It was King Edward VII at the beginning of the 20th Century who popularised eating turkey at Christmas. Nowadays it’s estimated that we eat 10 million birds at Christmas in the UK alone! But even if it’s only once a year, eating turkey can get a bit dry (no pun intended); so why not break with tradition and try something different on your Christmas dinner table this year. Here are my five recommendations for alternatives to turkey:
A Beef Wellington always makes for an impressive centrepiece; the very best fillet steak enveloped in pastry, it just feels indulgent. A number of our butchers use pate in theirs, although a duxelle of mushrooms is often also popular. We recommend one large Wellington for sharing if you’re expecting lots of mouths at the table, or individual parcels which can feel just as special when presented on the plate if you have smaller numbers. However many you’re feeding, check your local butcher for readymade Wellingtons so you can spend more time enjoying the company than cooking.
Why not borrow a Christmas tradition from Italy and go for Porchetta? The rolled pork joint is already a popular choice amongst customers, especially if they’ve just returned from their own travels to the country! Porchetta is traditionally seasoned with fennel, but many butchers will make seasonal versions using cranberries, apricots and pine nuts.
Ham is almost as classic as the turkey, and our butchers have definitely noticed a trend in recent years with customers opting to buy them ready prepared rather than boiling the gammon themselves. They’re often glazed with marmalade or cider which gives it that really festive flavour. It’s a great centrepiece for carving at the table and lasts well after the big day itself. Serve it with onion or winter chutney for a tasty Boxing Day lunch.
This is becoming really popular at Christmas, not only is it a lean meat and therefore quite a healthy option, but it lends itself very well to the traditional cranberry and redcurrant flavoured accompaniment of the season. There are a ton of options for venison, but the most popular are haunch and loin cuts. It also makes a great Wellington as an alternative to the traditional beef version. Don’t be afraid to ask your butcher for advice on the best cuts and how to cook them.
One product which has increased in popularity recently is the three bird roast. There are a number of ways for this to be prepared and presented, but one of the most prevalent is duck with chicken and pheasant breasts with layers of stuffing. A three bird roast is a good option if you’re looking for something ready to carve – plus it has that “Wow” moment that Christmas is all about.
Whatever you go for, you want to make sure that you source your meat from a reputable source. The Q Guild of Butchers is a national network of Britain’s best independent craft butchers, and a symbol of provenance, quality, craftsmanship and customer service. For more information and to find your nearest Q Guild butcher, please visit www.qguild.co.uk
About the Expert
Claire Holland is General Manager of the Q Guild of Butchers; the seal of excellence marking Britain’s best independent butchers. Claire is a well-known figure in the meat industry, having started her career at the Meat and Livestock Commission in the early 1990’s. In 2000, Claire changed her focus to consumer marketing and played a role in a number of food campaigns encouraging people to buy, cook and eat red meat within a balanced diet. Claire is also a member of LIPS (Ladies in Pigs) and the Institute of Meat.