It’s the perfect marriage of sweet and savoury, crisp and succulent, herby and aromatic, that makes stuffing an integral part of the Christmas feast. Simple to make, and with so many flavour combinations, stuffing can be as classic or dressed-up as you wish. There are, however, a few essential elements. A protein like sausage contributes essential fat that makes the stuffing so flavoursome, but if pork isn’t on your agenda, a nutty, buttery addition is a perfect alternative. Also crucial is bread, such as sourdough, granary or white loaf, and the vegetables and binder of choice.
CLASSIC BRITISH SAGE AND ONION STUFFING
For some, the Christmas dinner means bringing together old favourites, so why change a classic? This dense savoury recipe brings together British ingredients, Bramley apples and Cumberland sausage, which can be used as the building block for any modifications.
- 2 onions, sliced
- 25g of butter
- 1 small Bramley apple, peeled and diced
- 800g Cumberland sausage, skin removed
- Handful of chopped sage, with extra for topping
- 140g your choice of breadcrumbs
Fry the onion in the butter until softened, then add the diced apple and cook for a minute longer. Cool, then mix with the remaining ingredients, seasoning to taste.
Pack into a 1kg loaf tin and bake for 30-40 minutes, or alternatively stuff into the bird.
THE SHOW STOPPER
If this year you decide to make your stuffing the centre piece, rather than a supporting act, this American-style recipe brings together sourdough, fennel and hazelnuts to give a more refined flavour and texture. Still hearty, with a fiery kick, and just as simple to make.
- 85g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
- 180g coarsely torn sourdough bread, dried out overnight
- 25g blanched hazelnuts
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 180g hot or sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 celery sticks, chopped
- ½ fennel bulb, chopped
- 2 tbsp chopped sage
- 1tbsp Maldon sea salt
- 60ml dry white wine
- 1 large egg
- 125ml chicken stock, plus extra
Preheat oven to 170degC and butter a shallow baking tray and a sheet of foil. Place bread in a large bowl.
Toast the hazelnuts in a frying pan until gold brown, cool, chop and add to the bread.
Heat 2tbsp butter in a large frying pan and add the sausage meat. Stir occasionally and cook until browned, and remove with a slotted spoon.
Add the onions, celery, fennel, and sage to the butter, season with salt and pepper and cook until soft and brown. Transfer to the bowl.
Reduce the heat of the pan, and deglaze with the wine, removing any brown bits until almost evaporated.
Add the remaining butter, melt, and drizzle over bread mixture.
Whisk the egg with the stock and pour over bread, seasoning with salt and pepper. Add more stock if needed, the bread should be just soaked through but not drenched.
Transfer to your baking dish and dot with butter, if desired. Cover with the buttered foil and cook for 30-35 mins. Remove the foil, increase the temperature to 200degC, and cook until brown and crisp.
FESTIVE FRUITY STUFFING
A sweeter stuffing lends itself to the rich, fatty nature of a roast dinner. Dried apricots and cranberries cut through the sausage, without taking over.
- 50g butter, plus extra for greasing
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 celery stick, chopped
- 150g fresh white breadcrumbs
- Grated zest of 1 small lemon
- 400g sausages, skins removed
- 100g dried apricots, finely chopped
- Large handful fresh flatleaf parsley, chopped
- 8 fresh sage sprigs, finely chopped
Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the onion and celery and cook until softened.
Remove from the heat and leave to cool in a mixing bowl.
Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl and season. Using your hands or a spatula, mix until well incorporated.
We like this recipe in small, portioned balls so roll into golf ball sized pieces and bake on a lined baking tray until golden – about 20 minutes.
HEALTHY & LIGHT VEGAN STUFFING
For those looking for a lighter accompaniment to the often heavy roast dinner, try this vegan recipe – it still packs a flavour punch without overpowering the flavour of the turkey.
- 2 loaves white bread, crusts removed and cubed
- 125ml olive oil
- 450g mixed mushrooms
- 170g pecan halves
- 1tbsp dried sage
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 leek, chopped
- 4 large celery sticks, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 pints vegetable stock
- 2 tbsp parsley
Heat your oven to 135degC. Spread the bread over two baking trays and bake until completely dried, moving occasionally – about 50 minutes.
Increase heat to 175degC. Place half the mushrooms in a food processor and pulse until roughly chopped. Transfer to a large bowl, and repeat with remaining mushrooms. Repeat with the pecans and set aside.
Heat oil in a large frying pan, add the mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently until all the moisture has evaporated. Add the onions, leeks, garlic and sage and cook until softened.
Add the stock and pecans, bring to a boil, then stir in the breadcrumbs. Season to taste.
Transfer to a greased loaf tin, cover with foil and bake until hot through. Remove the foil, and continue cooking until crisp on top – about 40 minutes in all.
Leave to cool for five minutes before serving, and sprinkle with remaining parsley.
Most recipes can be made in advance and frozen so if you think you’ll be strapped for time, plan ahead and simply defrost, re-crisp in a hot oven or fill your turkey on the day.
Stuffing may not be top of your list when it comes to crucial dinner planning, but we think these indulgent recipes might just change your mind!
Laura Reynolds is a London-based print journalism graduate aspiring to combine her love of food and drink with a career in the media industry. When she isn’t writing about food, she is either reading about it, making it or scoping out the next best place to indulge in it.