This is a wonderful tasting Sage and Onion Stuffing recipe for a ‘classic’ stuffing or ‘forcemeat’ mixture – it is also a very versatile recipe, going with so many other recipes requiring a stuffing, including all the varieties of roast birds. It uses the complementary, savoury flavours of sage and onion, whilst being sweetened and enhanced by the inclusion of sausage meat, (or skinned sausages from your favourite variety) apples, bacon, dates and chestnuts. The best tip to achieving a great stuffing mixture is to make sure everything is chopped or minced up very small and roughly to the same size.
Sage And Onion Stuffing Recipe
IMPORTANT: if you are using the stuffing straight away (either roasting in a tray or stuffing into a bird) then you do not have to allow the fried bacon and onions to cool completely before adding into the other ingredients, but if you are making the stuffing up in advance, to use later or the next day, then you need to let the bacon and onion cool completely before adding it to the other ingredients (particularly the uncooked sausage meat).
Chestnuts: I normally buy the cheaper fresh chestnuts, when in season, and roast them quickly myself, but if out of season I use the more expensive vacuum packed chestnuts, which are equally as good.
- 6 to 8 thick slices of stale white bread
- 1 large onion, diced very small
- 1 small cooking apple, peeled, cored and cut up very small
- 150g chestnuts, roasted, then chopped up small
- 100g of streaky bacon, cut into pieces
- 450g of quality sausage meat (you can remove skins from 6 bought ones)
- 100g of dried dates, cut into very small pieces
- 20g of butter
- 2 eggs, beaten
- Fresh herb leaves chopped small: 2 tbsp sage, 1 tbsp rosemary, 1 tbsp thyme
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
Remove the crusts from the bread (and discard) and cut the stale bread up into small pieces. Remove the skin from the sausages, if you are using sausages for the sausage meat.
If you are using fresh chestnuts you need to roast them in the oven for thirty minutes at 180C – using a small, sharp knife, cut a cross into, and through, the skin of each nut – if you do not do this some of the chestnuts could explode. Put them in a dry roasting tin and bake until the skins open and the insides are tender – 30 minutes. Remove, allow to cool, and while still warm peel off the skins. Chop up the white nut flesh small.
Cut up the onion and streaky bacon into small dice – add to a frying pan, and fry in the butter gently until the onions are soft and translucent, for about 7 minutes. Tip into a small bowl and allow to cool completely.
All the ingredients should be chopped up small, and roughly to the same size, except the herbs which need to be chopped up very fine – you can grate or chop up the apple last. Mix them together in a large bowl, then add in the cooled onion and bacon and finally the beaten eggs. Season with salt and pepper. Mix the stuffing well with your hands, or a wooden spoon, until everything is fully brought together. I also use a potato masher to finish off the stuffing mix, to get it really fine and well mixed.
Preheat the oven 180C
Roasting: At this stage the sage and onion stuffing can be used to stuff a bird before roasting: pack the stuffing in deep towards the neck, but leave the top of the cavity free, for hot air to circulate whilst roasting. Remember to weigh the bird with the stuffing to calculate cooking times.
Or it can be cooked separately in an oven tray.
Use a wide and shallow roasting tray, to maximise the surface area to get the top crispy. Lightly grease the oven tray with oil and then cut down a piece of baking parchment to fit in the tray and up the long sides (this will help you pull the sage and onion stuffing out of the tray after roasting).
Pack the stuffing mixture into the tray and run a fork along the top of the stuffing to rough it up and help crisp the top when roasting. Place it onto a larger baking tray to catch any excess liquid which might bubble out when roasting.
Place the tray into the oven and roast the sage and onion stuffing at 180C for 60 minutes – it can be roasted seperately, or with the bird (or meat) in the oven, for the last hour.
Roasting the stuffing: many historic recipes, particularly for roasting birds, give you directions for stuffing the cavity when roasting, (hence the old name ‘forcemeat’ from the French ‘farce’ or ‘farcemeat’) doing this will add to the roasting time of the bird – it also limits the heat from the oven circulating around, inside the cavity, which is why some people recommend cooking the stuffing separately. The benefit to cooking the stuffing inside the bird or animal is that the cavity, and the surrounding meat closest to it, does not dry out and it gains in extra flavour.
Therefore, depending on the occasion, and size of the bird, this sage and onion stuffing can be roasted inside the bird (or animal) being roasted or it can be roasted separately. If the bird is large and dries out easily (turkey) stuff it with this mixture. If the bird is small or is very fatty (goose) then roast the stuffing separately. At Christmas or Easter it is traditional for the bird to be stuffed.
Increase roasting times: Stuffing a bird will increase the cooking time needed; always calculate the cooking time based not on the weight of the bird, but how much it weighs after you have stuffed it with this mixture. While cooked separately, in a wide, shallow roasting tray (to increase the top surface area, to get the stuffing crispy on top) this sage and onion stuffing only needs about 60 minutes at 180C in the oven.