Goose, beef, pork, pheasant, duck; you name it, we’d eat it for Christmas dinner – all apart from reindeer, obviously! But Mr C and I absolutely love a good old traditional turkey; for us there is no beating it, but only the most splendid of birds will do. We order our bronze turkey all the way from KellyBronze in the UK, because they are free-range and traditionally reared for exceptional flavour.
Now, my darlings, if you are planning to cook a turkey yourself for the first time this Christmas, then first things first; have a quick drink! Go on, it can’t hurt; I would recommend rum, whisky or brandy ideally. Next, plan out (with military precision) exactly what you need to consider, including each dish that you wish to serve alongside the turkey – this is important because cooking a Christmas dinner is much like preparing a very large roast dinner and timing is the key.
So the idea is that once the bird is in the oven, you really only need to tend to it once or twice throughout the cooking time, and for the rest of the time you can prep all the accompanying dishes, set the table, open pressies with the family and most vitally, have a touch of bubbly to celebrate as well! Remember, Christmas day comes but once a year and must be enjoyed!
As it’s a holiday, many of your family members are likely to indulge in a well deserved lie in and because of this, planning your dinner for 2pm or even 3pm would certainly not be too late! This also means that you aren’t necessarily required to wake up at the crack of dawn and you will have a little bit more time to ensure that all the elements of the meal are on schedule and that everything is going smoothly.
Of course, if you have excitable little ones pitter-pattering around in the early hours, sneaking a peak at the stockings and unwrapping great boxes of chocolates, then perhaps a small bowl of porridge with some yoghurt and fruit is advisable; this should help them get through the long morning and reduce the need for excessive snacking before the big dinner.
So, to the business of the food and although I will be sharing further ideas for accompaniments, for now here is how to prepare the turkey itself…
Traditional Roast Bronze Turkey
(Serves 10 – 12)
1 6kg/ 14lb Bronze turkey (calculate roasting time by weight)
125ml olive oil
1 onion, peeled and halved
1 stick cinnamon, snapped in half
1 small bunch each of the following herbs tied together with string:
Fresh sage leaves, fresh parsley, fresh rosemary, fresh thyme
2 tsp coarse sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Before you retire for the night on Christmas Eve, remove the turkey from the fridge and still covered place it on a work surface to come to room temperature. Ensure that the turkey is kept safely away from any pets, small children or reindeer.
On Christmas morning, preheat the oven to 190°C. Pour some of the olive oil on to your hands and massage all over the breast side of the turkey and the legs so it is lightly but evenly coated.
Place the turkey, breast-side down in a large, foil-lined roasting tray on a non-stick roasting rack, sturdy enough to hold the turkey. Fold the skin of the neck flap back over the neck cavity and secure to the back of the turkey with a small wooden skewer.
Stuff the body cavity of the turkey with the fresh herbs, cinnamon stick, clementine, lemon and onion and tuck any excess skin over the cavity to stop any of the pieces from tumbling out of the bird.
Place in the middle of the oven and roast for approximately 2 ½ hours. After an hour of the cooking time, baste the turkey with the juices in the bottom of the roasting tray. Replace in the oven to continue to cook. Thirty minutes before the end of the cooking time, carefully turn the bird on to it’s back to brown the breast. It is best to use oven gloves and roasting forks to turn the turkey.
Baste the breast again with the collected turkey juices, scatter with coarse sea salt and freshly ground pepper and return to the oven for the final thirty minutes.
To test if the turkey is ready, insert a small sharp knife into the skin where the leg meets the body and if the juices run clear it is ready. If the juices still run pink, simply return the turkey to the oven for a further ten minutes and test again. If using a meat thermometer, insert into the leg and if it comes to 74ºC it is cooked.
Once the turkey is cooked, cover loosely with foil to keep the meat warm and leave it to rest for 30 – 45 minutes before serving.