Luxury Christmas: Got beef

Roast turkey for  Christmas dinner with all the trimmings
Roast turkey for Christmas dinner with all the trimmings

Traditional turkey is not the only option for a meateater’s Christmas menu, says Rory Ford

Admittedly, many traditionalists simply won’t be able to see beyond getting a turkey. Even so, they should shop locally; Scotland is particularly well-served by long-established family butchers and they should be first on the list.

Many Scottish butchers now stock Copas turkeys from the family of the same name’s farm in Cookham, Berkshire. These free-range birds are a quite bit more expensive than normal – prices start at £108 for a whole 5KG bird – but connoisseurs swear by them.

Free to roam cherry orchards in more than 72 acres of farmland, Copas birds grow to full maturity which provides an extra layer of fat. This means they are self-basting and all the more delicious for it.

Goose is increasingly becoming a popular alternative. Darker and gamier than turkey, they can be trickier to cook – not least because they can grow so large. Those stories of hapless gourmets struggling to get an enormous carcass home only to discover they are too big for their fridge and then, too big for their oven are not apocryphal. You’re best advised to go with a smaller bird as younger geese do taste better.

If you are not that adventurous, why not keep it simple and plump for a chicken. Linda Dick farms chickens near Peebles on a small commercial scale, but her birds have drawn praise from Gordon Ramsey, Nick Nairn –“The best you can get” – and Heston Blumenthal who featured her produce on his Channel 4 programme about preparing the perfect roast chicken.

Dick’s chickens – which are fully matured and require a longer cooking time – are only available in select outlets on Scotland’s east coast – the most notable being Crombies of Edinburgh in that city’s Broughton Street.

Depending on how many people you are planning to serve on Christmas Day, you may feel that even a large chicken may not feed them all. In which case why not really push the festive boat out and cook a Gressingham duck to accompany it.

This unique breed – a cross between a wee Mallard and the larger Pekin duck – has become extremely popular. It is easy to cook and its rich gamey flavour is the perfect partner to chicken.

You’re not duty-bound to bag a bird either. Butchers report that prime rib of Scottish beef is becoming increasingly popular as an alternative Christmas dinner.

Locally sourced, this treat for the table is reassuringly expensive – but after all, it’s only once a year. Christmas is the one time of the year when you are expected to totally indulge yourself, so why not try something decadently different?

Admittedly, many traditionalists simply won’t be able to see beyond getting a turkey. Even so, they should shop locally; Scotland is particularly well-served by long-established family butchers and they should be first on the list.

Many Scottish butchers now stock Copas turkeys from the family of the same name’s farm in Cookham, Berkshire. These free-range birds are a quite bit more expensive than normal – prices start at £108 for a whole 5KG bird – but connoisseurs swear by them.

Free to roam cherry orchards in more than 72 acres of farmland, Copas birds grow to full maturity which provides an extra layer of fat. This means they are self-basting and all the more delicious for it.

Goose is increasingly becoming a popular alternative. Darker and gamier than turkey, they can be trickier to cook – not least because they can grow so large. Those stories of hapless gourmets struggling to get an enormous carcass home only to discover they are too big for their fridge and then, too big for their oven are not apocryphal. You’re best advised to go with a smaller bird as younger geese do taste better.

If you are not that adventurous, why not keep it simple and plump for a chicken. Linda Dick farms chickens near Peebles on a small commercial scale, but her birds have drawn praise from Gordon Ramsey, Nick Nairn –“The best you can get” – and Heston Blumenthal who featured her produce on his Channel 4 programme about preparing the perfect roast chicken.

Dick’s chickens – which are fully matured and require a longer cooking time – are only available in select outlets on Scotland’s east coast – the most notable being Crombies of Edinburgh in that city’s Broughton Street.

Depending on how many people you are planning to serve on Christmas Day, you may feel that even a large chicken may not feed them all. In which case why not really push the festive boat out and cook a Gressingham duck to accompany it.

This unique breed – a cross between a wee Mallard and the larger Pekin duck – has become extremely popular. It is easy to cook and its rich gamey flavour is the perfect partner to chicken.

You’re not duty-bound to bag a bird either. Butchers report that prime rib of Scottish beef is becoming increasingly popular as an alternative Christmas dinner.

Locally sourced, this treat for the table is reassuringly expensive – but after all, it’s only once a year.