Why - on earth - haven't I made my own stuffing before now?
I reckon it's a combination of stuffing being one of those things that just floats around as an "also", an "add on" to a roast dinner and also my own bad experience with it as a youngster. You see, my Mum would often stuff (good old Paxo, the stuffing of choice for the millions) our Sunday chicken, which I remember vividly because I would be vaguely revolted by the colour of the stuffing that had sat in the (apologies) blood while the chicken was roasting. As a consequence, when the recommendation came out that you didn't stuff your chicken any longer owing to E-coli scares - and my Mum stopped - I wasn't unhappy about it.
So we got out of the habit of eating stuffing. It became something that we had at Christmas with the turkey - and only in the shape of stuffing balls that were baked in the oven.
When it came to making my own roast dinners, to include stuffing on the menu was just one step too many for a long time. Well, making a roast dinner is quite an undertaking one way and another. There's the timings, the vegetables, the roast potatoes, the gravy - everything has to be ready on time and it's a whole lot more complicated than making a spaghetti bolognese!
In fact, I didn't really bother with stuffing (the associations between sage & onion stuffing and hideous discoloured soggy breadcrumbs being too much to bear) until hubby came along and professed an undying love for the dish. By then, I'd managed to get a small grip on the mechanics of making a roast dinner - particularly a roast chicken - and it wasn't too difficult to mix up a packet of stuffing and bung it in the oven to cook alongside the rest. I didn't waste any love or attention on it though - and didn't particularly enjoy it on my dinner, either. Well - sage and onion again, you see.
It wasn't until I joined a couple of Facebook groups and saw other people were making home made stuffings, that I began to foster an interest in doing it myself.
This was a slow burning interest though, I have to admit. I'm fairly sure that those early days of sage and onion were still colouring the picture of "stuffing" that I had in my memory. I still hadn't put the idea that I could venture away from sage & onion, together with the concept of "stuffing". Now everyone knows that home made is very often better than shop bought packet mixes, but I was particularly slow on the uptake where this was concerned.
However, once it had dawned on me - and I noticed that I had half a packet of bacon sitting doing nothing one Sunday morning - the old grey matter got to work.
It was the perfect moment - I had a gorgeously huge, fat chicken to be roasted. I had my lovely oven dish to use. I had bacon. I had a good quantity of Polish Bakery bread to use for breadcrumbs and I had a profusion of both fresh and dried herbs in the house. Never had a moment been so propitious!
I didn't use a recipe - after all, people have been stuffing things for years by using whatever they had to hand. Yes, dear reader, I winged it. In a BIG way - and (pretty much) got away with it.
Even having put the stuffing together and knowing a) what was in it, plus b) how they went together, I still wasn't particularly keen on the idea. Oh I was interested in how it would come out and concerned that everyone would like it, but I wasn't anticipating liking it much myself. Oh, how wrong I was. I not only liked it, I loved it. I could have eaten the stuffing and dropped the chicken from my dinner - which is truly remarkable.
However, the stuffing came into its own the following day when I put together a cold roast chicken, stuffing and sweetcorn relish sandwich. Oh .. my .. word. Shoot me now, I'm all over happy.
I have one cook's tip for you with regard to this stuffing, which is not to use salt unless you are absolutely convinced that the bacon does not carry any of its own. Because the bacon becomes considerably reduced by the double cooking process, the saltiness of it is intensified. Additional salt just isn't necessary - particularly if you are using smoked bacon.
So, on the reckoning that where I came from others might follow and if you're one of those who was put off stuffing by - well, let's not go into it again, eh? - then find some lost bacon and give this a go with your next roast chicken. Then tell me you don't like stuffing. *grin*
KNOCK YOUR SOCKS OFF BACON & HERB STUFFING (serves 5-6)
1-2 tbsp rapeseed or olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
freshly ground black pepper
4-5 rashers of lean back smoked bacon, finely diced
3 slices crusty bread, slightly stale, chopped into chunky breadcrumbs
2 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 tbsp fresh chives, finely chopped
1 tsp dried oregano
half a tsp dried thyme
half a tsp dried rosemary
1 large egg.
1. Heat the oil in a frying pan and cook the bacon and onion together until the onion is softened and beginning to turn golden. Add a pinch of black pepper, stir to combine then leave to cool slightly.
2. Once cooled, stir the breadcrumbs into the bacon & onion pan making sure to absorb the bacon fat.
3. Decant the contents of the bacon pan into a large bowl and add the remainder of the ingredients, including the egg.
4. Stir well to combine - until the egg cannot be traced.
5. Decant into an oven proof dish, level the surface and place into a pre-heated 180degC/350degF/Gas 4 oven for 25-30 minutes or until the surface is baked crispy.
Serve with your favourite roasted meats and vegetables, or cold the following day in a sandwich.