Bronze turkey has the best flavour. Choose a plump-looking bird and if you would like leftovers, allow 350g-450g per person for birds up to 4.5kg and 200g-350g for birds over 4.5kg.
Goose makes a rich-flavoured alternative to turkey. Choose a plump breasted bird. If stuffed, a 5-5.5kg goose will serve eight people. When roasting, drain off the excess fat at regular intervals and save for scrumptious roast potatoes cooked with rosemary and whole garlic cloves. Goose tastes wonderful when partnered with apple, prunes, sausagemeat or spiced red cabbage.
Grey-legged English partridge has a lovely delicate flavour. Allow one bird per person and roast, basting with lemony butter. Serve with game chips and watercress.
Pheasant is ideal for one or two people – roast two birds if you would like leftovers. Wipe clean before roasting, encase in a streaky bacon jacket and baste with butter. It is delicious eaten with bread sauce or fried breadcrumbs, clear gravy, apple and rowanberry, or redcurrant jelly.
1 turkey (defrosted, if frozen)
1 lemon, cut into quarters
A large roasting pan of fresh herbs, such as rosemary, thyme and sage
40g unsalted butter, melted
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 190°C, gas mark 5.
Wipe the turkey inside and out with kitchen roll, removing the giblets if it has them. Put the lemon and herbs inside the bird, weigh it, and calculate the cooking time (see below). Put the turkey in a sturdy roasting pan, brush with the butter and season well. Loosely cover with foil refrigerate.
Cook for the calculated time, basting now and then to prevent drying. Thirty minutes before the end of cooking, remove the foil so the bird can brown.
At the end of the cooking time, check if the bird is cooked and insert a skewer into the thickest part of the bird. If the juices run clear, the bird is cooked. If there is any pink in the juices, return the turkey to the oven for 15-20 minutes. Transfer the turkey to a hot serving plate and leave to stand for 15-30 minutes, covered with foil, before carving.
Sizes and Times
To calculate cooking time, allow 45 minutes per kg. The following is a good guide to the size of bird you’ll need:
2-2.8kg 5 servings
3-3.8kg 6 servings
4-4.8kg 8 servings
4.6-5.8kg 12 servings
6-6.8kg 14 servings
7-7.8kg 20 servings
It is very important to get your timings right; too long and you’ll end up with dry inedible turkey, too short and you’ll be giving the gift of food poisoning. But don’t worry, stick to the guide and you’ll be fine!
If you buy a frozen turkey, defrost it completely in a cool room, or the fridge. It is completely defrosted when the cavity is free of ice crystals. The following is a guide to minimum defrosting times in a cool room. Double the time for defrosting in the fridge.
2-4kg 20 hours
• Order your turkey as early as possible
• Make sure the turkey will fit in your oven before ordering it. A turkey of up to 7kg will generally fit into a standard main oven.
• If the turkey comes with giblets, use them to make stock for the gravy.
• If your fridge is too small to fit the turkey in, put it into a cardboard box with a couple of ice packs and keep in a cool, safe place such as a garage or shed.
• If you’re using a large bird, make sure the legs are not trussed too tightly or the cooking may take longer.
• Any leftover turkey should be refrigerated and eaten within 2 days. If you’re using it in a cooked dish, such as a curry, make sure it is thoroughly reheated, until piping hot.