Time to get organised!
Christmas is just over six weeks’ away and if you like being organised as we do (hands up all Type As!), now is the ideal time to turn your attention to your festive menu. Butchers and delis are already accepting orders, so if turkey is on your wish list, act soon to avoid disappointment. Ideally, you want to buy organic – or free range at the very least – and collect your meat about two days before Christmas so that it’s still fresh.
A good butcher will help you choose the right sized bird for your bash, but if you’re shopping solo at the supermarket, this rough guide will help you:
The best turkeys are not necessarily blemish free, so rather focus on how the bird feels when you touch it (supple is good) and whether the skin is dry or wet (according to Jamie Oliver, the former is best as it means the bird has been hung and dry-plucked, resulting in a superior taste).
Going the frozen route? No problem, just remember to leave ample time before cooking for the bird to thaw … and then to roast it carefully so that the meat doesn’t dry out (the one downside to choosing turkey over chicken!).
We love this simple advice to preparing and roasting turkeys, found on the Jamie Oliver website (hey, if it’s good enough for Jamie…).
PREPARING YOUR TURKEY
Take your turkey out of the fridge 30 minutes before you intend to put it in the oven. This way, your oven will have plenty of time to preheat, and you’ll get less shrinkage. Remember, there’s no need to wash a turkey – any bacteria will be killed during cooking.
Before you pop it in the oven, check for giblets (the gizzard, heart, liver or other small organs). They’re usually supplied in an oven-safe plastic bag and are sometimes in the cavity of the bird, so remember to remove them before cooking. They might look a bit weird, but don’t throw them away – they’ll add great flavour to your gravy!
Make a note of the weight of your turkey and the suggested cooking time if you buy your bird online or from a butcher. Supermarket turkeys should be clearly labelled to make this easy.
Calculate your cooking time using the weight as a guide, but don’t forget: your turkey will need to come out of the oven an hour before carving to rest and get lovely and flavoursome.
Roast the turkey for the required time, or until the juices run clear from the thickest part of the thigh if you pierce it with a knife or a skewer.
Using a thermometer, check that the internal temperature of the turkey is at least 70ºC. If you have a dry-plucked, dry-aged, excellent quality bird, you can cook it to 65ºC.
Then leave to rest, carve, and enjoy.
If you’re not keen on turkey, but still want a traditional Christmas meal, chicken, duck and roast beef are all excellent alternatives. Again, choose the best quality you can afford and take your time when preparing it. A little love (and patience) goes a long way in enhancing the flavour of a dish. And which cook doesn’t want her guests coming back for more…
Taking the task outside … turkey on a Weber braai!
Holiday entertaining wouldn’t feel right – in South Africa at least – without some sort of braai, so why not cook your turkey (or chicken or beef roast) outside on the Weber? It’s one more way to celebrate summer and lends a lovely, relaxed air to the task. (It also keeps your oven free for other dishes – useful if you’re preparing multiple dishes to feed the masses!)
We love this step-by-step recipe found on the Yuppiechef website – in fact, we love everything there … check out their latest kitchen aids and tableware, everything from bamboo utensils and hand-cast aluminium pans to gorgeous glass decanters … Our list to Santa just got longer!
Ingredients (serves 8–10):
6 onions, sliced into thick chunks
1 turkey, approx 4 kg
handful thyme leaves
stuffing of your choice – here are two brilliant stuffing recipes
500ml ginger beer, cider or beer
salt and pepper
8 – 12 slices prosciutto or parma ham
fresh herbs, to serve
For the salsa:
2 avocados, peeled and finely chopped
1 papaya, peeled and finely chopped
juice of 3 limes
1 chilli, de-seeded and chopped – add to taste
2 tbsp sesame seeds (white or black)
1 tbsp sesame oil
3 spring onions, finely sliced
1 bunch mint, roughly chopped
6. Cover the bird with tinfoil and secure the edges tightly to the Weber tray. At this point, you can leave the bird in the fridge overnight if you wish to cook it the following day.
7. If you have a fire starter, fill it to the brim with charcoal and burn until the coals are slightly ashy. You will need toset up your Weber for indirect cookingwhich means placing your coals in two piles opposite each other on the charcoal grate.
8. Carefully place a large disposable tray in the middle of the grid (in between the charcoal piles) and fill about halfway with water. This will help to maintain the temperature of the fire and Weber. Put the cooking grate in place, close the lid and let the coals burn down to a low heat. Keep the vents open.
9. Place the turkey in the centre of the cooking grate. Position the pan so that the turkey legs face the Weber handles and the tray is sitting in between the 2 charcoal piles. Cook the turkey over a low heat (approximately 150ºC), with the lid on, for 1 hour.
10. After half an hour, place 20 briquettes in the fire starter to get hot for your ‘refueling’ of the turkey coals. If you have another braai of sorts, you can also use this to get your briquettes ready.
11. After another half an hour (it’s been 1 hour since your turkey went on), add the 20 briquettes using long handled tongs. Check the water in the disposable tray and top up if necessary.
12. After another half an hour, repeat the briquette lighting process.
13. After another half hour, open the foil and baste the turkey with the juice. Once again, add the other briquettes.
14. Continue to cook for another hour to brown the top. If you have a meat thermometer, check the internal temperature. When it is 80ºC at the thickest part of the thigh (not touching the bone) and 75ºC in the breast, the turkey is done.
TIP: The cooking time will vary between 2.5-3.5 hours. A 3.8kg stuffed bird takes about 3 hours at 150 -160ºC. Remember, cooking a bird with stuffing will increase cooking time slightly.
Carve the turkey and serve for Christmas lunch or dinner with the avo and papaya salsa.
Shop for your ingredients at these local stores:
Van Vuuren Wors
Bloemfontein is limitless when it comes to possibilities. There’s something to do, eat, drink or buy every day of the week.
The Best of Bloemfontein Readers’ Choice Awards celebrates all this and more but, it also gives you the chance to tell us what and who’s the best of the best.