I absolutely love the smell of a goose roasting in the oven at Christmas. I know it’s a little fattier than turkey and chicken…but the upside is it has so much more flavour and it’s also a very nutritious meat, rich in both iron and protein. I guess the reason most people don’t cook goose more often at home is because it has a reputation as being a difficult bird to cook perfectly. The truth is it is a little more challenging; you can't cook it too little because if it's not cooked enough, it can be as tough as old boots. And you can't cook it too much either, because it also tends to dry out very easily. So how should you roast your goose?
At home I take the bird out of the fridge the night before, as you need the skin to be as dry as possible if it is going to crisp up properly in the oven. It’s important to remember that all types of goose are fatty, and to get as much of this fat out as possible, you need to prick the breast and thighs with a small skewer. One little tip is for an extra crispy skin, pour a kettle of boiling water over the goose and then leave to dry for an hour before cooking. I also think stuffing the goose is important if you want juicy breast meat. I might pack the carcass with a stuffing of onion, breadcrumbs and sage but I also love fruit-based stuffing’s, provided they include a little lemon or orange zest, with cubes of quince, pear or dried apricots. There is something about dried apricots and goose that just works but this year I’m opting for chopped apples and dried prunes. Stuff the bird until it looks as if it's about to burst.
Now season the goose well with sea salt and freshly ground pepper and place it on a roasting rack, this allows air to circulate right round the goose as it cooks. Place the goose in a pre-heated oven (220°C/gas 7) for 30 minutes. Turn the oven down to 180°C/gas 4 and cook the goose for another 1½ hours or until the juices run clear when a skewer is inserted between the leg and the breast. Allow the goose to rest for 15-20 minutes or so before carving. Basting a roasting bird is essential as these pan juices will add moisture and flavour but they also help to colour and crisp up the skin so beautifully. Also, during the cooking time, using an oven glove to protect your hands, remove the tin from the oven and drain the fat from the corner of the tin – do this about 2-3 times and keep the fat for frying or roasting potatoes.
Goose works really well with acidic fruits like cherries, oranges, passion fruits, blueberries etc as well as apples and pears. It also marries perfectly with cabbage, pumpkins, and root vegetables and mushrooms. Spices also have a great affinity with goose so I’m serving mine with spiced red cabbage and Hasselback potatoes.
Whole roast goose stuffed with apples and prunes
Ingredients: serves 4
5kg free-range goose
250g stoned prunes, chopped
350g (about 2-3) Bramley apples, peeled, cored and chopped
Grated zest of one lemon
1 onion, chopped
2 tbsp brandy
The day before cooking, pierce the skin of the goose all over with the point of a sharp knife. Place the bird in a clean sink and pour over a kettle of boiling water. Pat dry with kitchen paper and chill overnight in the fridge, uncovered, to dry out. This will create lovely crisp skin and juicy flesh.
Preheat the oven to 220°C/fan200°C/gas 7. Mix the prunes, lemon zest, onion, brandy and apples together, season well and use to stuff the cavity of the goose. Close the cavity with a small metal skewer.
Rub sea salt and black pepper into the skin, place on a rack in a large roasting tin and roast for 30 minutes.
Turn the oven down to 180°C/fan160°/gas 4 and cook the goose for another 1½ hours or until the juices run clear when a skewer is inserted between the leg and the breast. Drain off the excess fat in the bottom of the tin every 30 minutes and reserve. About 15 minutes before the end of cooking, carefully pour a ladleful of cold water over the bird. This will help to crisp up the skin. When cooked, rest for 15 minutes before carving.
HASSELBACK POTATOES WITH ROSEMARY
2 ½kg medium potatoes, scrubbed clean & dried
120ml olive oil
2 tbsp fresh rosemary leaves,
2 garlic cloves, lightly crushed
Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6.
Rest each potato one at a time, onto a wooden spoon and, starting at one end, cut across their width at 3mm intervals with a chef’s knife – the spoon will stop you from cutting all the way through the potato. Repeat with all the potatoes.
Melt the butter and oil in a large roasting tin. Once sizzling, add the potatoes and the garlic cloves. Toss well so that all the potatoes get coated in the fat, then season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Roast on the bottom shelf of the oven for 1 hour until golden and tender. Discard the garlic cloves and scatter over the rosemary leaves and a little extra sea salt to serve.
BRAISED RED CABBAGE
1 small red cabbage, quartered,
1 green apple, peeled & sliced
1 red onion
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
3 tbsp light brown sugar
1 cinnamon stick
Finely shred the red cabbage & onion.
Put the cabbage, apple and onion in a large casserole or deep saucepan.
Add the remaining ingredients, season well, cover with a tight-fitting lid and set the pan over a low heat. Cook for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally until the cabbage is tender.
Remove the cinnamon stick and serve.