The one thing I bang on about all the time when it comes to Christmas is my mother’s brandy cake. She’s had this recipe on a scrap of paper since the 1970s, and she makes it every year. My birthday is on the 24th, so it’s always felt like birthday cake, but it’s bloody delicious. I’ve updated it with Pedro Ximenez sherry, which is a bit poncey, but it’s still really boozy, really sweet.
The brining for my turkey recipe is nicked straight from Nigella. But I play around with the spices, and it gives what can be quite a dull, expensive bird a real kick.
My tips for Christmas are simple: lots of booze, and only invite nice people. And try not to get angry: I spent days preparing it once, and on the day itself everyone was like, “Let’s get it down as quickly as possible before Strictly comes on!” I wanted to lash out.
Treat your Christmas dinner preparation as a restaurant service: have everything tucked away into neat little boxes. Have your carrots peeled in water, refresh them on the day. You can get about 80 per cent of dinner ready to roll, and then all you have to worry about is the meat.
The brining process takes at least 24 hours, preferably more
6.5kg free-range turkey
FOR THE BRINE
5 litres water
2 tsp table salt
2 tsp black peppercorns
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp whole cloves
1/2 tsp caraway seeds
1 tbsp dark brown sugar
250ml white wine
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
2 onions, chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed
FOR ROASTING THE TURKEY
Drizzle of olive oil
Pepper for seasoning
1 onion, peeled and halved
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 large carrot, peeled and quartered
2 sticks celery, halved
Bacon rashers for the breast (optional)
FOR THE TURKEY LEGS
2 tbsp goose fat
A few bay leaves
Small bunch of thyme
1 bulb garlic, halved
FOR THE STUFFING
1 savoy cabbage (keep the leaves whole)
6 sausages, removed from their skins
200g chestnuts, chopped
4 sprigs thyme
1 garlic clove
Salt and pepper
FOR THE GRAVY
1 tbsp flour
1 large glass of port
1.75 litres chicken or turkey stock
1.For the brine, take a large pot and add in all the ingredients – stir to dissolve the salt and sugar. Remove the turkey legs and put them in the fridge, covered. Remove any string attached to the turkey and add the turkey breast and crown to the liquid – add more water if needed. Bring up to the boil and then let it cool to room temperature. Put in the fridge or, if the pot doesn’t fit, somewhere cold – even outside. Leave for between 24 and 48 hours.
2.Remove the turkey from the brining pot and wipe dry with kitchen towels. Rub a light drizzle of olive oil and pepper over the skin. Sit the turkey in a roasting tray on the onion, garlic, carrot and celery. If desired, layer or lattice rashers of bacon over the breast to protect in the oven. Take the legs out of the fridge, place in a roasting tray, baste with goose fat, dress with the thyme and bay leaves and a halved bulb of garlic.
3.Preheat the oven to 220°C/gas mark 7. Roast the turkey for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 160°C/gas mark 3 and roast for a further 21/2 to 3 hours until cooked, basting every 30 minutes, and covering it with foil once it’s golden brown, to prevent over- colouring. Remove from the oven and leave to rest, covered, in a warm place for one to one- and-a-half hours. Roast the turkey legs at the same time. They should take between 2 and 3 hours but check regularly and baste; cover with foil once they are golden brown to prevent over-colouring.
4.For the stuffing, cook the whole cabbage leaves in salted water. When tender, drain and run under cold water. Mix up the other stuffing ingredients and season. Line an oven-proof terrine with 2 layers of clingfilm, leaving enough to completely cover the cabbage. Please ensure you use clingfilm that’s suitable for putting in a hot oven – check the box. Cover the base and sides of the ovenproof dish with cabbage leaves. Arrange half of the stuffing mixture over the cabbage, around halfway up the dish, and press down. Finely chop some of the remaining cabbage leaves and layer in the middle of the meat. Layer on the remaining stuffing mixture and finish with a final layer of whole cabbage leaves. Cover tightly with the clingfilm and put it into the oven at 130°C/gas mark 1/2 for 40–50 minutes. Remove it from the oven and allow to cool. Carefully turn out the parcel and remove the clingfilm. Slice it into wedges and serve.
5.To make the gravy, strain the juices from the turkey roasting tin, and reserve for later. Leave the onion, carrot, celery, garlic and a little fat and juice in the pan. When the flour and juices have combined, add the port and mix well. Add the reserved juices from the turkey, stir then add the chicken or turkey stock. Reduce by about half.Strain the liquid and serve.
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