At Lidgate’s we favour traditional turkey breeds, such as Kelly Bronze. Descended from old-fashioned stock, they are more narrow-breasted and with a better fat covering than the modern, big-breasted birds. Not only do these turkeys have a better flavour and texture, but they also cook more quickly and are less likely to dry out.
Serves 7–8, with leftovers
5–5.5kg (11–12lb) free-range traditional-breed turkey with giblets
2 tablespoon olive oil
2 onions, halved
2 carrots, cut into large chunks
2 celery sticks, cut into large chunks
4–5 streaky bacon rashers, to cover breast (optional)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the chipolatas and bacon rolls
5–10 streaky bacon rashers, cut in half and rolled up
For the stock/gravy
1 onion, quartered
1 carrot, roughly chopped
1 celery stick, roughly chopped
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon plain flour
good splash of red or white wine
For the roast potatoes
2kg (4lb) floury potatoes, e.g. King Edward
1 teaspoon sea salt
100g (3½oz) goose fat or beef dripping
1 tablespoon plain flour (optional)
1 quantity Stuffing of your choice
1 quantity Honey-roast Parsnips (optional)
1 quantity Bread Sauce
steamed Brussels sprouts and carrots
Take the turkey out of the fridge 1½ hours before cooking so it isn’t stone-cold when it goes into the oven. Untruss the bird and remove the giblets. Snip off the wing tips and set aside for stock.
Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°C/Gas Mark 6. Season the turkey breast with salt and pepper and rub all over with the oil. Put the onions, carrots and celery in a large roasting tray and sit the bird on top of them. Roast for 30 minutes, then lower the temperature to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 and continue to roast for around another 1½ hours or so, basting occasionally. If your oven is fierce, you might want to cover the breast with strips of streaky bacon to prevent the skin from burning.
Meanwhile, make the stock for the gravy by placing the reserved giblets and wing tips in a saucepan with 1.5 litres (2½ pints) water. Add the onion, carrot, celery and bay leaf. Bring just to the boil, then spoon off the froth and simmer, uncovered, until the turkey is cooked.
About 1 hour before the turkey is done, cut the potatoes into equal-sized pieces. Put in a large saucepan, cover with water and add the salt. Bring to the boil, simmer for 5 minutes, then drain. Put the fat into a roasting tray and heat in the oven for a few minutes. Meanwhile, sprinkle the flour over the potatoes. When the fat is very hot, carefully add the potatoes and roll them around in it. Season with black pepper and roast for about 1 hour, or until crispy around the edges, turning them after 35 minutes.
To make the chipolatas and bacon rolls, put them on a roasting tray or shallow dish, place in the oven with the turkey and cook for about 45 minutes, or until cooked through.
After the bird has been roasting for 1½ hours in total, you can start testing if it is done (this timing is for a narrow-breasted traditional turkey – a large-breasted bird will need longer in the oven). To do this, stick a knife into the thickest part of the thigh – the juices should run clear, not pink. If using a meatthermometer, stick it into the thickest part of the thigh, doing it first from the outside, then through the cavity from the inside: the temperature should reach 70–73°C/158–164°F.
Take the turkey out of the oven and transfer it to a large carving board. A butcher’s trick for lifting the turkey is to slip two big knives into the bird under the breast, through the lower ribs between the wing joint and thigh joint. Lift, keeping the bird tilted slightly and neck up so that the juices don’t run out of the cavity. Cover the bird loosely with foil and leave to rest for at least 30 minutes, or until ready to eat. It remains hot for a remarkably long time (up to 2 hours). You can also use hot gravy to warm it up when serving, and put the meat on to hot plates.
While the bird is resting, steam the sprouts and carrots. Cook the stuffing in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until hot all the way through and browned on top. If making the parsnips, roast them in a separate tray at the same time.
Meanwhile, strain the stock, discarding the solids. Discard the vegetables from the turkey roasting tray. Pour the remaining juices into a gravy separator or jug and pour off as much of the surface fat as you can into another jug. Place 2 tablespoons of the fat back in the roasting tray, place over a medium heat and stir in the flour, cooking it for 1 minute. Pour in the hot stock gradually, stirring as you do so. Add the wine, bring to the boil and bubble away until it reaches the thickness you like, adding some of the vegetable cooking water or more stock if necessary.
To carve the turkey, see the step-by-step instructions . Serve with the roast potatoes and your favourite stuffing, plus bread sauce, steamed sprouts and carrots, and cranberry sauce.
How to carve a turkey
Many people find carving the turkey a bit of a challenge. But there is a straightforward and efficient method. By first removing the whole breast, you can cut it into neat slices across the grain to get tender and even-shaped pieces of white meat. After that, remove the leg and cut off the dark meat in slices. We’ve adapted this method from the one used by Paul Kelly, preserver and producer of the famous Kelly Bronze Turkey (www.kellyturkeys.co.uk).
1 Cut between the legs and the breast to loosen the legs – this will make the next step easier.
2 & 3 Cut along one side of the breastbone, using small strokes to ease the meat away from the ribs. Cut down to the bottom of the breast, using your free hand on the carving fork to add to the downward pressure. Remove the whole breast and transfer to a carving board.
4 & 5 Repeat steps 2–4 with the other breast.
6 Cut off the legs, using a carving fork to ease the drumstick and thigh away from the carcass. Cut around the ‘oyster’ on the base of the bird. Remove the leg and place on the carving board. Repeat these steps with the other leg. Cut just above the wing where the wing is connected to the carcass. Turn the bird over, cut around the little mini ‘oyster’, where the wing joins the carcass – you can wiggle the bone around a bit to help you put your knife through the socket. Put the wing on the serving platter. Repeat with the other wing.
7 Slice the breasts, including the skin, across the grain.
Put on a serving platter.
8 Cut between the drumstick and thigh on each leg to separate them.
9 Slice the dark meat off the thighs and drumsticks.
Put on the serving platter.
Traditional-breed turkey sizes & cooking times
To calculate the size of turkey you need, the general rule is to allow at least 500g (1lb) of the bird’s weight per person. This is a generous amount, but there’s nothing worse than running out of meat at a feast, and you need leftovers for sandwiches and the like. You can allow less weight per person if the bird required weighs more than 7kg (15lb).
Whatever the weight of the bird, cook it at 200°C/400°C/Gas Mark 6 for 30 minutes, then at 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 for the remaining time. Birds up to 7kg (15lb) should be checked for readiness about 30 minutes before the end of the cooking time, and larger birds about 45 minutes before the end. If the skin is overbrowning – this can happen with large birds that have long cooking times – drape streaky bacon over the breast.
The timings below are for traditional-breed turkeys; bigger-breasted birds will take longer to cook.
For 6–7 people: 4–4.5kg (9–10lb); cook for 1¾ hours approx. length/width/height: 27 x 20 x 14cm (11 x 8 x 5½in)
For 7–8: 5–5.5kg (11–12lb); cook for 2 hours approx. length/width/height: 30 x 22 x 18cm (12 x 9 x 7in)
For 8–9: 6–6.5kg (13–14lb); cook for 2½ hours approx. length/width/height: 22 x 22 x 19cm (9 x 9 x 7½in)
For 10–12: 7–7.5kg (15–17lb); cook for 2¾ hours approx. length/width/height: 33 x 24 x 19cm (13 x 9½ x 7½in)
For 14–16: 8–8.5kg (18–19lb); cook for 3 hours approx. length/width/height: 38 x 28 x 19cm (15 x 11 x 7½in)
For 18–20: 9–9.5kg (20–21lb); cook for 3½ hours approx. length/width/height: 40 x 29 x 22cm (16 x 11½ x 9in)
For 20–22: 10–10.5kg (22–23lb); cook for 3¾ hours approx. length/width/height: 46 x 36 x 25cm (18 x 14 x 10in)