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Tuesday 18 December 2012

Sluttishly Savoury: Christmas Cockerel with Clementine and Herb Butter

When it comes to Christmas birds most people opt for the traditional turkey but over here in the East Midlands it's all about the Christmas Cockerel. Cockerels are slow grown to reach a hefty but natural size and when cooked the meat is super juicy with a really rich, deep chicken-y flavour. If you love the flavour of a really good quality chicken then multiply that threefold and you are on the right track. I should also add that buying and eating a cockerel also gives the added bonus of countless cock jokes that will become more *hilarious throughout the festive day.

I decided to make a kickass festive butter to squish between the flesh and the skin which oozed throughout the bird and was absolutely heavenly. I'm pretty sure I'm now going to stuff everything I can with it. I cooked a huge 4.5kg free range bird which would feed about 12 people - we fed 5 hungry adults for dinner plus countless roast dinner sandwiches the following day and still have masses of meat left to freeze AND you can also buy up to 7kg birds SHEESH!

If you opt for a smaller/larger bird then work on the principal that for every 450g it needs 16 minutes of cooking plus an extra 16 minutes, and don't forget your bird is not complete without pigs in blankets, fear not, Elizabeth  totally has his covered and has 3 different ways of making your piggies the best ever.

You'll need: (serves 12)
  • 1 x 4.5kg cockerel (I used Packington Free Range who do mail order and it was awesome)
  • 250g pack unsalted butter
  • 3 x clementines
  • 1 x 30g pack fresh thyme (I used lemon thyme)
  • 1 x 30g pack fresh sage leaves
  • salt and pepper
  • 400ml cheap cream sherry
Make it!
  1. Pre-heat your oven to 180C. Zest and juice your clementines (reserve the squished clementines for later) and put pop it in a blender with half of the herbs, the butter and salt and pepper, blitz until you have a smooth bright green butter paste.
  2. Using your hand carefully ease your fingers under the skin of the cockerel at the neck end and free it from the breast meat. Smear the butter into the flesh being careful not to break the skin. Any butter left over I covered the outside of the bird with.
  3. Put the reserved clementines and remaining herbs inside the main cavity of the bird then season the bird again and put into a large roasting tin and pour your sherry around the base.
  4. Cover with foil and roast for the calculated cooking time (my oven is rubbish so it should have take 2hr 16mins but it actually took 2hr 45mins for the juices to run clear). remove the foil for the last 30 minutes to allow the bird to brown.
  5. You will need to rest it for a good 45 minutes once it's cooked covered in loads of tin foil and a towel, don't skimp on this bit as it's the secret to all the amazing flavours coming together and the meat to relax and be succulent. you can use this time to pour the amazing pan juices into a saucepan and reduce by about 1/3 to make the best gravy ever.
* This may not actually be the case

We all dived in to eat before I realised I had forgotten to take a photo so thank you to Packington Free Range for supplying both the cockerel and the photograph!

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