Easy Classics- 3 Christmas Stuffing Recipes

There’s nothing like a big Christmas dinner with all the trimmings- and stuffing is always high on the trimmings list! Whether it’s vegan, vegetarian or contains meat, is cooked inside meat or on its own, there’s a stuffing to please everyone. Here are 3 of my favourites; sage & onion, thyme & parsley, and cranberry & walnut. These easy classics suit all sorts of meat and are guaranteed delicious!

Who doesn’t love a fancy roast dinner at Christmas?

What is Stuffing & Why is it Eaten?

Stuffing is a flavourful mix of edible ingredients, usually carbohydrate-heavy, that is traditionally cooked within a meat cavity. Stuffing can be made of many different things, but the base ingredients almost always include a starch (usually breadcrumbs), a herb or 3 (bay leaves, sage, garlic), chopped onion (or similar base vegetable), plus a binder such as egg.

Often made for special occasions or when we’re entertaining, stuffing recipes may follow trends in cooking and develop regional or cultural twists. You’ll find stuffing recipes that include everything from nuts to leeks to tofu to fruit and back again. And while stuffing is usually cooked and eaten with meat, you can definitely roll your stuffing into balls and enjoy it as a side dish.

There is no particular reason why stuffing is eaten at Christmas, other than it is a traditional accompaniment to turkey, the most popular Christmas meat. Turkey can be a dry or bland meat, and stuffing is thought to add flavour and texture to the dish- and of course it makes the meat go further too.

And in case you’re wondering, stuffing isn’t a slang word…stuffing really is the correct word for stuffing!

About the breadcrumbs-you need to make breadcrumbs for stuffing…the packet stuff really won’t do. And in order to get the juiciness ‘just right’, it’s important to use breadcrumbs made from stale bread. Stale bread will absorb the liquid better, but you don’t want it bone dry either. To get the best possible texture, tear up sliced bread and spread it out on a baking tray in a single layer. Leave it sitting out for a day or two. This will dry out the bread just enough to help it absorb the liquid from the meat without getting soggy. If you’re in a hurry, you can skip this step by tossing it into a 200° oven for 20-30 minutes. The results won’t be quite the same as the overnight method, but it’ll be pretty close. Once your bread is stale, pulse it in a food processor until it is coarsely chopped.

Sage & onion stuffing balls

Sage & Onion Stuffing

Good enough to eat as a stand-alone dish, this flavoursome traditional stuffing is simple and easy to make. Egg is optional- I recommend adding an egg if you’re making this as a side dish, but omitting the egg if you’re using it as a stuffing inside meat.

Ingredients (these quantities are for a large turkey or a plate of stuffing balls-use half of this for a chicken or rolled roast)

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups breadcrumbs
  • 50g softened butter
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
  • salt & pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a pan over a low heat, then cook the onion in it for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally until caramelised. Remove from the heat and set aside until cool to the touch. Mix the onion with the remaining ingredients and combine well. Add plenty of salt and pepper. Use as a stuffing for meat, capsicums, etc. To serve as stuffing balls, include a beaten egg in this mixture then roll into balls and spray lightly with oil. Bake on a lined oven tray for 25-30 mins or until golden.

Thyme & parsley stuffing balls

Thyme & Parsley Stuffing

Just like the sage & onion, this is a classic herb-based stuffing that complements a wide variety of meats and vegetables. This quantity is enough for one chicken- triple it for a turkey or to make a plate of stuffing balls.

Ingredients

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • salt & pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a pan over low-medium heat & gently fry the onion for 15 minutes (until it is translucent but not coloured). Remove from heat and set aside. Once cool to the touch, mix the remining ingredients through with the onion. Use to stuff meat or chicken and roast as directed.

Cranberry & walnut stuffing balls

Cranberry & Walnut Stuffing

Turkey and cranberry is a flavour pairing that has never gone out of style. Cranberries add sweet tartness and a chewy texture to any dish, so they’re a natural accompaniment to meat dishes for those who like the contrast of sweet and savoury. You can use this stuffing in any meat on the Christmas dinner table.

Ingredients (this should be enough for 2 chickens or a small turkey)

  • 2 cups breadcrumbs
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 40g butter
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup craisins (dried cranberries)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon thyme leaves (if unavailable, substitute lemon balm or thyme)

Roast or dry-fry the walnuts on a low heat until they are toasted- this should take 10-15 minutes. Set aside to cool. Heat the butter in a frying pan over medium heat until foaming. Add the onion and cook gently until softened. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. Place the breadcrumbs, walnuts, onion, craisins, egg and lemon thyme leaves in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Mix all ingredients by hand until well combined. Use to stuff your turkey and roast as directed.

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