There are several ways to ensure you don’t serve up a dried out turkey on Christmas day and a large part of that is making sure you don’t dry out the white (turkey breast) meat. I do this in two ways, and the first step is to soak your turkey in a spicy brine bath, inspired by my Christmas guru, the fabulous Nigella Lawson.
Here’s what goes in:
1 large turkey
Vegetables and herbs for the turkey bed like spinach, leeks, onion, sage or parsley
Cubes of butter to place under the skin
For the brine bath:
Enough water to immerse your turkey in a large, clean tub
Half a cup of salt
4 tablespoons of sugar
Half a teaspoon of peppercorns
Half a teaspoon of coriander seeds
Half a teaspoon of cloves
Half a teaspoon of star anise
Half a teaspoon of allspice
2 bay leaves
2 cinnamon quills
For the basting:
Seasoning (your favourite chicken spice)
A tub of goose fat
For the stuffing:
500g Pork sausages, removed from casing
50g butter, melted
One tub/packet of store-bought stuffing mix (usually filled with sage and delicious seasoning)
How to do it
One day before you want to cook your turkey, place it in a large, clean tub and add the salt and spices. Cut the oranges in half, squeeze the juice over the turkey and then add the skins into the tub as well. Pour enough water over it so that the turkey is fully immersed, cover it and leave it to soak in a cool spot overnight.
Prepare the stuffing by removing the pork sausages from their casings. Place the meat in a mixing bowl and add the melted butter and stuffing mixture (which usually comes with instructions). Sometimes it calls for a bit of liquid, like stock or water to be added, and you can lighten the meat mixture and make it go further by adding a cup of cooked couscous.
- Remove the turkey from the water, drain it and pat it dry before stuffing the cavity of the turkey with the stuffing mix. Make incisions into the skin of the turkey just under the breast and gently pull the skin away, making a pocket that you can stuff butter into. This will prevent the turkey breast from drying out during cooking.
- BASTE & ROAST
Prepare the roasting pan by layering a bed of vegetables and herbs. You can slice the chunky ones, like onions and leeks. Sprinkle with a bit of olive oil and lay the turkey, breast side down onto the greens. Baste the turkey with the goose fat and season with salt and spices – I like to use chicken
seasoning. Cover your turkey with foil and cook at 160º allowing 45 minutes per kilogram. Halfway through the cooking time, turn the turkey over, and baste and season again. Now it’s time to crisp up the skin! When you have half an hour of cooking time left, remove the foil completely, baste the
turkey with marmalade and turn the temperature up to 180º. Remove it when it’s beautifully crisped and golden, and you’ve completed the required cooking time. Leave it to rest before you carve and serve it with with a fruity sauce, like cranberry or cherry, and a delicious gravy of course!