Christmas Roast Turkey
The centrepiece of Christmas tables up and down the country – the turkey is a much loved but also much maligned Christmas tradition. For every person I know who loves it, I know one who despises it and quite a few have turned away from it altogether. Goose has made a bit of a comeback recently and although I do enjoy goose, it doesn’t quite give me the value I’m looking for at this time of the year. The problem most people seem to have with Turkey is that it can be dry and flavourless. Although I may have agreed with that sentiment a few years ago, since I switched to a free range bronze bird, I haven’t looked back.
Do Not Overcook!
I love the Turkey tradition. We get a bird that is far too big for what we need and we gorge on it for days afterwards, with some even going into the freezer for Winter pies in the new year. The key to cooking a turkey is not to overcook it. A free range bronze turkey will cook much quicker than a conventionally reared bird, indeed the one I used for this recipe, at 4.6KG took just two hours. I calculate the time as 30 mins per kilogram plus 15 minutes extra but check it with a thermometer well in advance. For example, I calculated that the 4.6KG bird would take 2 hours and 35 minutes but when I checked it with a thermometer after 2 hours, it was cooked. The thickest part of the breast and thigh should read 74 degrees.
There are lots of tips and tricks online about how to cook a turkey. I’ve never been part of the tinfoil hat brigade and although I see the benefit to turning the bird upside down, I don’t feel the need to do it. If you don’t overcook it, you don’t need to do anything to it! Season it well, cook it and most importantly let it rest. My turkey will rest for at least an hour to allow the meat to relax and all of the juices to redistribute. This has the added advantage that your oven is free for roast potatoes and vegetables for the hour before dinner.
We have a few traditions in our house around Christmas time – Christmas Eve pints in Con’s, Christmas afternoon naps and my Mother’s Turkey soup are all much loved but the most important one is the sausages which get cooked in the turkey’s bum. Instead of stuffing the bird with, well stuffing, we put a pound of sausages into the cavity and let them cook in all the wonderful fat that invariably fills the inside of the bird. They are the most incredible sausages you will ever eat.
The gravy recipe here is made with approximately 300ml of roasting juices. If you are using a bigger bird and have more juices feel free to multiply the recipe to make more.
Free-Range Roast Turkey and Gravy
1 Free Range Bronze Turkey with Giblets
2 Onions (roughly chopped)
2 Carrots (roughly chopped)
2 sticks of Celery (roughly chopped)
4 cloves of Garlic (whole)
1 Bay Leaf
1 lb of Sausages
2 heaped tbsp of Plain Flour
500ml Chicken/Turkey Stock
1/2 tsp English Mustard
1 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
Remove the turkey from the fridge 2-3 hours before cooking. Remove the giblets from the cavity and season well all over. Weigh the turkey and calculate the cooking time – 30 minutes per kilogram plus 15 minutes extra.
Place the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, bay leaf and giblets on a large baking tray and season liberally with salt and pepper. Place the turkey on top of the vegetables and put the sausages into the cavity ensuring they are well tucked in. Put the turkey into a preheated 180 deg C (conventional) or 160 deg C (fan) oven for the calculated time. Check the turkey 2/3 of the way through the cooking time in case it cooks quicker. It’s cooked when the thickest part of the breast and thigh read over 74 degrees C on a thermometer.
When cooked, remove the tray from the oven and put the turkey onto a large plate/platter to rest for at least an hour. You can cover the bird with tinfoil and tea towels if you wish.
Meanwhile pour all of the juices/fat from the tray into a measuring jug. Put the jug into the fridge for 30 minutes to allow the fat to separate from the juices. Put the vegetables/giblets from under the turkey into a saucepan and place on a low heat. The roasting tray can now be used for delicious roast vegetables which will cook in any fat/juices left behind from the turkey.
Add the flour to the saucepan of vegetables/giblets. Stir well and cook over a medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the stock and season liberally before bringing to the boil, stirring all of the time. Remove the turkey juices from the fridge and pour/spoon off the fat which will now be at the surface (the fat is great for roast potatoes). Add the juices to the gravy, bring to the boil and reduce the heat to a simmer.
Allow the gravy to blip away for 10 minutes before stirring in the mustard, balsamic vinegar and cream. Check for seasoning. Stir the butter into the gravy just before serving.
Carve the turkey and serve smothered in gravy.