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How to…cook the perfect Christmas Turkey by James Golding, chef director of The Pig


To avoid looking like total turkeys (and giving our families food poisoning) on the 25th December, we approached James Golding, chef director of the fabulous The Pig hotel group to ask just how he’d rustle up the perfect bird on Christmas Day. And, for all you turkey-phobes out there, check back later in the week for his delicious recipe for Braised Beef with Garden Vegetables…


Roast Free Range Bronze Turkey with Apricot and New Forest Chestnut Stuffing

“The problem with turkey is that we have a tendency to overcook it. People complain of how dry it is, but of course it is if you leave it in the oven overnight or get up at 6 am to put it in the oven for lunch. A medium sized turkey should only take 1 ½-2hrs  to cook maximum if you use this method, and after all, cooking a full on Christmas lunch is all about timing. The moisture will be retained in the breast because you are not waiting for the legs to cook and it will be far easier to carve.

Get your butcher to bone the legs for you( keep the bones for the gravy), and order some caul fat which is actually the stomach lining (optional) in advance. It’s actually no worse than eating sausages  and it keeps the legs a nice shape and moist whilst cooking. The French butchers use this method a lot on all different cuts of meat.

When cooking a 4-5kg free range turkey…

Ingredients for the stuffing

  • 1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • A few sprigs of thyme, chopped
  • 20g butter
  • 200g minced chicken thighs
  • 90g dried apricots, quartered
  • 150g vacuum packed chestnuts, available from most good supermarkets
  • The livers from the bird, cleaned and finely chopped
  • 90g fresh white breadcrumbs
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 120-150g caul fat, soaked in cold water

For the gravy

  • 1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, washed and roughly chopped
  • 1 stick of celery, washed and finely chopped
  • The bones and neck from the turkey, roughly chopped and roasted
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • A few sprigs of thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 10 peppercorns
  • 50g flour
  • 1 tsp tomato puree
  • 2 – 2 ½ ltrs chicken stock


1. To make the stuffing gently cook the onion and thyme for a few minutes in the butter until soft. Transfer into a bowl and leave to cool for a few minutes. Add the minced chicken, apricots, chestnuts, the livers and the breadcrumbs. Mix well and season with salt and pepper.

2. Ensure all of the long sinews are removed from the legs. Lay the legs with the skin side down on a flat surface, and lay about a quarter of the mixture down the centre. Roll up the leg tightly, then wrap about 3 layers of caul fat around the leg. Tie about 4 or 5 times to secure the leg. Repeat on the other leg and wrap the rest of the stuffing in greaseproof paper and then tin foil in a sausage shape.

3. Meanwhile pre-heat the oven to 220ºc/gas mark7. Rub the turkey breasts with a little vegetable oil or butter and season with salt and pepper. Put the turkey into a roasting tray with the chopped bones and the vegetables for the gravy.

4. Cook on 220ºc for 30 minutes, then turn the oven down to 190ºc/gas mark 5 and add the legs. Stir the vegetables every so often until lightly coloured when they should be spooned out of the tray.

5. Continue to cook the turkey for a further 40 minutes to 1 hour. Then test by inserting a roasting fork or a skewer into the thickest part of the breast, if the tip is hot, it’s cooked. This would normally take about 1 ½ hours maximum for a medium sized bird, but test it after 1 ¼ hours. Also bear in mind that the turkey will continue cooking as it cools down.

6. Meanwhile make the gravy. Remove the turkey from the roasting tray and drain off any fat into a bowl. This can be used for roasting the potatoes or the pumpkin. Put the roasted vegetables and bones back into the tray over a low heat on the stove top. Add a little of the chicken stock and stir well to remove any sediment from the bottom of the tray, these concentrated juices will enhance the flavour of the gravy. Add the flour and tomato puree and stir well. Gradually add the rest of the chicken stock and bring to the boil. Transfer into a saucepan and simmer for about 1-1 ½ hours until the gravy has concentrated in flavour and thickened. The gravy can be thickened a little more if necessary by diluting a little cornflour in water and stirring into the gravy. Strain through a fine meshed sieve and keep covered and warm until required.

To serve the turkey, remove the breasts from the bone, this will make that carving much easier and more accurate.

Image: Pinterest

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