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Serves: 6, plus leftovers for pie
Preparation time: 1 hour, plus overnight dry brine
Cooking time: 2.5 hours

With its rich, meaty and slightly gamey flavour, cockerel makes a delicious alternative to turkey at the Christmas table. Paired with a superb stuffing made in-house by The Butchery Ltd, and an earthy morel cream sauce for a little hit of luxury, this flavoursome bird is sure to impress.

This is by no means a quick, everyday recipe. But if there was one time of the year where you wanted to go all out and fancied pulling together something a little special, this could be one for you.

Ingredients

1 x 4kg Fosse Meadows free-range Cotswold Gold or White cockerel

Herb butter (from below)

6 fresh sage leaves

2tbsp sea salt

For the herb butter 

200g butter, softened

1 tbsp fennel seeds

Zest of 1 orange

10 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped

2 tsp smoked garlic powder

2 tsp fresh ground pepper

Salt, to taste
For the stuffing log

500g pork, black pudding and prune stuffing (freshly made by The Butchery Ltd) if you don't fancy black pudding we there are others options or make your own.

Cockerel giblets, finely chopped (Note: do not use the neck)
12 rashers smoked streaky bacon
For the morel cream sauce

30g dried morel mushrooms, rehydrated in 200ml boiling water, rubbed to remove any grit, 

Note: if you can’t find dried morels, dried porcini or shiitake also works well. Also, do not discard the water used to rehydrate the mushrooms as this contains precious flavour!

1 tbsp butter 

2 shallots, finely chopped

150ml marsala

300ml good quality chicken stock (fresh often in stock at The Butchery Ltd or order)

150ml double cream

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
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Method

The first 3 steps of this recipe are jobs that can and should be done in advance – because, let’s face it, the last thing you want is to be stuck in the kitchen slaving away for hours on Christmas Day!

1.      Dry the skin of the bird with kitchen paper. Season well with sea salt inside and out making sure to work the salt into every nook and cranny. Place the seasoned bird on a tray and leave uncovered in the fridge for 12-24 hours. This process is called dry brining. As well as allowing time for the salt to penetrate and season the meat, this aids to intensify the natural flavour of the bird as well as keeping it juicy and succulent whilst cooking.

2. To make the stuffing log, combine the stuffing mix with the chopped giblets. (Note: if you prefer not to use the giblets, it will still taste great if you leave them out). Lay out about 30cm of cling film onto a work surface. Place the streaky rashers on the cling film, overlapping each one with the next. Leave about 5cm clear on each side. Place the stuffing mixture across the centre of the bacon sheet in a log shape. Wrap the bacon around the stuffing, and tightly wrap the cling film around. Pinch and twist the ends to seal, trying to remove as much air as possible. Tightly wrap the stuffing log lengthways with another layer of cling film to make it watertight. In a pot large enough to fit the stuffing log, half fill with water and bring to a simmer. Place the stuffing log in the water and simmer for 20mins. Remove from water, allow to cool, then place in the fridge until required.

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3.     Next, make the herb butter. Place all ingredients into a small bowl and mix until well combined. Take the cockerel from the fridge. Starting from the top, separate the skin from the breast meat carefully, trying as best you can not to tear the skin. Evenly spread the herb butter between the breast and skin of the bird. (Here’s a short how-to video). Tip: for a professional looking presentation, place the extra whole sage leaves between the butter and skin, 3 on each breast equally spaced. The bird can now go in the fridge until required.

4.      When you’re ready to roast, take the cockerel from the fridge, place on a roasting tin and allow to come up to room temperature. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 220C. Lightly oil the skin of the bird with some mild olive oil. Place an ovenproof meat thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh meat, taking care to ensure it is not touching any bone. Put the bird in the preheated oven and after 10mins turn the temperature of the oven down to 170C. Roast until the internal temperature reads 65C, basting the bird with its own juices every 20-25mins. Take the bird from the oven, place on a plate and allow to rest in a warm place, uncovered, for at least 25mins. As it rests the temperature of the bird will continue to rise to a perfectly moist and succulent 75C. This is known as carry-over cooking. Note: If you don’t have a meat thermometer, roast for approximately 30mins per kilo or until the juices run clear from the thigh when pierced with a skewer or knife. 

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5.      About 20 mins before the cockerel comes out of the oven, take the stuffing log from the fridge and remove the cling film. Place on a baking tray lined with some greaseproof paper and oil lightly with a mild olive oil. Put the stuffing log in the oven alongside the cockerel and roast until the bacon is golden, about 20 mins. Remove from oven and allow to rest for 10 mins, or until required.

6.      To make the morel cream sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat. Add the shallots and cook until translucent. If there are any large morels, cut them in half lengthways. Turn up the heat, and add all of the mushrooms to the pan, and sauté for 2 mins. Next, add the reserved morel water taking care not to add any of the grit which will have settled at the bottom of the bowl. Meanwhile, take the cockerel roasting tin and skim off the excess fat. (Tip: Reserve fat for Leftovers Pie). Place the roasting pan over a high heat and once hot, deglaze the pan with the marsala. Once the alcohol has boiled away, add the chicken stock and any resting juices from the cockerel. After boiling for 2 mins, transfer the contents of the roasting tin to the pan with the morels and shallots. Reduce by half. Finally, add the cream and allow to boil for 2-3 mins or until the sauce has reduced to a consistency that coats the back of a spoon. If the sauce becomes too thick, simply add a splash of hot water to rehydrate. Check seasoning – add salt and pepper to taste. Turn the heat to lowest setting and keep warm until required.  

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7.      When ready to serve, carve the cockerel. Unless anyone feels particularly adverse to the idea, it’s nice to allow for a piece of white meat and a piece of dark meat per portion, along with a 2cm slice of the stuffing log. Serve alongside traditional goose fat roast potatoes, brussel sprouts, carrots, a dollop of cranberry sauce and a few spoons of the morel sauce and some cracking wine.


Simpler version and Leftovers Pie recipe next......

Recipe and photos by Mike Heywood, South London resident, regular customer, pork devotee, home chef and instagrammer extraordinaire. To see more stay tuned to this blog or follow Mike on Instagram @4TELIER
Meat by The Butchery Ltd and Nick and Jacob at Fosse Meadows Farm

 
 
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Serves: 8

Preparation time: 40mins, plus overnight brine

Cooking time: 5 hours

This recipe takes time, but rest assured the results are well worth it. It begins with an overnight brine, followed by a gentle low and slow roast, then a final blast to produce a wonderfully bronzed exterior.  Brining adds moisture and highlights the natural flavour and subtle sweetness of the pork. Low temperature cooking slowly brings the meat up to a perfect 65C internally, and then holds it there to gently tenderize the meat by maximising the “fibre-bursting activities” of the natural enzymes within. Or so Harold McGee would say.

You’ll need an ovenproof meat thermometer, this is essential. They’re an extremely useful kitchen tool for cooking meat safely and accurately. Here’s a link to the one I use, but any similar will do the job like the ones they sell at The Butchery Ltd for £6.50

Not enough time for low and slow? Skip to the bottom for a high and fast alternative.


 
 
The Christmas countdown is truly on, with our order book filling up I have to confess a fascination with Christmas food traditions, being a butcher in Britain, but of Australian origins I have seen, discussed and experienced many a meat tradition.

In Australia Christmas Eve was the pub with friends, then Christmas day starts with a surf at the beach before returning to a buffet of cold cuts and fancy salads, very chilled lagers and sparklies. If some one in the family was feeling rich we would have a huge bowl of peel your own prawns and smoked salmon to start the lunch. Usually quite a stress free event with everything having been cooked a day or two prior and each family member bringing some of the meal, costs and stress were spread. Turkey is something that is hardly seen on the table in Oz maybe its something to do with the heat, though Ruth and her Nana had a special turkey, blueberry and mango salad that only came out at Christmas. This was never from a whole bird, a crown or similar would have been cooked before the day. Chicken was often a “BBQ Chook” so no one even had to cook it.  

I must say that I am becoming a large fan of the British Christmas meals, there is something about a long slow cooked bird in the oven, all the different stuffings, and the gravy, mmmm I love gravy. Goosefat roasted tatties with roughed up crispy edges and some nice red wine. It’s like the ultimate Sunday roast with all the family. And I do find I always have room to fit in another pigs in blanket. But the climates right here for all that isn’t it, if I was back home I probably wouldn’t be doing it, I would be at the beach !


I do have to say I am proud to see that many of The Butchery’s customers are venturing further than the Turkey, with Goose and Cockerel being especially popular. If you are having cockerel this year see below for cooking tips from the producers. A few weeks ago we did more or less exactly that and it worked out very juicy and tasty. The first two hours were covered breast side down then flipped him over and uncovered, don’t forget to rest the bird whilst you make the gravy etc. For further advice I would be heading to the ever fabulous Simon Hopkinson and adapting one of his chicken recipes or the always reliable Jamie and his Best Ever Turkey and again adjusting cooking times, temperatures (Fosse Meadows Turkeys are actually breed by Paul Kelly, then raised on their own farm in Leicestershire). That recipe holds a place in my heart when it saved me as a seasonaire cook in the French Alps, Never having roasted a turkey in my life faced with four frozen birds, a never before been used oven, non existent French, a chalet full of expectant guests and no shops.
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Before : Cockerel happy at Fosse meadows
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After : about to be happily in my Tummy. 3.5kg feeds 6 generously
For those of you that are doing Turkey, Nick and Jacob from Fosse Meadows have been slaving over producing delicious and ethically raised ones for you. The Butchery also has all the trimmings options to spice things up. Still time to order if you need. If a Turkey was on my table this year I think it might be brined American style just like the boys are doing.  But for us this year will be duck as it is a longtime since we have had a cripsy home roasted duck. If we have the energy to go fancy the inspiration will come from Loose Birds and Other Game, by Andrew Pern, but I think things will be hearty and simple if my record from the last few years is anything to go by, Christmas eve has found me exhausted and asleep in the bath !

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Jacob with some of the Fosse Meadows Turkeys
Nick from Fosse Meadows took a few minutes away from their hectic schedule between Thanksgiving and Christmas to answer a few questions for us and you.

The Butchery : So what made you move from Peckham to start a poultry farm ?
Nick from Fosse Meadows :The possibility of our own business doing something we loved, and we both enjoyed food, cooking and wanted the outdoor lifestyle farming could give us and I wanted to continue on the family farm.  So it helped that my dad was a farmer to get us started.

TB : Why did you choose the Cotswold White and Gold breeds ?  
NFM : We chose these breeds because they are a traditional breed (longer in the breast unlike the football shaped supermarket breeds) they grow slower so they don't reach the dinner plate until they get to 77 - 91 days the older the bird the better the flavour and more flavour in the bones afterwards........ DON'T FORGET THE BONES!

TB :Do the different birds have different personalities ?
NFM : Erm not really, boys are more feisty and girls are more 'whatever, I'm in the hedge eating grass don't bother me with your alpha male antics'

TB : What's your cooking tips for a Cockerel ?
NFM: LONG & SLOW ROAST max 150 C we use bay, garlic, lemon and butter/oil for flavour and salt and pepper rubbed into the skin - its simple but delicious

Then the all important Christmas controversy Questions............

TB : What will be on your families table this year for Christmas ?
NFM : I think we're going to try a brined turkey!! One lady took it another stage further by deep frying after brining - sounds wrong but apparently delicious so maybe next year.

TB :Are you a leg or a breast man ? 
NFM: leg leg leg

TB : Yes or no to the Parson's nose ?
NFM :only crispy and a recently discovered treat

TB : Stuffing inside or outside ?
NFM : Officially outside, secretly inside...... remember the temperature probe.... yawn

TB:Do you have pigs in blankets with your Turkey ?
NFM: Absolutely

So here is wishing you all a fabulously tasty meat filled, stress free festive season and hope to see you down at Maltby St this Saturday or we are doing three days next week 22nd, 23rd and 24th as are most of the other traders.  

 
 
Well Saturday 26th November will be our 3rd Saturday trading at Maltby St Market, specifically in 1 Ropemaker Walk with the very supportive and welcoming Ham and Cheese Co and The Kernel Brewery.

It has a been a hectic ride, with quite a few challenges still to come, including preparing our permanent space where we are currently doing the production, a little further east down the railway tracks ready for the grand opening early next year.

But this is an update promised to many of you about what we will be serving this week. 

Beef will be a combination of some very nicely 42 day dry aged Traditional Hereford from Farmer Tom in Herefordshire and a new one for us, Red Poll from Suffolk, succulent and well marbled this is the “beef of old England”. Originally from East Anglia the breed made it’s first herd book in 1874. Red polls are excellent foragers allowing the animals to graze naturally on mixed pastures and shrub land developing a great flavour for us to graze on. Also a fab milk producer this is the just the sort of animal we should be "eating to keep", and have been, with the Red Poll having made a successful comeback from a small herd of only 800 breeding ladies.

"An exquisite and unique flavour from mature meat of a very individualistic old breed. Try it! " - Clarissa Dickinson Wright

Lamb is another Suffolk this week, a native breed rather than an a rare-breed these also come from farmer Tom of the Traditional Herefords and have led such a happy pasture-fed existence and are so tasty we can’t resist.
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Mutton - the foggy weather has definlty meant it is time to pull out ther Le Creuset, slow cooker or whatever is your prefered method of creating comfort food and we have Sullolk Mutton for you also fromTom. Not always avaible and very often neglected by all, come and see hat you have been missing, fabulous for full depth of flavour mutton is lamb that is more than 24mths old when it goes to the slaughter house (or AltonTowers as Farmer Tom puts it). We love our cattle slowly raised (30months at least) on good pasture lets savour our sheep this way too. If its good enough for the Hairy Bikers, Hugh, Matt Tebbutt and Prince Charles maybe its good enough for you?

Pork is Tamworth this week - The good old Ginger just like the butcher, originally a Midlander ours is from Herefordhsire this week. The Tamworth was bought back to the UK for it's revival from Australian breeding stock. Pork from the Tamworth is renowned in pig cirlces for coming first by a full pig length in a ‘taste test” by Bristol University.  

Bacon -  for a first the first appearance this week week, we have of some Gloucester Old Spot bacon,  green and smoked, streaky and back so come and get it sliced to order for you on our very ancient big old Berkel Slicer. Is it bad that owning one of these has been a long time fantasy? Eventually we will be doing our own bacon from start to finish but in t he meantime we have sourced this great rare breed bacon as it’s not really a butcher shop unless we stock the secret vegetarian conversion weapon is it ?

Sausages from Gloucester Old Spot - this is a tough one (not the actual sausages I hope) We are making our own from scratch using meat from the same rare breed pork we are serving in the cabinet each week, a standard if you are going to be able to do proper whole carcass nose to tail butchery. But we also dont want to add rusk and all the “E” numbers and anti-caking agents that invloves. Most sausages have small to large amounts of rusk in them - this binds the meat together and soaks up the fat as you cook creating texture and keeping the moistness of the fat within the sausage.  Whilst our sausages are bulging with fab pork (a little beef too in the Kilebasa), fresh herbs and spices they do not have rusk, and so we are still tweaking the recipe each week a little to we find perfection for you. Kielbasa and Zingy Herb and Garlic up for grabs this week.

Chicken and one lonely Cockerel - So far our Fosse Meadows chickens have had many great comments and even repeat customers (pretty good we thought after only 2 weeks) so they will be happlily in the cabinet again alongside soemthing a bit special. For Christmas we plan on stocking Cockerel, also from Fosse Meadows, so those of you still debating what to put on the Christmas table you might find a cockerel the perfect answer. An uncastrated male chicken, tradionally used to make Coq Au Vin or for long slow roasting. A great alternative to the turkey, just a touch smaller msking it easier to cook and with serious flavour. 

Hope to see you Saturday and thanks to everyone that has dropped by already. Christmas orders will be taken from next week.