Simple Ways to Put Some Zing Into Your Christmas Turkey

Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Chocolate Christmas 'Card'
It's the time of year again when many of us will be seeking last minute inspiration for a memorable Christmas lunch - one that doesn't send our stress levels soaring during the preparation and cooking stages.  For those food lovers who want to stick with tradition, a roast turkey is still as popular as ever - at the moment running about 70/30 with rib of beef with the Christmas parties we are cooking for. 
Christmas lunched cooked, boxed and ready to go!
Roast ballottine of turkey breast, stuffed ballottine of turkey leg, apricot and hazelnut stuffing and Gloucester Old Spot/ Berkshire breed cross pigs in blankets 

Getting the timings absolutely right so that you end up serving the perfectly cooked bird.

There are a few basic ground rules to cooking a great roast turkey, but generally speaking, it really isn't rocket science.  Cooking time will, of course, depend on the size of the bird, but as a  rule of thumb, 20 minutes per kilo + 90 minutes is about right. There is a very useful turkey roasting calculator here.

Perhaps the main fear about roasting a turkey is that it will be too dry, but by adding lots of butter, smeared over the skin and stuffed under the skin of the breast, you can add both flavour and moisture.  
Butter, thyme, orange and lemon zest, spices - you name it, it goes under the skin of this turkey ballottine. 
More flavour and moisture can be infused into the meat by stuffing the cavity with lemons, garlic and a bouquet garni of herbs.  

Much is said about brining your turkey - that is what I'll be doing this year for the Christmas Day party, so we'll see the difference!  

Any sausage-meat stuffing should be cooked separately so that it doesn't interfere with the thorough cooking of the bird. Set the oven at around 240 degrees centigrade (220 oC for a fan assisted oven) to begin cooking, to allow the skin to crisp a little, then reduce the temperature for the remainder of the cooking time to 170 oC degrees (160 oC fan).  Basting the bird with its own juices will help. 

Once the juices are running clear when the fleshiest parts (the legs, for example) are pierced with a fork or the point of a knife, then the bird is ready. If the legs are done, then the breast will be cooked too.  

The safest way to make sure your turkey is cooked is with a temperature probe. See previous blog post on temperature probes. It may be the thing that saves your life this Christmas! 

The core temperature should reach 74 oC for at least 15 seconds.  

Resting period

That's the resting period for the turkey - not the cook (that comes later!). Allowing the bird to rest for 15 - 30 minutes, preferably breast down, on a rack, will let the juices permeate the meat, keeping it moist and flavourful. It also allows the meat to relax - so it will taste much softer. 
If you place the turkey breast down while resting the juices flow into the meat rather than onto the tray - simple when you think about it! 
Before serving flash back in the oven for 5 minutes to return it to temperature.  

Potato trivet
Potato trivet with lemon and thyme. You can add other things like cinnamon stick, star anise, celery etc.
Here's another little thing I do to add flavour as the turkey cooks. It also helps to circulate heat more evenly and save the turkey from burning to the bottom of the roasting dish. Oh and the potatoes taste great re-fried the next day with fried eggs by the way, or in a warm potato salad.  
Slice the potatoes raw quite thick and place in the roasting tin with other aromats - lemon, thyme, rosemary etc. I also often use orange slices, cinnamon, star anise etc. All these things waft their aromas into the turkey as it is cooking - lovely!

Pep up your turkey
Turkey ballottine with ras-el-hanout sprinkled on the skin before adding the brest meat. This will flavour the turkey from the top down as it roasts. 
Plain roast turkey can be a little bit on the bland side for you? By thinking a little outside of tradition, you can achieve a Christmas dish that will definitely impress!
Adding Asian or Oriental flavours to a roast turkey crown, for example, will boost the flavour and moistness of the meat, not to mention your status as a talented cook!  Try adding a chopped red chilli, fresh chopped coriander, some chinese five spice, garlic and fresh fine chopped ginger to unsalted butter, season with salt and pepper. Spread this under the turkey skin.  Keep a little of the butter mixture back  and add a tablespoon of cranberry or redcurrant sauce to it, pouring this over the turkey 30 minutes before the end of cooking.  The resulting flavour of sweet chilli will give the breast meat such a lift, your guests will be asking for second, or even third, helpings.

Try a marinade too - I often do one like this with a few more additions (depending on what you have on hand) - like thai fish sauce (yes really!), cumin & coriander seeds, honey, lemongrass etc. Leave that marinading overnight and the difference will be amazing! Another if you want to go more french stylie try honey, mustard, Snowshill lavender, lemon and garlic. Add a bit of the marinade to the gravy before you bring it to the boil to add even more flavour to the sauce. 

One thing I would not recommend however is cooking your turkey in the dishwasher - though it can be done. Apparently. 

Boxing Day turkey carnage

One of the questions a chef is always asked at this time of year is what to do with turkey leftovers. 
If turkey, spinach and cranberry sandwiches or turkey curry just don't fire up your appetite, then how about combining the turkey meat with some more flavoursome ingredients to make one or two more meals for the family? 

We all joke about making turkey fricassee with the leftovers, but adding some tasty porcini mushrooms, tarragon and/ or crispy pancetta cubes to a creamy, wine infused fricassee sauce will give you a seriously sophisticated supper dish.   

Or fry up the leftover turkey into a base of a paella fit to suit a king (or queen)!

Thai style turkey burgers? Add Thai spices to chopped cooked turkey and mix with coriander, parsley, onion, breadcrumbs and a dash of coconut milk before forming into patties for frying.  These Thai style turkey burgers will become such a family favourite that you will find yourself serving them all year round.

Why not make a Boxing Day variation of our ever popular salad of grilled butternut squash (can be roasted - even earsier) with pomegranate, feta, olives, red onion - with the addition of cooked turkey. Drizzle a nice sharp orange dressing over, pop some crispy bread in the oven and lunch is served! 
Pizza for Eat, Pray, Love press night
Or you could get the bread dough out and throw together a turkey pizza - adding leftover cheese of course and whatever else your Boxing Day tastebuds can take! 

The nicest thing about all of these tasty suggestions is that they are really very simple to achieve, with short preparation times and no fuss cooking.  The result is less stress and more time to spend raising a glass of champagne with the family.  Cheers and a Merry Christmas!

Related posts

Christmas 2007 
Christmas Day 2008
Christmas Day 2009
Christmas Day 2010
Christmas Sandwich buffet - fun style!
Turkey ballottine 
Frangipane Mince spies
Gloucestershire Echo article, Christmas 2007


Waldorf sorbet for a 40th birthday

Monday, December 02, 2013
Waldorf sorbet - celery and apple sorbet with celery and apple matchsticks and walnuts 
This was suggested as an intermediate sorbet course by the host of an event in May this year - his 40th birthday. Think he'd had it in a restaurant somewhere in the world (he was well travelled & dined). His guests had flown in from around the world too - America, Hong Kong, France etc. No pressure then!
Took the apple & celery sorbet recipe from here. Sceptical? Tastes absolutely amazing... but then I would say that.

Trio of asparagus starter for Stanway Barn 2013 wedding

Trio of asparagus starter
Bundle of roasted asparagus spears with cauliflower gremolata
Shortcrust pastry tart with asparagus and wild mushroom fricasse, poached quail egg and hollandaise
Shot glass of asparagus 'cappuchino'
We came up with this starter after discussions with a wedding couple for a wedding in May this year. We tried out a few different variations of tart (below) for them to decide on one. When another wedding couple heard about this starter we did it for them too, and another one as well. Good news spreads it seems!

Tarts from tasting:
Puff pastry tart of asparagus and gruyere
Puff pastry tart with parma ham, feta, asparagus and cherry tomato
Shortcrust pastry tart with asparagus and wild mushroom fricasse with poached quail egg and hollandaise (which is the one we ended up serving)

Related posts 

Other wedding dishes
Asparagus dishes

Italian sharing platter style wedding menu tasting in Cheltenham

Wednesday, November 27, 2013
Sharing platters seem to be the new thing for 2014 weddings - we have had so many enquiries. It's great for a more informal feel - everyone shares platters around the table which gets them all talking and it feels more like a family meal rather than a corporate event. Also rather than a traditional buffet it means nobody has to get up from the table - much easier. I have a large collection of vintage platters which we use - each plate has a story......
This couple in Cheltenham wanted an Italian theme menu for their wedding tasting - my favourite. This is what we came up with together......

Smoked salmon with marsacpone and rocket
Asparagus spears wrapped in parma ham

Canape spinach and pine nut stuffed mushrooms. Originally we had suggested the idea of using the mushrooms instead of bread as a pizza base - then changed it to this. 
Canape breaded mozzarella bites (with panko breadcrumbs)
Starter platter of grilled vegetables and Italian style cured meats with ricotta stuffed peppadew peppers and caper berries 
Italian style cheese platter - gorgonzola, taleggio, buffalo mozarella, parmesan, Italian goats cheese
Saffron arancini, fresh anchovies, olives and grilled halloumi. Originally part of the antipasti we decided it worked as canapes. 
Baked chicken marinated in balsamic, fresh thyme and oregano
Italian style butterflied roasted leg of lamb
Melanzane Parmigiana from Ms Marmitelover's book. They liked it so much it all disappeared and rather than just having it as a vegetarian choice they decided to have it more as a main course accompaniment for everyone. 
Peaches baked in marsala topped with amaretti biscuits - sometimes the simple things are the best. They loved them! Served with vanilla marscapone
Zucotto. This was a recipe I saw while having lunch the day before (no time is wasted). On the outside is lemon drizzle cake, inside vanilla cream with raspberries, strawberries and blueberries. Then it is pressed and turned out and coated in white chocolate ganache and sprinkled with coconut. Absolute dessert heaven!
There was also tirimisu cheesecake - amaretti biscuits as a base, coffee and amaretto cheesecake filling, whipped vanilla cream and chocolate on top.
I also had mini lemon tarts and prosecco jelly from another party the night before so served these as well. They might go for all 5 as small versions. 
What a feast this will be!

Crown of asparagus

Funny when you use google images and come across pictures you took nearly 8 years ago. It's still out there. Somewhere. Just when you thought you'd never see it again. Like this one. 
Brings back way too many memories of making hundreds of these every Saturday morning during wedding season at Claridges all those years ago......


7 Course Scottish and Irish theme dinner party menu

Wednesday, November 13, 2013
This dinner party we cooked last Saturday had been 15 months in the making. With friends and family from Scotland and Ireland the host wanted a Scottish and Irish theme menu. Here's what we came up with between us.......
Pre-dinner canapés 3-4 per person

Irish smoked salmon on potato farls
Skewers of Boilie goats cheese, beetroot and rocket
Canape spoon of haggis with neeps and tatties (never got a pic of that one)
Smoked venison with apple and ginger chutney on scottish shortbread. I like vintage plates which tell a story.....
Cullen skink served in a cup
The night before the event I was doing a little last minute research and found these toast spoons which I made to go on the side - you can eat the spoon, but not the bowl.....
Hendricks extra cucumber infused gin and tonic sorbet. 
Maybe not the Scottish or Irish theme. I had suggested others but one of the hosts best friends had a big pash for gin and tonic - but it had to be Hendricks. It was not something I had tried, but wow I was an instant convert. What a difference in taste. Great production story too. To get extra cucumber flavour I infused it with cucumber for a couple of days - you shake it a few times a day before straining and churning into sorbet. Every bit helps! Oh and try this in the summer - so refreshing!

Crab wars! (They were both cooked at this point).
Crab and langoustine salad with beetroot dressing
What to do with those gin soaked cucumbers from the kilner jar? I chopped them and mixed with avocado, mango and mango puree as a base for this salad. After cooking the crabs just before leaving it was a rapid-fire de-shelling and checking for shell while they were having the soup. Such a busy night. Had a few oranges, so following on from my cakes cooked in fruit shells I hollowed out orange halves and filled them with crab. When the crab meat is so fresh you really don't need to add anything else to it.
Chicken balmoral with leek stuffed fondant potatoes and whisky sauce
Chicken stuffed with haggis. Don't be put off by all those people who put haggis down - they've probably never tried it! It should have more menu space than just Burns Night. I had never heard of this dish suggested by the host - it's always good to try something new.
I flattened the corn-fed chicken supremes and rolled them in pancetta with the haggis in the middle. Also served with kale and a side dish of roast turnips with parmesan (parmesan not very Scottish or Irish, bu hey....)
Assiette of Scottish and Irish desserts.
Baileys tiramisu
Mini apple scotch crisp
Mini sticky toffee pudding - not Scottish or Irish but a favourite of one of the guests.
Cranachan with raspberries and shortbread
Homemade Drambuie ice cream
Never use flash on a food photo right? After the last broken camera I had been swotting up on the new one around 3am that morning as best I could. Had it on the wrong setting all night. Great. Now, how to switch that flash off? Easy when you're not rushing and someone is not waiting for their dessert.......

A selection of Scottish and Irish cheeses, coffee and Scottish tablet finished off the night well and truly.

Pineapple lemon drizzle cake cooked in pineapple rings

Monday, November 11, 2013
So you've cut the pineapple rings out, then what do you do with the pineapple skin? I was just about to chuck the skins away and Sean says "You can do something with those can't you?" Well necessity is the mother of invention they say, so this is what we did. Another addition to the cakes-cooked-in-unusual-'tins' opus.
It snowed heavily with icing sugar.......
Lemon drizzle cake cooked inside the hollowed out pineapple shell. The pineapple skin gives it flavour as it cooks. Then boil up the pineapple core (the core you cut out to make the rings - see how to cut pineapple rings in a post from 2010 here) along with lemon juice and sugar and use this as the drizzle to drizzle over the cake when it is cooked. Meanwhile the pineapple rings went with coconut and lime panna cotta.

Similar posts

Other cakes we have made
How to make pineapple rings 


Ginger cake cooked in a pumpkin

Thursday, November 07, 2013
For last week's lunch buffet on Hallowe'en we went festive with this cake - you eat the squash and the cake: 2 for the price of 1! 


Christmas sandwich buffet - fun style!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013
It's nearly the end of October and everyone else is using the 'c' word so here it is again: Christmas is on the way - you know it's true! So if you can't beat 'em join 'em!
Turkey, red pepper, spinach and cream cheese tortilla pinwheel. It's nice when ideas you have in the middle of the night turn out. 
 We've been making regular lunch buffets for this client for their training courses over 2 years. Last Christmas we made 2 Christmas theme events - always good to try something different!
Salt beef, rocket and horseradish snowman sandwich. The eyes are black olives, the nose - well a carrot naturally! And the'buttons are pink peppercorns all stuck on with cream cheese. Fun, no?!
Another turkey variation on another day - this was turkey, spinach and cranberry. Classy photo - was in a rush-rush-rush........
Poppy seed cracker santas. When I did these again I cut the gherkins smaller - second time lucky! Pepperonie hats and caper eyes. 
Rudolf pork and beetroot chutney sandwiches with red pepper noses and pretzel horns. 
Frangipane mince spies among other Christmas style cakes
It'll be Easter eggs next!

Chocolate cake baked in an orange. Warning: make lots of extras - they are addictive!

Friday, September 13, 2013
Just delivered to  a lunch buffet for a regular client - lucky people!
After the fruit salad in clementine and lemon sorbet in a lemon as part of a dessert for a dinner party I thought why not make a cake inside an orange - rather like the 'cup' cake I made last year. Chocolate cake seemed like the natural thing - you can't argue with chocolate and orange. The cake takes on the orange flavour as it bakes and tastes so fresh. I used this chocolate cake recipe - you can't go wrong with Mary Berry. I was addicted to one of her books when I was 12. It's amazing to see she's made such a comeback - deservedly so.

I found you probably only need to fill the oranges 1/3 of the way up. But this may be because I had made my own baking powder mix (had run out) so it was rather lively. They probably took longer to cook too (heat has to get through the orange skin before it can cook the cake inside).

It would be interesting to try it with limes and a white chocolate cake mix or a key lime cake mix.

Hen party pan-asian theme menu cookery event in Stratford (the Warwickshire one)

Wednesday, September 04, 2013
Who needs chef whites when you can wear a pink feather boa in the kitchen like the hen did at this hen party we did a cookery event for in Stratford-on-Avon a few weeks ago.

Mr. Burns' dodgy iphone pics
Top left - the hen herself (resplendent in feather boa) finishes her lamb massaman curry
Top right - Putting together the pan-asian chicken lettuce wraps
Middle left  and right - plating caramel pork (so popular each time we have served it)
Bottom right - trio of desserts - the tup tim grob is one of those marmite things - love it or hate it. I love it! Actually it turned out to be the best version I had seen/ tasted.
What fun these hen party cookery events are! It's amazing how hesitant everyone is at the beginning. It seems so many people think they can't cook. But give them recipes, ingredients, guidance and encouragement and it's amazing what they can achieve! I've seen that at every single cookery event we have done and this one was no different. 
With the cook-your-own-dinner-party events we split the group in to 3 and each team takes charge of preparing one course - starter, main course and dessert. Then later in the evening, after time to change and time for pre-dinner drinks, each team is back in the kitchen to plate up their course and see how it runs behind the scenes!
When I got back to base after midnight the computer had frozen from too many days use without being shutdown (so busy!) and when I re-booted it - all the recipes we had used that day had been lost. So I will have to re-do them for everyone at that event - they all want to try everything again - never a bad sign!


Homemade pan de sal bread rolls + GLUTEN/ WHEAT FREE VERSION


Homemade crispy duck spring rolls with suitable dips + GLUTEN FREE

Sesame prawn toasts + GLUTEN FREE

Black sesame salmon balls + GLUTEN FREE

Asian chicken in lettuce wraps

Caramel pork


Blackened cod

Massman lamb curry

Vegetable pad thai + GLUTEN FREE
Coconut and lime pilaf
Homemade lime pickle


Trio of pan Asian desserts

Chocolate and mango mousse
Lychee and pomegranate panna cotta
Shotglass of tup tim grob

Coffee, tea and homemade pistachio barfi


Wedding catering at Brockworth Court Tithe Barn, Gloucestershire

Monday, September 02, 2013
There are lots of houses in the Cotswolds called Dove Cottage or Dove House - a few hundred years ago they were kept for their meat. In a lot of houses and barns you see dove holes in the stone walls - but here at Brockworth Court Tythe Barn was a real dovecote. Makes a great talking point as this is where the guests were congregating for their reception drinks. 

Edible flower pots on the table! When I was clearing up the next morning all these had gone - they must have had a serious sugar rush!
Roast butternut squash soup with beetroot pesto served in a bread bowl - do you ever get so hungry you can eat the bowl? 
See how to make the bowls here.
Gill and Anton put together the other starter: ham hock, broad bean, mint and basil pearl barley risotto with beetroot pesto
Matador pie for the main course - similar to this one from a wedding a few years ago. This time we served it with dauphinoise potato, french beans and red wine braised red cabbage. At the tasting they said it was the matador pie that first switched them on to us - they had had the pieminister version at another wedding they had been to but much preferred ours. Not one to argue!
There was also a haddock, tiger prawn and mussell pie with sweet potato mash topping and a meditteranean vegetable pie with crispy filo topping.
When we were clearing up the next day there were compliments from the parents of the bride and groom The pies were the talk of the wedding apparently!
Trio of desserts - strawberry and gooseberry crumble tart, lychee and pommegranate panna cotta and chocolate & blackcurrant brownie

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