Matthew Fort: Boxing clever

The trembling hand? A grating sensation at the back of your skull? Your eyes feeling slightly too big for their sockets? Is your body registering a heartfelt protest against Christmas Day's excesses? Of course not - how silly of me to think it could be so.

Poor old Boxing Day is shadowed by the excesses of the day before, but for me its pleasures are just as great. Greater, really, because there is far less expectation placed on them. What's more, you're rid of the surplus social baggage and are left with those you truly love. Second, there's a sense of relaxation.

And then there is the food. Of course, you can just wade through leftovers - and I shall make a few suggestions about them next week - but if you want a change of pace and diet, Boxing Day means you can cook what you really feel like, not what tradition - family or other - dictates. Naturally, you don't want anything too rich. On the other hand, it must be nourishing, digestible and pleasurable. And cooked in advance or requiring minimal attention.

Recipes serve six.

Cold roast goose

Of course, you can eat one hot on Christmas Day, but my goose preference is cold on Boxing Day. There is something about the combination of richness of flavour and cool temperature, about the close-knit texture of the meat, about the sheer magnificence of the bird in its roasted pomp, that carries a sense of restoration into a day that is so often marked by the collateral damage of the day before. You can also cook it a couple of days ahead, so that it's ready when you want it. Judy Goodman, from whom I bought my goose (, told me that when she cooks a goose for cold, she stuffs it with the green part of leeks, some thyme or sage, and an apple. I cooked mine without any of those, wanting only the full, unfettered flavour of the goose. Fry potatoes in the copious fat that oozes out of the bird, for a sensation of unparalleled pleasure and naughtiness.

1 medium goose (about 5kg)

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Prick the fat glands under the wing of the goose and around the parson's nose. Place the goose on its back in a roasting tray and slide it into the oven. Leave it like that for an hour. Turn it on one side and leave for another 45 minutes. Turn it on the other side and repeat the treatment. Turn it breast side up, sprinkle with salt and leave for another 45 minutes.

By this stage, the bird will be cooked and bronzed all over. Pour the fat into a bowl - once cool, keep it in the fridge and use it for frying everything and anything for the next month or so.

Gooseberry sauce with orange peel

There is a pleasing echo between the name of the fruit base of this sauce and the main event above. Even more pleasing is the symbiosis between their flavours.

1 organic orange

25g butter

400g frozen gooseberries

50g caster sugar

Peel the orange (keep the flesh for the next recipe), ensuring there is no pith attached, then cut into very fine needles. Blanch the peel in boiling water and refresh in cold.

Melt the butter in a pan. Add the gooseberries, sugar, a pinch of salt and the orange peel needles. Cook until the gooseberries have burst and gone all gooey. Leave to cool to room temperature. Serve with the goose.

Fennel, orange and olive salad

Something of a Sicilian classic, but its crunchy sharpness cuts across the opulence of the goose.

3 fennel bulbs
3 oranges

Extra-virgin olive oil

125g black olives

Slice the fennel as finely as you can - I do this on a mandolin; not one of those expensive professional ones, but a simple blade on a sturdy, plastic frame that my mother bought me. It does the job very well. Put the slices into a bowl. Peel the oranges right down to the flesh, then cut out the segments from the surrounding membranes by cutting in from the outside towards the centre (it's easier than it sounds, so do give it a go). Add the orange segments to the fennel slices, then stir in as much olive oil as you like. The orange will provide the acid element in the dressing, in place of vinegar. Decorate with the olives. If you have kept any of the feathery fennel fronds, chop them up and sprinkle them over the top, too.

Beetroot and horseradish salad

An alternative to the fennel and orange salad, as this splendid winter dish may be a little too characterful to run alongside. Make it a few days ahead and keep it in a jar in the fridge, where its flavours will develop to beautiful effect.

4 medium fresh beetroots
1 lemon, juiced
A splash of red wine
1 dssp fresh horseradish (or 3-4 dssp horseradish relish)
1 dssp caraway seeds

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6. Put the beetroots, unpeeled, into the oven and cook until soft (around 45 minutes to an hour). Remove from the oven and leave to cool, then peel and slice as thinly as possible (on that trusty mandolin, if you have one). Pour the lemon juice and wine over the beetroot slices, stir in the horseradish and sprinkle with caraway. Decant into a jar and store in the fridge.

Apple tansy

And why not? The tansy may be one of the forgotten delights of the British pudding repertoire, but it seems to me to be at one with the relaxed and homely nature of Boxing Day.

500g tart apples
50g butter
75g caster sugar
4 egg yolks
75g white breadcrumbs
285ml double cream
2 egg whites

Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/gas mark 3. Peel and slice the apples. Melt the butter in an ovenproof frying pan, and fry the apple until just coloured. Sprinkle with sugar and grate over a little nutmeg.

In a bowl, beat the egg yolks and breadcrumbs. Add the cream and mix. Whisk the egg whites until stiff, then fold in. Pour over the apples in the pan, bake until just set, and serve hot.

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