Cooking with hay

Nov 20, 2017
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One of the most appealing cookbooks I was sent just before Christmas was Pascal Aussignac’s Cuisinier Gascon so when I caught sight of his Christmas Goose stuffed with Hay (also printed here in the Guardian) I had to give it a try. We’d bought an organic goose from a friend who farms in Somerset so it was easy enough to ask him for the hay too. It was wonderfully sweet-smelling – just like a cut summer meadow – so I was sure the experiment was going to be a success.

I stuffed the hay in the carcass as instructed and put the goose in the Aga. The first sign that anything was amiss was when very little fat emerged from the bird – the hay of course had mopped it all up. Then the goose started smelling of hay but not in a nice way . . . more like a compost heap than a meadow. The Aga was also rebelling against the vast amount of food in it and suddenly dropped its temperature so the goose cooking went on and on, getting more hay-y by the moment.

Eventually we got there. The goose didn’t taste as offputting as it smelt though I can’t say it was a great culinary experience. But worst of all we only had just enough fat to cook a couple of batches of potatoes. I was expecting to be in goose fat for weeks.

It’s possible of course that because it was a free-range, grass fed bird it hadn’t accumulated much fat but I certainly resented the hay having it. Next time I’ll stick to my tried and trusted method of stuffing the goose with potatoes and onions, Simon Hopkinson style. 

Did you eat goose for Christmas and if so which way? Have you had any comparable cooking failures? Or ever tried cooking with hay?

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