Relatively speaking turkey is a recent newcomer to our Christmas table, preceding goose and even swan. (Incidentally don’t try grabbing a swan for your Christmas dinner they are all property of the crown and you’ll be thrown in the Tower!)

Goose really didn’t go into decline until the 50’s and 60’s. Turkey was one of the first ‘gifts’ back from the new world after the Pilgrim Fathers settled in the US. With the advent of intensive farming the turkey has changed beyond recognition, today we talk of the double-breasted turkey crown but the idea of a double-breasted ‘anything’ is a step too far for me. If you want a real Turkey (or as close to real as possible) then you need to go for a Norfolk Bronze but its half the meat and 4 times the price.

Whatever you choose don’t go for those dreadful bird in a bird in a bird concoctions. This is one of those things (much like the black death) best consigned to the past! How overcooked must the outer layers of meat be by the time the meat in the centre is done?

If you’re going to be feeding lots then you’ll need a big oven to cope with goose as it’s all carcass and little meat. Turkey on the other hand will have the meat you require but it’s a lot harder getting flavour from it. Here are a few handy hints to help you which ever you choose to cook:

Goose

Prick the skin liberally to allow the fat to run out while cooking.

Cook it over a trivet and drain off the fat two or three times during cooking.

Keep the dripping and use for your roast potatoes. It’s the best bit!

Serve it with a sharp sauce or condiment to help cut through the oily but beautiful meat. I recommend anything from bitter oranges to cranberries to cherries and of course, tart applesauce.

Turkey

Cook slowly

Baste well under the skin with a flavoured butter – seasoned well and packed with herbs.

Cook upside down (that’s the turkey not you) the juices will then run into the white meat rather than the carcass.

Make a moist stuffing to go with it and include sausage meat in the stuffing as well as some tart fruits to bring more flavour.

Make your gravy the day or so before. Use the giblets and a good quantity of chicken wings which you must roast off first and then bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer on your stove together with some celery, onions and carrots until you think it tastes delicious.

Rest the meat – it will be tough if you don’t, and seriously turkey will retain its heat if covered for an hour or so.

Crispy skin – if it’s a must for you then start your carving by cutting off all the skin, season with a bit of salt and throw it back into a hot hot oven.

What ever you do make sure you consume a saucepan full of mulled wine during your preparations and you can find a great recipe for that on our YouTube page!

David James
Director of Food and service, bartlett mitchell

My earliest food memories are of my mum’s baking; coconut pyramid cakes were my favourite.

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