No surprises about what we're having for Christmas lunch this year. Last year was a pork shoulder, so slowly cooked and caramelised you didn't need a knife to cut it. But variety is the spice of life and I do believe, if my rolling menu and memory are correct, that this year we are up to goose. Again.
Just checking my memory: 2007 was a pig on the rotisserie, 2008 a roast goose, 2009 pig and goose (awesome), 2010 turducken (won't go there again, it's like you are going against God's work), 2011 my deconstructed lunch of confit goose legs and sous vide breast (more work but you do get the entire bird right), and last year pig shoulder with brown sugar glaze. So yep, it's definitely goose this year.
I have two male geese, newly bachelorised after they drowned the only female in an afternoon of watery passion when they forgot the one key to survival - a female. Unless you happen to be a fungus. This pair of less than intelligent ganders have spent the past two months blaming me for their loss (even though, as you know, I tried to revive the goose), constantly trying to peck me and the family. I could quite easily take to them with an axe if it wasn't for the fact that they would be as tough as boots.
So I need to get myself a young goose for Christmas lunch and, as always, I have ordered one from my favourite butcher, Gino D'Ambrosio. Getting the order in saves the disappointment of ending up with that driest and blandest of festive meat, turkey.
I'm still not entirely committed to the archetypal roast Christmas lunch, especially since this year our holiday destination is the far north coast, near Byron Bay, where it's pretty well guaranteed to be hot and sandy. But my parents and parents-in-law firmly believe that anything less than a roast served at 40C is just short of blasphemy, so I'm packing all the gadgets seeing as the beach house might not carry the full armoury of pots and pans needed to get this right.
A Spanish paella is high on my list of things to make this summer. It takes some organising. You need proper rice - I try to use bomba but any short grain rice will do, a couple of packs of saffron, good olive oil and a good range of cured meats such as chorizo, morcilla and jamon.
There is nothing particularly tricky about making the dish. A paella pan will give you the right balance of area versus depth - this ratio is key to a good paella, allowing the rice to cook in the allotted time, about 20 minutes without being stirred, and providing enough heat to cook the ingredients on top - clams and mussels need enough heat to open, crustaceans enough to steam perfectly. But you can just use a frypan.
It is said that a good paella will have a nice crust on the bottom, not burnt but very crispy. The pan should be rotated every few minutes to redistribute the heat but otherwise no disturbing the rice on its way to gloriousness.
The only essential ingredient, other than the rice and saffron, is a well-made stock, from vegetables, chicken, seafood or even a ham made with a jamon bone if you are feeling adventurous. You group them to add at the right point so everything is perfectly cooked at the end.
Aromatic vegetables such as onion, celery, and garlic go in first, sauteed in olive oil, then any meat that needs time to cook: ham, chicken, rabbit, sausage. After this, the rice, saffron, wine and stock is added, then the rest at the right time, finishing with herbs.
Tradition would have this as a Sunday lunch in Valencia, but if you think about it, holidays are like a string of Sundays - hanging out, eating well with family and friends, good booze and a siesta.
Feeds about 12 hungry people
1 big slurp olive oil
12 chicken wings, tips discarded, cut into two sections (or a rabbit broken down)
2 large red onions, diced
2 stalks celery
4-5 garlic cloves, chopped
2 medium to hot chorizo, diced
up to 1 tbsp smoked paprika
1.5kg bomba or calaspara rice
a big pinch saffron threads, soaked in warm water for an hour
2-3 fresh bay leaves
2 cups of white wine
about 2½ litres stock
1 can cherry tomatoes, smashed up a bit
2 morcilla (blood sausages), optional, peeled and mashed into olive oil
1kg firm fish, cut into chunks: monkfish, snapper, ling
1kg pot-ready clams
1kg mussels, cleaned
green vegetables - broccolini, asparagus, peas, etc
1 red and 1 yellow capsicum, roasted, peeled and diced
1 large calamari, prepared as below
fresh herbs - a mix of parsley, basil, oregano
salt and pepper
Get the pan hot and add some oil, then fry the chicken wings. Remove, then saute the onions, celery and garlic until starting to soften. Add the chorizo and give it a little sizzle time, then top up the oil and add the paprika and rice. Cook a little to coat the grains. Deglaze with wine, adding the saffron and soaking liquid. Add the stock, bay leaves, tomatoes and blood sausage. Add back the seared chicken wings. Season with salt and pepper.
Now don't stir the rice, just turn the pan 90 degrees every few minutes. You don't want the rice boiling hard, but there should be a good agitation going on. Add the fish at the 10-minute mark, the clams and mussels after another five (push them into the bubbling rice so they're not buried totally), along with the greens. With a minute or two to go, add the calamari, capsicum and herbs.
Serve from the pan at the table.
Use the largest calamari you can find (avoid baby calamari; they're boring). Pull out the tentacles with the innards and cut off. Discard the innards. Chop up the tentacles; you can add these to the pot a little earlier as they take more heat. Pull off the wings, cut the hood down the centre to open up, clean and pull the skin off the outside. Score the outside of the hood with a sharp knife and cut into 30mm squares.
Bryan Martin is winemaker at Ravensworth and Clonakilla.