The most traditional Christmas dinner is without a doubt roast turkey. I was watching a Christmas cooking programme last night, and celebrities were discussing the history of Christmas Special programmes. They started with Fanny Cradock in the 1950s, and ended with the experimental Heston Blumenthal. One of the celebrities started talking about the tradition of having turkey at Christmas, and rightfully said that there was no reason for it. There is no particular reason why we have turkey at Christmas, but basically we've just all become accustomed to it.
But turkey is not the only festive bird of the season. Just think about the Twelve Days of Christmas; there are seven swans, six geese, four colly birds, three French hens, and two turtle doves. Nowhere in that song is there mention of a turkey. If you listen to the song you will actually come to the conclusion that 'on the first day of Christmas' you should have - sing with me now - 'a partridge in a pear tree'.
It's not exactly a huge surprise that we went for turkey as our bird of choice though. If you're inviting the entire family round for Christmas, one solitary partridge is not going to get you very far.
It might be understandable that we don't have it on Christmas day, but partridge and other game birds have fallen off the radar all year round. Go back to those cooking programmes of the fifties and you might find a recipe for game, but not these days.
Even if we wanted to cook game, it is not that easy. When was the last time you saw a pheasant on the supermarket shelves?
To buy game you pretty much have two options: try your luck at a farmer's market, or buy it mail order. We buy our meat from Donald Russell. They sell high quality beef, pork, and lamb that we all know to be widely available, but they also sell other high quality meat that is hard to find these days, such as mutton and veal.
Then there is the game. You have a wide variety from venison to hare to game bird. A while ago we ordered some bird breasts for the first time. The pack was a selection of diced partridge, pheasant, and woodpigeon.
As it is not something we usually eat, it was put in the freezer until we decided what to do with it. Then, the other day, while making some stuffing, I thought to myself 'this stuffing would go really well when served alongside that diced meat'. And so 'P Bird Pie' was born.
1. If you are taking it from the freezer, put the bird breasts in the microwave on programmed defrost for fifteen minutes.
2. Once defrosted fry the breads in a pan for about twenty minutes or until it is cooked through.
3. Shred the meat in a food processor, then decant into a roasting dish.