Christmas dinner is brilliant. Deep-fried foods are brilliant. Why not combine them?
We enlisted the help of Paul Hemings and Cara Ceppetelli from Bird, who know a thing or two about deep-frying. Bird specialises in free-range fried chicken, so if anyone was going to make this work, it was them.
Here's our menu:
Main course: Turkey, gravy, sprouts, pigs in blankets, stuffing balls, and Yorkshire pudding.
Desserts: Trifle and Christmas pudding with brandy butter.
Snacks: Mince pies and a Christmas sandwich.
First up: Sprouts and Yorkshire pudding
We boil the sprouts in the microwave first to soften them up, then dip them in a light tempura batter. The end result isn't going to convert any sprout haters but they're a welcome burst of green on the plate.
"Probably one of the best uses ever for inevitably leftover cold sprouts," Cara says. "You still get a strong sprout flavour though, which can be either good or bad for people."
The deep-fried Yorkshire puddings are life-changing. Like a savoury doughnut. Or any kind of doughnut. A member of Bird's staff comes to try one. "I'm from York," she explains. "And I want to make these for Christmas dinner now."
"It kind of takes the risk out of having a less-than-perfect Yorkshire pudding straight from the oven," Paul adds. "A light tempura batter and a quick fry gives you all the best bits of the Yorkshire pudding, bringing it back to life."
Next: Pigs in blankets and stuffing balls
The fat inside the pigs in blankets is molten. I can only handle a tiny bite, sucking air in quickly to cool down my burnt tongue. The hardier members of our group tuck in though. "What a great party snack!" Paul adds.
Meanwhile, the deep-fried stuffing balls are basically like crunchy meatballs – meaty herby stuffing with a crunchy coating. A dunk of cranberry sauce is all they need. "These are surprisingly good, and very easy. It's handheld stuffing!" Cara says.
We opt for sliced turkey, and aren't expecting much. But actually it's OK. If you want to try this at home, thicker slices are the way to go.
"This actually turned out pretty well – and would be a nice way to use up those dry bits of leftover turkey," Paul says. "You need quite thick slices, dunked in a fish & chip-style batter, and deep-fried for just a couple of minutes."
For dessert: Trifle and Christmas pudding
"The trifle needs a parcel, so we're going to wrap it up in a mu-shu pancake," says Paul. We seal the pancakes elegantly with a little trifle mix. You can taste baked custard and strawberry in the end product. It's a bit like a bread and butter pudding.
We take a similar approach with the Christmas pudding. We wrap a dollop of pudding and a chunk of brandy butter in a pancake, then deep-fry it. Not unlike a Christmas wonton. The pudding remains pretty intact. It's moist and fruity, but it's still Christmas pudding. Much like the sprouts, it's not going to convert a hater.
Next: Christmas leftovers sandwich
We make a sandwich from turkey, homemade mayo, stuffing (cooked on the griddle), gravy, cranberry sauce, and white bread. And then we batter and deep-fry the whole thing.
This deep-fried sandwich is, in one word, intense. It's like a Christmas sandwich spring roll. It's so rich and savoury that I can only manage a corner. It's delicious and I love it, but I fear this love might kill me.
Cara offers instruction for home cooks: "It definitely needs soft, squidgy white bread, with the turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and gravy layered on but carefully staying away from the edges of the bread. The edges need to be crimped neatly around the edges to seal in the sandwich before being lightly battered and fried."
Finally: Mince pies
The mince pie puffs up beautifully, and it tastes surprisingly light. Even our photographer, a mince pie nonbeliever, takes a second bite. "The seasoning in the tempura batter counters the sweetness of the mince pie," I suggest, while scooping a dollop of brandy butter on top.
Paul agrees: "Mince pies are always better warm, and this takes it to another level. It would go great with some brandy-spiked whipped cream or even double cream."