One of my first jobs in London was at the Grosvenor House hotel – where our Christmas present from the head chef was
a capon. Despite having grown up in the countryside, I didn’t have a clue what a capon was. After a few questions to the senior chefs, I discovered that it is a castrated cockerel that fattens for the table. Shortly after our gift, the practice of caponisation became illegal in the UK but the good news is that roosters and cockerels are still farmed for the table, delivering succulent meat just like chicken but more generously sized.
A roast partridge is a lovely option for Christmas, allowing each guest to have their own bird. What’s more, it’s dead simple to cook and serve. You can vary the stuffing however you fancy, from traditional sage and onion to chestnut and apricot, or maybe some crumbled Italian Cotechino sausage mixed with the breadcrumbs.
Goose is often criticised for being a very fatty bird, and roasting it to get rid of the fat often ends up with the meat being overcooked. Even though a well-reared goose doesn’t have as much fat these days, my method, where the legs are slow-cooked and the breasts are roasted on the crown, reduces the roasting time and the risk of dry meat.
My truffle-studded roast rooster is an elegant way to serve a rooster or cockerel: the stuffing contains black truffle but if you don’t want the expense of buying a fresh one you can get them preserved, or simply replace with finely chopped wild mushrooms cooked down with the onion.
So it doesn’t have to be turkey for Christmas Day; a rooster, goose or even individual partridges make delicious alternatives.