There's something about the weather growing colder that makes me want to spend Sunday afternoon pottering around the house and making a roast dinner. I don't know where that feeling comes from as I don't really remember a traditional Sunday Dinner ritual at home when I was growing up.
I also don't remember ever tasting stuffing (although I probably did and just didn't like the texture) until my student days when a friend would make the packet kind into stuffing balls to accompany (non-roast) dinners - such was the joy of a tiny packet costing less than 10p that grew into a large amount of food!
In my adult life I've gone through phases of Sunday roast-making rituals - usually according to the season - but until this year, apart from Christmas, I had still been using that student life staple of stuffing from a packet, rehydrated and baked. Cameron is a fiend for sage and onion stuffing and so I didn't think to deviate.
At Christmastime I make a bacon-wrapped sausage and sage stuffing cake that I found in a magazine article. It's simple to make and always turns out to be the most popular thing on the table which has had me thinking about whether there might be more to stuffing than just being a lowly side dish.
Times are tough right now and with food prices rising a meaty roast dinner is not necessarily possible on a weekly basis. An organic free range chicken, for instance, can cost almost a third of our weekly food budget and even if you stretch the meat out over several meals it's still expensive. So I've been thinking... what if stuffing took centre stage every now and again? Not the packet kind, obviously, but special homemade stuffing - like a fancier version of a meatloaf that can also be meatless!
Something I love about making my own stuffing is the scope for variety. Working with a base of breadcrumbs and binding the mixture with an egg you can throw in whatever you fancy or whatever is handy at the time: leftover pumpkin, mushrooms, polenta, seeds and nuts, herbs, a few greens etc. you can jazz up the appearance by using crouton-cut bread on the top, enrich the flavours with good quality stock, cater for all kinds of diets (mine is usually vegetarian and made with gluten free breadcrumbs) and if you're craving that meaty roast you can wrap the stuffing in bacon or pancetta... the possibilities really are endless.
I think this idea warrants a bit more investigation and experimentation!
Do you make your own stuffing? What's your favourite kind?