Last week as pretty much everyone knows was Thanksgiving, probably the only holiday which is celebrated by Americans of all beliefs, ages and hues. The original Thanksgiving was essentially a harvest festival where early settlers shared their bounty with the local natives, who did likewise with the settlers. The enjoyment of the holiday has undoubtedly been aided by the fact that it’s held on a Thursday and many people take the Friday off and so have a four-day weekend. Traditionally turkey is served but the accompaniments seem to vary according to region and/or heritage.
Dad and I went to Philadelphia on Thursday morning and stayed there until early evening on Saturday. We had an absolutely splendid time. We joined Jimmy and his extended family for the Thanksgiving meal, and I can say that I have never seen so much food on a table. So much food that I wasn’t able to see or taste every dish! Before the turkey, we had two types of prawns – griddled Cajun prawns with Jimmy’s home-made remoulade sauce, and steamed prawns with a tomato sauce. All was excellent. For my Thanksgiving meal, I had roast turkey, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, stuffing, cranberry sauce, gravy and two (yup I had a second one because they were fantastically light) biscuits, the American biscuit which is closer to a plain scone. For pudding, there was pumpkin pie, blueberry pie, cherry pie and pumpkin bread pudding – I had a slice of cherry pie and some pumpkin bread pudding.
The cherry pie before I took my slice – Jimmy’s mum, Agnes, made the pastry and it was beautifully light and crispy.
My slice of cherry pie – you may well wonder how I ate all this after everything I ate before. I have no idea either!
Here is the proof I cleared my plate.
Jimmy has already sent me the recipes for his remoulade sauce and the pumpkin bread pudding and I will upload these soon. I am waiting for Agnes’ recipe for biscuits. Agnes told me that her mother arrived in Philly from Ireland at the age of 20, and became a cook for one of the wealthy families. Her mother never used a recipe book and knew her recipes by heart. The biscuit recipe is her mother’s recipe which Agnes learned from watching her. Again, when I have that recipe I will upload it.
It was lovely to be part of this family celebration and I started thinking about our traditional meals. Obviously it is now December and Christmas is much on my mind. We have goose rather than turkey now in our family, but eat the accompaniments which are more often served with turkey. I know that mashed potato is the traditional stuffing for goose, but it is far too heavy for me on Christmas Day, and also doesn’t seem special enough for this celebration. Dad and I have also been trying to cut down the number of extras so that we don’t have too many leftovers. This started when we went away one Boxing Day and also I suppose as we got more health conscious. I used to make two different stuffings, sausage meat and today’s recipe, Grandma’s Sweetcorn and Lemon Stuffing. Grandma told me that she made up this stuffing because she found sausage meat stuffing quite fatty and she wanted something to counter the richness of the meal. The stuffing can be put inside the cavity of the turkey or a chicken, but I prefer it either as stuffing balls or cooked in a dish. Quantities are approximate because, like Agnes with the biscuits, I learned to make it by watching Grandma.
Grandma’s Sweetcorn and Lemon Stuffing – Ingredients
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 2 sticks of celery, de-stringed and finely chopped
- a knob of butter
- Small tin of sweetcorn
- Half a loaf of stale brown bread made into breadcrumbs
- Lemon juice
- Salt and pepper
- Fresh parsley, washed and chopped
Melt the butter gently in a pan, and add the onion and celery. Cook over low heat until translucent. Take off the heat.
Add the strained sweetcorn, breadcrumbs and chopped parsley. Stir. Add 2 tbsp of lemon juice. Taste. Add salt and pepper to taste. You may want to add more lemon juice or even more butter if the balls aren’t sticking together, but resist unless it’s absolutely necessary. I find that squeezing the mixture makes it stick together well enough!
Make the mixture into balls, about the size of a golfball, and put onto a baking sheet. Cover with foil. These will take about 15 mins to cook in the same oven as the turkey or chicken. Remove the foil about 5 mins from the end of the cooking time so that the stuffing balls don’t look anaemic!