This post comes better late than never for a couple of reasons. The first is that I’ve been with my in-laws since Boxing Day and my mother-in-law categorically will not allow me near the kitchen. In her view, it is a woman’s place; the men are to sit in the living room with the newspapers. Emmeline Pankhurst would be proud. The second is that I want to record our Christmas Day dinner for posterity, for it was a Housedad First: the first time I’ve ever had turkey on the Big Day.
When I was growing up, my mother cooked pork loin and beef topside on Christmas Day. It was as if she had a grudge against the floppy-throated fowl. ‘Too dry,’ she’d mutter. ‘Too bland,’ she’d chunter. Which I think was her way of saying she didn’t trust her culinary abilities to properly cook the enormous gobbler without bringing her whole family down with salmonella poisoning.
Her avian antagonism must have rubbed off on me – because until 2012, I had avoided roasting a turkey on Christmas Day at all costs, and instead, plumped for a plump goose (though I’ve also dabbled with the much-hyped and over-rated Three-Bird Roast or Gooducken, as it’s otherwise known).
Last year, though – after reading that goose was soaring in popularity – I wanted to be different and so set out to try turkey. According to those in the know (including this article in the Daily Telegraph), the finest turkeys in the land are bred by Tom Copas.
According to the write-up, 73-year-old Tom’s birds ‘spend their lives roaming in cherry orchards, mountaineering up straw bales or scratching in patches of maize over 72 acres of farmland. They are grown to full maturity (26 weeks), which means that, unlike a turkey slaughtered in its youth, they have put on a layer of fat in the final weeks and become a self-basting, extremely flavoursome bird.’
That sounded like my kind of turkey, so I went online, found my nearest supplier, and ordered a 5kg specimen.
When I got it home, I unwrapped it from its box to be greeted by a pair of magnificent breasts and long, lean legs. The perfect bird.
But there’s no point just talking turkey…how did it taste? Well, it exceeded my expectations. The flesh was more dense than I imagined, particularly the thighs and drumsticks. The breast meat was pure white, and quite moist (though still drier than chicken). And the taste was superb: very flavoursome, bordering on gamey. I would definitely have it again.
Cooked with Mary Berry’s Lemon & Thyme Pork Stuffing and served with a gravy made from the juices from the bird and a stock made from the giblets, the Copas Turkey made a Christmas meal to remember. And the next day, the best turkey and cranberry sandwiches I’ve ever tasted. And the day after that, the best Turkey Korma I’ve ever had. And the day after that, the best Turkey Egg-Drop Soup made with stock from the carcass I’ve ever tried!
At £60, it wasn’t cheap (budgies go cheep – arf!). In fact, bigger birds cost as much as £150. But even our smaller bird delivered us four meals so that makes it pretty good value to me.
Anyway, without further ado, here’s how to roast a turkey, Copas-style…
1, Place the turkey, breast side down in a roasting tin. (Cooking breast side down until the last half hour keeps the breast meat succulent while the brown meat cooks evenly).
2. If stuffing your turkey (see recipe, below), fill the neck cavity only and recalculate your total cooking time to include the extra weight of the stuffing. Stuffing can also be cooked separately, but we do not recommend stuffing the body cavity. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the turkey & cover with foil.
3. Pre-heat the oven to 230C/(210C fan)/Gas 8. Cook your turkey at this temperature for the first 30 mins and then lower the oven temperature to 190C/(170C fan)/Gas 5. Total cooking time will be approximately 30-35 mins per kg.
4. Approximately 30mins before the full cooking time, remove foil and turn the bird over carefully, using poultry forks, so the breast bronzes.
||Full Cooking Time
||Full Cooking Time
- Do not overcook your turkey – it should be moist & succulent. It will be ready when the juices run clear when tested with a fork (plunge into the deepest part of the thigh or breast), or when your pop-up cooking timer has popped! If using a thermometer, the internal cooked temperature will be 74C.
For Mary Berry’s Stuffing
1 small onion, chopped
450g pork sausagemeat
50g fresh white breadcrumbs
Finely grated zest and juice of large lemon
Salt and black pepper
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
Leaves from 3 sprigs thyme
1. Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the onion and cook gently until soft, about 10 mins.
2. Stir in the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Cool before stuffing in the neck end of the bird.
For the Pigs in Blankets
8 long rashers of dry-cured streaky bacon
24 cocktail sausages
1. Preheat the oven to 190C/(170C fan)/Gas 5. Stretch each rasher with the back of a knife and cut into three.
2. Wrap a piece of bacon tightly around each sausage, and place around the turkey for the last 30 mins of cooking time.