Christmas, a time for family, rest and relaxation for all... wrong! Not if you are the one in charge of the most important task of the day, the main event that everyone comes to your house for - no, not trying to keep grandma away from the sherry but cooking the Christmas turkey.
With the right planning and my step-by-step guide, you can take the stress away and enjoy the most delicious Christmas turkey you have ever had. Your guests will want you to host Christmas every year (but do not let them make you).
Turkey often gets branded as dry and that is because the legs will take longer to cook than the breast. The best solution is to use the stuffing between the meat and the skin of the turkey. This makes the breasts thicker so the bird cooks evenly, giving you a juicy, well-cooked turkey.
- 1tbsp olive oil
- A handful of sage leaves
- 12 slices of Pancetta or streaky bacon
- 6 garlic cloves
- 2 onions
- 2 sticks of celery, finely chopped
- 2 handfuls of breadcrumbs
- 1 handful of dried apricots, roughly chopped
- 300g minced pork
- Zest of 1 lemon
- A pinch of nutmeg
- 1 large egg
- Salt and pepper
- 1 turkey
- 12 small sprigs of rosemary
- 2 carrots
- 1 large orange
- 2tbsp plain flour
- 1l chicken stock
Step 1: Preheat the oven to the maximum setting.
Step 2: Make a start on the stuffing. In a saucepan on a medium heat, add the olive oil. Then add the sage leaves, half of the pancetta, two peeled and chopped garlic cloves, a finely chopped onion and the celery, and soften until brown.
Step 3: Take the saucepan off the heat and add the breadcrumbs and apricots, and leave to cool.
Step 4: Next, add your pork mince, lemon zest, nutmeg and egg to the saucepan. Season with salt and pepper before mixing well.
Step 5: Now make a start on the turkey. Give it a wipe on the inside and outside with kitchen paper (never wash it in the sink as this spreads bacteria around it and on kitchen surfaces).
Step 6: Take the remaining garlic and peel and cut into thin shards. Take the rest of the pancetta and halve the slices lengthways and then cut into 5cm-long rectangles. Take a small sprig of rosemary and roll the garlic and rosemary tightly (a bit like wrapping sausages in bacon). Repeat until there are 12 little parcels. Create six holes in the thighs of each leg and push the little wraps into the slits. This will add wonderful flavour to the meat.
Step 7: Cut the second onion into chunks and roughly chop the carrots.
Step 8: With the neck of the turkey facing you, find the edge of the skin that covers the breast, put your fingers in and start to separate the skin from the breast very gently, without breaking the skin. Then take the stuffing and push it in between the skin and the breast. Then use the excess skin and flap it underneath the turkey (or use a small skewer to hold it in place) to prevent anything spilling out.
Step 9: Heat the orange in the microwave for 30 seconds to release the oils and push it into the turkey's cavity. Then place the bird in a large roasting tin and surround it with the onions, carrots and the rest of the garlic.
Step 10: Cover the bird in foil and turn the oven down to 180 degrees Celsius/gas mark 4 and roast for the correct time (check the packaging for recommended times or ask your butcher if you are not sure -remember to add on a little bit of time to take account of the stuffing) until the juices run clear. For the last 30 minutes, take off the foil and let the skin brown. And pour the juices from the meat into a saucepan; this will be used for the gravy.
Step 11: Once the turkey is cooked, remove it from the oven and place it on a serving tray. Loosely cover it with foil or a clean towel and leave to rest 20 minutes.
Step 12: Finally the gravy. Add some flour to a new saucepan and cook for a minute (this is important to avoid a floury taste), then add the juices from the turkey and the chicken stock. Keep stirring the gravy until it thickens.
There you go, turkey and gravy that will have you wanting seconds and thirds.