Margaret Fulton
22 recipes
Published by
Hardie Grant Books
Geoff Lung

My mother’s Sunday dinner was invariably one of two things – rare roast beef or a roast chicken, big and fat and crisp and brown. There were no fancy trimmings and no surprise stuffings, but we used the best china and sat down to dinner in our best Sunday clothes. The whole house took on a special atmosphere.

For 18 years this was the cosy pattern of our household and it might have continued had not my sister Jean gone to live in Italy, France and other ‘foreign parts’. She returned to live with us when the Second World War broke out and she was now a sophisticate. We soon learned that the French poulet, the Spanish and Italian pollo, the Indian murgh and the Chinese gai all meant chicken, and chicken began to appear on the Sunday table in completely new guises.

The plump familiar shape had sometimes a garland of unfamiliar vegetables, sometimes the shape wasn’t there at all. Chicken sautéed the French way, cut up before cooking and served with a creamy sauce, exotic seasonings and a lacing of wine was soon accepted by the whole family for one reason – it tasted so good.

Poultry is no longer a special occasion dish and it’s natural that the prices have come down with mass production. Something of the old-fashioned flavour of poultry has been lost, which has brought about a new approach to cooking methods. The cook has to put the flavour back into the bird.

I like to buy free-range poultry, even better if it is organic. I believe a bird that has spent time scratching around and pecking the ground will taste as it should and has also had some sort of life. Such a bird you pay extra for, but I would prefer to eat chicken less often and make the meal more special.


Chicken is always best when fresh but is often sold frozen. The weight is clearly marked and is also classified by numbers with the metric weight. Organic chickens are best. Look for Enviroganic, just one of the many good organic chickens available.

To joint or carve a chicken

Place the bird on a board with the neck end facing you. Using a sharp knife and holding the bird firmly with one hand, cut the skin around the leg with the knife against the carcass and press the leg joint gently outwards to expose the joint. Cut through and slip the point of the knife under the back to release the ‘oyster’ with the thigh meat. You should now have a maryland, which can be cut in half to make a drumstick and a thigh. The ‘parson’s nose’ can be cut from the thigh. Repeat with the other leg.

To cut the wing joints with some breast meat attached, make a cut into the breast running parallel with the wishbone. Pull the wing away from the carcass and cut against the ribs until you reach the ball joint. Now cut through the joint and detach.

Cut through the centre of the breastbone then cut away each side of the breast. If carving, you may like to carve the breast.

Trim the joints, removing any excess fat and scraggly skin on bones. Keep back and neck to use later for stock.

Cut the skin between the leg and breast of each side. Twist legs briskly to break the joints then cut away each leg together with the thigh (marylands).

Keeping breast-side up, imagine the breast as an elongated diamond taking some of the breast meat for each wing joint. Use scissors or a sharp knife to remove these from the rib cage. Cut the remaining breast into two sections. This gives 6 good-sized portions.

Buying chicken pieces:

Breast: Sold either halved, boned and skinned or left whole with bone and skin attached. Boned half breasts can also be cut with the wing attached. True chicken breast fillets are the long thin pieces of meat that lie beneath either side of the breast. Ideal for grilling, baking or pan-frying, it can also be poached and served with a sauce or used for salads. Take care not to overcook the breast as it is less fatty than other parts of the chicken and can quickly become dry.

Drumsticks: Fry, grill or barbecue. Good for a crowd, roasted in the oven.

Chicken marylands: Includes thigh and drumstick. Fry, grill or roast, or make chicken casseroles.

Wings, necks and giblets: Also sometimes sold as a soup pack, good for flavoursome soups or stock.

Chicken livers: Make a pâté, sauté in butter, wrap in bacon and grill, or add to a spinach salad. Before using in any recipe, cut away tubes and any discoloured spots with a sharp knife.

Sautéed chicken and other chicken dishes

Sautéing is a quick way to cook chicken and there are an endless number of sauces to add variety to this relatively simple dish. We prefer to joint an organic chicken ourselves, but remember if you are buying chicken pieces that a selection of different cuts will make a more interesting dish to please everyone.

Special poultry

It always seems like a party when duck or turkey comes to the table but, like chicken, these birds are now appearing on the market at a price most people can afford more than once a year. This means turkey or duck need not be kept only for Christmas or such festive occasions. However, as with chicken, I prefer to eat these birds less often and choose organic and free-range turkeys and ducks.

Stuffing a turkey

For some, the stuffing is the favourite part of the roast turkey. As well as adding flavour, stuffing can help the cooking of the bird by holding it in shape, keeping it moist and making it go further. Here are some pointers:

Mix and handle stuffings lightly, so as not to compact them, leaving room for the stuffings to expand during cooking and stay light. If some stuffing is left over after filling the bird, cook it separately for 45 minutes in a greased baking dish, covered with foil.

Make fresh breadcrumbs for stuffings, using 2–4 day-old bread. If you have a blender or food processor, beautiful breadcrumbs can be made very easily, by processing chunks of bread until turned into crumbs.

Stuff the turkey just before cooking, never ahead of time. The stuffing may be made ahead but store separately in refrigerator until required.

Take care not to overstuff the turkey as the stuffing expands and may cause the skin to burst during cooking. Stuff the crop first. Fold over the skin of the neck and secure with a poultry pin. Finally, stuff the cavity.

Is the turkey cooked? The turkey is cooked if a meat thermometer put into the thickest part of the thigh registers 90°C. If you don’t own a meat thermometer, pierce the thickest part of the thigh with a skewer. The turkey is cooked if it is easily pierced and clear, not pink, juice runs. Some turkeys come with a little pin on the breast, the red changes colour or pops out when the bird is cooked. Instructions are on the wrapping.

Carving the turkey

Remove the trussing string and poultry pin. Place a long-bladed sharp knife between the thigh and the body of the bird and cut through the joint. Remove the leg by pressing it outward with the knife and bending it back with the fork. Separate the thigh and drumsticks and slice off the dark meat. Repeat with the other leg. Remove the wings. Carve the breast with straight, even strokes. Carve the stuffing in the crop into thin slices and remove stuffing from the body with a spoon.

To serve: Each guest gets slices of white meat and some of the dark meat. Stuffing is put on each plate – a little of each. Pass the vegetables and gravy, for guests to help themselves.

Store leftovers carefully: After any meal, store leftovers promptly. If the stuffing is involved, remove from bird and store separately. Cut meat from the carcass in large pieces and then store in smaller containers, leaving valuable refrigerator space clear.

Vegetables for christmas dinner

The vegetables served with the Christmas bird are important to the success of the meal. Choose two or three from the following selection to make your meal complete.

Crisp-roasted potatoes and parsnips

Peas, french-style

Carrots vichy

Glazed sweet potatoes

Duck info

Duck is prized by gourmets for its rich flavour and succulence and can be prepared in a variety of ways. Don’t be misled by the size of a duck. A duck has more fat, a larger frame and less meat than a chicken of the same weight, so allow about 375–500 g raw weight per person.

To carve a duck:

Remove the trussing strings and set the bird on a board.

Cut straight down through the breastbone and back into halves. Use scissors, or poultry shears to cut through bone.

Lay each half on the board and make a slanting cut between the ribs to separate the wing and leg, making two good portions of each half. With scissors, trim away any carcass bone. The four portions should be two wings and two legs with a good piece of breast attached to each.


A small game bird, quail is white-fleshed and has a deliciously gamey taste. It is usually tender and should be cooked quickly either in a hot oven, or on a grill or barbecue. Allow 1 or 2 per person for a main course.

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