I have been cooking turkeys nonstop for the past two weeks. At least two and even up to six a day. Beautifully bronzed turkeys with crispy skin you just want to rip off and dunk in pan of simmering gravy. And yet come Thanksgiving day when I was faced with cooking my own turkey for six hopeful family members and friends I managed to do what so many others do when trying not to overcook the breasts and ended up undercooking the legs. Sure, leave it to the professionals- see what good that will do you. The thermometer reading was right on cue, the skin was bronzed and even though my gut said it hadn’t been in long enough I still pulled it out of the oven two hours before we were due to sit down for lunch and even turned the oven off for an hour and went for a jog before putting everything else in the oven.
If it had been TV the fact that the bird was not fully cooked to the bones might not have mattered- but with hungry guests and no more than a few scraps of smoked salmon on the table to tie them over it was not the desired outcome. Thank heavens for the here’s one I made earlier turkey that was soaking in its pan juices. Though, I’m sure not everyone has a spare bird hanging around on Thanksgiving- I was certainly saved this time by my hankering for plenty of leftovers.
And if raw turkey wasn’t going to ruin the meal on its own then there was the issue (that seems to be a running theme now when I entertain) of my inability to serve piping hot food. As somebody who hates lukewarm in all its possible scenarios, sitting down to a lukewarm meal (which I only have myself to blame for) is completely unacceptable. Food to my taste should be hot or cold- warm is rarely welcome. I blame it on the TV day job- the audience after all does not need to know that the creamy mashed potatoes with the perfectly carved spiral marking on their screen are actually on the verge of being classified cold and beginning to form a skin. But at home, with six pots balanced on four hobs, empty bottles scattered across your work surface and your helpers dashing to the loo or talking too loud to hear you asking them to be seated, it’s quite hard to get everything hot at the table. Not that there were complaints around my Thanksgiving table- I mean who really has the nerve to complain when they’re invited for lunch? The uncooked turkey went back in the oven and I had plenty of leftovers- cold, just the way I like them.
But then there are those disasters in the kitchen which end up turning into something rather exciting and not at all disappointing. Fast forward a day and lo and behold along came the pumpkin oat crunch sticks- a cross between granola and biscotti although I had originally hoped for something more like a flapjack. I was about to sweep the whole tray into the bin when it came out of the oven. It looked like a cake that had had the air kicked out of it but a little taste made me think it might be destined for better things. I turned the oven down and sliced it into sticks, placed it on a baking tray and let it dry in the oven until it was crunchy and crisp. The following morning I dipped the sticks into a bowl of thick Greek yogurt and a steaming mup of white coffee (although not in that order). In the end I had to package them up and place them in the unreachable depths of my cupboards- I always find crunchy things highly addictive. They were neither undercooked nor lukewarm and the perfect way to use up that leftover pumpkin pie filling.
Pumpkin oat crunch sticks
Dip these into a bowl of Greek yogurt, coffee, melted chocolate or just eat plain. If you like things sweet, you will need to add more sugar. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.
Makes: 20 sticks
Diet Facts: health in stick form
400g tin pumpkin puree
1 stick butter, melted
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
100g/1/2 cup soft brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cloves
2 Tbsp flour
275g/ 3 cups porridge oats
75g/ 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/ Heat the oven 180C/350F/Gas 4. Line a 20 x 30 cm (8 x 12 inch) pan with a strip of parchment that covers the bottom and comes up above the tin on two opposite sides.
2/ In a medium-sized bowl mix together the pumpkin, butter, vanilla and sugar. In another large bowl mix together the remaining ingredients Pour over the wet ingredients and stir until fully combined. Pour into your prepared pan and spread to evenly cover.
3/ Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes or until the top looks firm and lightly golden. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
4/ Once cool, heat the oven to 110C/200F/Gas 1. Remove the pumpkin oat mix from the pan and slice width-ways into roughly 1.5 cm (1/2 inch) thick slices. Lay out on a wire rack set over a baking tray (or straight on to a baking tray with holes in it) and place into the oven for 3 hours or over night to dry out and become crispy. Store in an airtight container.