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Chestnut and Cranberry Stuffing Wrapped in Bacon

Introduction & method

Stuffing is a common accompaniment to chicken, turkey, or other birds. Its purpose originally was to lubricate the inside of the bird to stop it drying out. Stuffing isn't often cooked inside birds these days - it's better to cook it separately. In this Christmas version, I roll the stuffing in bacon woven into a lattice. It looks sensational and can be served as a main course itself.

Chestnut and Cranberry Stuffing Wrapped in Bacon Recipe

Prep the Cranberries

If you have dried cranberries, you'll first of all need to rehydrate them by soaking for 20-30 minutes in hot water. With fresh and dried cranberries you need to cook them a little before using. Place them in a pan, cover with water, bring to the boil and simmer for about 5 minutes until they start to split and pop.

Prep the Chestnuts

You can save yourself a lot of grief by buying ready-peeled and cooked chestnuts - you'll just need to chop them finely. If you have fresh chestnuts, set a pan of water on to boil. Cut a cross in the flat side of each nut. Put them in the boiling water, turn it down to a simmer and after 5 minutes, remove about half a dozen with a perforated spoon. If you don't have asbestos fingers, give them a quick dunk in cold water and peel them. The skin where you cut the cross should have curled back a little. It's easier to peel the nuts while they're still hot, so remove them from the pan and peel them in small batches. Now chop the nuts finely.

Make Breadcrumbs

If you're buying breadcrumbs, make sure you get coarse ones. But making your own is very easy. Take 3 slices of stale bread (if you don't have stale bread, just pop it in a low oven for about 20 minutes to dry the outside - this makes it easier to break it down into crumbs) and break them into chunks that will fit in your blender. Pulse the chunks until they're all broken into crumbs. If you are blenderless, put the bread chunks in a plastic bag and bash them with a rolling pin.

Make the Stuffing

Peel and finely chop the onion. Sauté it gently in oil or butter on medium-low heat for 5 minutes. The idea is to soften the onion, not brown it. Put the breadcrumbs into a large bowl and stir in the drained cranberries, finely chopped chestnuts, cooked onion, thyme and salt. Stir well, then add enough boiling water to form the stuffing into a firm paste. Be careful not to add too much water or you'll end up with a sloppy stuffing. Cut the butter into small cubes and stir them in until melted. Cover the the bowl and allow to cool.

Make the Bacon Weave

Place a sheet of greaseproof paper on your worktop. Lay one strip of bacon horizontally near the bottom edge. At right angles to this, lay strips of bacon vertically, touching but not overlapping. Arrange them so that alternate strips go over and under the first horizontal rasher. Now fold back all of the strips that are under the first strip and insert a second rasher horizontally, touching the first one. Lift all of the folded-back strips back over this one, and peel back the ones that are now under the second strip. Repeat the process until you can't fit any more horizontal strips in. It depends on the size of your bacon, but mine was 7 x 7 strips. Now butter a sheet of aluminium foil and place it over the weave. Put a chopping board over this, grab the board and the greaseproof paper under the weave and flip it over. Peel off the paper. You should have the chopping board, the foil, and the bacon, in that order.

Build the Roll

Place spoonfuls of stuffing mix near the bottom edge of the bacon. You'll need to judge it so there's enough to fill the roll without the bacon overlapping too much. Smooth the stuffing out into a sausage, then lift up the bottom edge of the foil and use it to roll the bacon around the stuffing. When you get to the end, tuck in the open ends of the foil so no stuffing escapes. Put the roll in the fridge to chill for half an hour.

Cook the Roll

Preheat your oven to 180°C (356°F) for a fan/convection oven, 200°C (392°F), gas 6. Place the foil-wrapped roll on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and cut away all the foil apart from the strip the roll is sitting on. Pour off any liquid that has come out of the bacon - you can use it in gravy later. Put the roll back in the oven for another 15-20 minutes. You want it coloured, but not hard and dry.


Ingredients & Info

 3 slices stale bread
 1 medium onion
 180 grams chestnuts
 150 grams cranberries
 50 grams butter
 half a tsp salt
 half a tsp thyme
 500 grams streaky bacon

US Customary/Imperial

Makes 2 rolls
Prep time: 20 minutes.
Chilling time: 30 minutes.
Cooking time: 35 minutes.
Total time: 1 hour 25 minutes.