I do realise traditions have changed a little, less time, more stress etc etc . But I still love the notion (and smell) of a large succulent turkey roasting away. With a little effort and few secret tips up your sleeve you will have a turkey people will talk about for many Christmases to come!


BRINE : 5 lemons, halved
4 bay leaves
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley (good handful)
1 bunch thyme (good handful)
½ cup honey
1 head garlic, halved through the equator
¼ cup black peppercorns
2 cups salt
7.5 litres water

Combine all the ingredients in a large pot, cover, and bring to a boil. Boil for 1 minute, stirring to dissolve the salt. Remove from the heat and cool completely, then chill before using. The brine can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Pour the brine into a container large enough to hold the turkey, add the turkey, and refrigerate for 12 hours. The turkey may be too salty if you brine it for more than 12 hours.

Remove the turkey from the brine, rinse with cold water, pat dry with paper towels and let it rest at room temperature for over an hour. Now you are ready to stuff.

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
6 rashers good-quality bacon, sliced into thin strips
3 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
2 sticks of celery, trimmed and finely chopped
a sprig of fresh rosemary, leaves picked and chopped
Sprig of tarragon, leaves removed and chopped
a large handful of dried cranberries
800ml dry cider
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground allspice
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
zest of 1 orange
300g good-quality pork sausage meat
1 egg, free-range or organic
2 big handfuls of breadcrumbs (fresh ones are best)
To make the stuffing:
melt the unsalted butter in a saucepan and add the bacon, shallots, celery and rosemary. Cook gently with the lid on for about 10 minutes, until the vegetables are very soft, but not coloured. Add the cranberries and half the cider and turn up the heat a little. When the liquid has reduced to a third of its volume, set it aside to cool. Mix in the nutmeg, allspice, some salt and pepper, orange zest, sausage meat and egg, then fold in the breadcrumbs.

Preheat the oven to 220°C.
Pat the turkey’s skin dry with kitchen paper, then stuff the neck end with half the stuffing. (You can cook the remaining stuffing separately or use it to make sausage rolls on Boxing Day.) Rub the bird with the softened butter and season well. Place in a roasting tin, cover with foil and pop in the preheated oven. After 15 minutes, turn down the heat to 150°C. Baste, then roast for another 2 to 3 hours.
Remove the foil 1 hour before the end of cooking time. To check the bird is cooked, stick a fork into the thickest part of the thigh – the juices should run clear. Remove the turkey from the oven, lift out of the tin, cover with foil then leave to rest for 30 minutes.
Increase the oven temperature to 200°C. Skim off the fat in the tin and use it to roast your potatoes.

To make your gravy:
50g butter
50g plain flour
1 litre chicken stock
1 tsp marmite or vegemite

Once you have removed the fat off the turkey juices, place the roasting dish back onto the stove and turn the heat up to medium. Add chicken stock and marmite or vegemite, using a wooden spoon scrap off the sediment which has stuck to the bottom of the roasting dish, let the juices bubble away to allow the flavours to mingle.

In a small bowl put 50g butter and 50g plain flour and mix to form a paste. Sit in the fridge until required as you don’t want it too soft. When you have a reduced your gravy jus by half put pea-sized amounts of flour/butter mixture into your hot liquid whisking all the time until you get the desired consistency. If it is too thick thin down with a little water or stock.

Strain through a fine sieve into a clean pot adjust seasoning and keep warm.