CHRISTMAS is coming . . . and the turkeys are getting nervous! If you haven’t ordered your bird yet, you need to get your skates on.
While the supermarkets will, no doubt, be stuffed with frozen turkeys for another few weeks, if you want a fresh one you need to contact your butcher or local producer now.
At Sheepdrove Organic Farm in Lambourn, a mixture of traditional and heritage breeds - Norfolk Bronze, and Norfolk Blacks, Bourbon Reds and Slate Greys - live free-range on the Berkshire Downs, and develop a flavour which keeps customers coming back year after year.
Here’s some advice from the farm on how to cook your bird.
THE great challenge when cooking a turkey is that the breast meat is always done before the legs are cooked through, so the breast is usually overcooked and dried out by the time the legs are really tender.
The ultimate solution is to roast turkey breast down, as this method keeps the breast moist and juicy during the time it takes to cook the dark meat until done. However, if you find this a daunting task, especially if your bird is stuffed and not thoroughly trussed, roast your bird breast side up the whole time, relying on basting and shielding the breast with bacon and foil to preserve moisture and flavour.
n Sheepdrove Organic Farm, Lambourn RG17 7UU. 01488 674747. www.sheepdrove.com Getting your turkey oven ready Take out of the fridge about two hours ahead to allow to come to room temperature before cooking.
Wipe and dry inside and out with kitchen paper (removing the giblets and the neck, if present).
Brush with oil or smear with butter generously all over. Season with salt and pepper inside and out.
You need 1 large roasting tin 1 oven rack (a V-rack is best) 2 onions, quartered 2 carrots, quartered lengthwise 2 celery sticks, quartered lengthwise 3 thyme sprigs 3 bay leaves 250ml hot stock, wine or water extra wide turkey foil if not cooking breast down optional 50g streaky bacon if not cooking breast down.
METHOD Breast side down Have your turkey oven-ready as directed above. Preheat your oven to 180C (350F) Gas 4. If not stuffing fill the body cavity with some of the vegetables and herbs instead. Place the turkey breast side down on the rack (note: if you don’t think you’ll be able to turn the turkey easily, please follow the instructions below). Scatter remaining vegetables and herbs around the turkey and pour over the liquid, then put into the oven to roast.
COOKING TIMES 1hr and three quarters to 2hrs and a quarter for 3-4kg bird (feeds 6-8) 2hrs and a quarter to 2hrs and three quarters for a 5-6 kg bird (feeds 8-10) 2hrs and three quarters to 3hrs and a half for a 7-8 kg bird (feeds 10-12) 3hrs and a half to 4hrs and a quarter for a 9-10 kg bird (feeds 12-15).
Turn the turkey breast up 45 minutes before the end of cooking, we like to wear washing up gloves to do this! Baste thoroughly with the pan juices and return to the oven to finish browning, basting every 20 minutes. If the bird appears to be browning too slowly or too quickly, simply turn the oven up or down.
Test for doneness (see tips) and remove turkey to a warmed carving plate and leave to rest in a warm place for at least 30 minutes and up to one hour, loosely covered with foil and a tea towel, while you make the gravy and finish the vegetables.
Breast side up To roast the bird breast side up, drape overlapping streaky bacon rashers all over the breast for added protection and cover the entire roasting tin with a well-buttered or oiled double sheet of foil, ensuring that there is space between the foil and the turkey. Remove the foil and bacon about 45 minutes before the end of cooking (leave the bacon on the rack in the tin to crisp). Roast as directed (see cooking times).