THE BEST Christmas Turkey Recipe
Year after year, roast turkey used to get my hopes up.
The delicious wafting smell, the crispy dark brown skin and the bright white meat always held such promise. But every Christmas lunch, those hopes were dashed amidst disappointingly dry and pappy mouthfuls.
But that was before I discovered it’s all about THE BRINE. Believe me when I tell you that brining your turkey is honestly a game changer.
Brining is when you soak your meat in a solution of salt, water and sugar. The cells in the meat absorb and retain water molecules preventing dehydration. Then the salt in the water breaks down the proteins in the meat and relaxes them, giving you the JUICIEST, TENDEREST ROAST EVER.
The best cuts of meat to brine are the dryer and leaner: the ones with the least amount of fat to juicify them up during cooking. Chicken, turkey, prawns, pork chops for example. Turkey, of course, is the ultimate brinee.
THE BEST Christmas Turkey Recipe
You can either plonk a whole turkey into brine (delicious) or you can buy whole turkey breast which works much better for a smaller party.
Work on about 200 – 250g turkey per person, so 1kg feeds roughly 5 people. Ask your butcher for a boneless turkey breast, skin on.
It’s a big bit of meat so we like to cut it lengthways into barrels, or logs resembling fillets (or loins). Each log should have a diameter of about 8 or 9cm. This also makes it easier to get it in the fridge during brining.
Once you have cut your meat, put it in a large pan and cover it with cold water until the turkey is just submerged. Then remove the turkey for the time being and measure your water.
Add ¼ cup of table salt and ¼ cup of brown sugar per litre of water. The rest of the spices and seasonings are then up to you! We like to add a small bunch of fresh sage, thyme and rosemary tied together, some orange slices, cinnamon sticks, star anise, cloves, allspice berries, mustard seeds, peppercorns and sliced root ginger.
Bring the brining liquid to the boil, boil for 5 minutes and allow to cool.
When cool, add the logs of turkey into the brine and leave for 12 – 24 hours in the fridge (or if below 4 or 5c, outside).
On the day of eating (or the night before) remove the turkey from the brine and marinate in sliced garlic, thyme, chopped rosemary, olive oil, salt, pepper and perhaps some ground cumin and dried sage.
Cooking could not be simpler.
In a large frying pan or casserole dish, get a glug of oil very hot – add the turkey pieces and fry evenly using tongs. Take care not to burn the oil, so don’t have the flame on maximum heat.
After a few minutes, pour in a generous glug of pomegranate molasses until the meat is coated, and continue to cook (this is liable to burn, so be careful.)
When the meat is caramelised and brown all the way round, remove and place the pieces of turkey on a lined baking tray skin side up. This can all be done in advance.
Roast in the oven at 180ºC. One log with a diameter of about 9cm will take around 30 minutes, a little longer the more you have on your tray. A meat thermometer should read a rising 70ºC. Leave to rest for 10 minutes before carving into slices.
This is delicious served in the traditional way but it’s also a bit different to put a Middle Eastern spin on it! Serve it with carrot purée, sautéed sprouts with parsley, chilli & pomegranate, and roast potatoes tossed in hazelnut dukkah (an Egyptian spice mix).
If your Christmas lunch is say, 4 of you, you will have leftovers (a whole turkey breast is fairly big.) You can freeze the brined logs of turkey really well and bring them out as you wish for delicious Caesar salads, goujons or pies.