a lift to the hospital straight away. What I did do however was take some codeine tablets, quickly drink a bottle of wine and a large stiff wiskey, have a few minutes sit down, wrap a cloth around the wound and carry on cooking. The dinner was a magnificentm, if chaotic, success and everyone seemed to go home cheered and full of christmas love. The booze and codeine kept me going and I even managed to party through the night, with the tea towel still wrapped around my finger of course.

    In the morning things seemed much different. When I went to the hospital they were not impressed. There was talk of plastic surgery and having skin from my arse glued onto my finger (I was planning to write a superhero comic called buttfinger). Fortunately, the part of my finger which I had almost completely severed was still hanging on and there was both a nerve and an artery intact (so they said) and after some stitching and general fussing around they stopped worrying and told me my finger would eventually be ok. It did take quite a few more visits and some exercises. Also, after about three weeks, the wound also went septic and started to smell quite bad, requiring some strong antibiotics and the holding of one's breath.

    This has taught me a salutory lesson:

    Don't let anyone called Gavin into your kitchen.

    That aside, how was this year's goose? It was excellent. Cooked slow and long to drain off all the fat and make sure it wasn't too greasy and the skin was crisp. I used the goose fat to cook the potatoes. Goose fat is excellent for roasties and in the first hour and a half of cooking just leaks clear and pure from the roasting bird. Don't stuff the goose, as the stuffing will just absorb the fat and will be horrid, make some stuffing balls and roast them seperately. You need something sweet with goose and the parsnip and carrot puree was perfect. This was a fine crimble dinner, much too good for the likes of me. Afterwards, we all got steaming drunk and had a fight. What more is an English Christmas about?

    Cake Blog

    Christmas Pudding and Brandy Custard


  • Roast Goose
  • Roast Potatoes
  • Parsnip and Carrot Puree
  • Courgette and Leek Gratin
  • French Style Green Beans
  • Chestnut Stuffing Balls
  • Gravy

  • Christmas Pudding and Brandy Custard

  • Selection of English Cheeses


  • Goose: One big goose, a lemon, fresh thyme.
  • Roast Potatoes: Potatoes, goose fat, salt.
  • Parsnip: Parsnips, carrots, salt, black pepper, cinammon.
  • Gratin: Courgettes, leeks, olive oil, butter, flour, milk, cheddar cheese, nutmeg, salt, black pepper.
  • Beans: Green beans, butter, bacon.
  • Stuffing: Breadcrumbs, vegetable suet, fresh thyme, chestnut puree, sausage meat.
  • Gravy: goose giblets, chicken stock, onions, white wine, cornflour, salt, scrapings from the goose pan.


  • Goose: Check to make sure there aren't any big feathers left on the bird (there often are). Chop a lemon in half and along with some thyme, stuff this into the birds cavity. Cut a few gashes in the skin to allow excess fat to drain out. Place breast side down on a rack above a roasting tin and roast for 3/4 hour at about 170c. After 3/4 hour, turn the bird right side up and roast for a further 2 1/2 hours. It wont need basting as there's plenty of fat already in the bird. About an hour after turning the bird upright, drain off all the fat in the tin and use this for the potatoes, this should give the roasties about 1 1/2 cooking time to get good and crispy too. At the end, any scrapings from the pan are good for the gravy.
  • Roasties: Use either King Edwards or King Edwards, or, if it's all you can get, King Edwards. This is Christmas dinner and you are roasting a goose, these are the only potatoes that can do such a meal justice. Peel and chop into halves. Don't try to make them all the same size, a variety of sizes gives a variety of textures. Boil in salty water for about 5 minutes. Drain and give them a good shake to roughen up the surface for extra crisping. Place in a tin and pour over the goose fat. Roast slow and long, turning occasionally. After about an hour, drain off all the fat and place back in the oven until really golden brown all over.
  • Puree: Chop equal amounts of parsnip and carrot. Boil until soft, drain. Whizz in a blender with a little cinammon and black pepper. Place in a ceramic dish and grill to brown on top.
  • Gratin: Clean and chop the leeks into thirds, par boil for about five minutes. Chop the courgettes into equal sized pieces. Place both in a cermaic dish. Pour over some cheesy bechemel sauce (see Maccheroni con Besciamella) and bake for 20 mins.
  • Beans: Par boil some green beans, drain and then fry in a little butter and some finely chopped bacon.
  • Stuffing: Make some breadcrumbs from stale bread. Mix in a little vegetable suet and a little salt. Pour over boiling water and mix to a thick dough. Next add some chestnut puree (about 1/4 as much as bread), the same amount of sausage meat and some chopped thyme. Form into balls and bake for 30 mins.
  • Gravy: If you have goose stock use that, otherwise use chicken stock. Slowly simmer the giblets in the stock for about 2 hours with a chopped onion. Remove the giblets and onion and add loads of white wine. Simmer slowly while the goose cooks. When the goose is resting, just before carving, place the roasting tin on which the goose was cooked on a hotplate. Sprinkle a little cornflour into the roasting tin and mix with the goose gravy to thicken. Pour over the giblet/wine reduction and stir to make a thick sauce.