Thursday, 8 December 2011


One very good reason for not doing a practice-run Christmas is that it leaves you in absolutely no mood for actual Christmas. I've had enough of Christmas, now. And certainly had enough of leftovers. God turkey is such nasty stuff.

It doesn't help that it was buggered and all my fault. We brined it, you see, and I bumptiously insisted that the quantity of salt doesn't matter and just poured a lot into the brine willy-nilly. Some ghastly chemical reaction must have taken place because it was dry as a bone.

brine ingredients

Although what we did learn from it, is that it doesn't matter if your turkey is dry, because once you slap it on a hot plate and cover it with a lot of gravy (which you will have) and a lot of bread sauce (ditto) it doesn't matter.

But, as my husband said, there's no point in it actually being dry, so if you are going to do a brine this year, make sure you do the exact measurements the recipe recommends. For example Nigella says 6 litres of water and 250g sea salt, like Maldon or 125g table salt, like Saxo. Then other flavours you want to add to the brine are up to you - parsley, bay leaves, allspice berries, mace blades, garlic, whatever. Nigella, again, recommends a star anise but just personally I think it makes everything taste like a Chinese takeaway.

And then beyond that, with turkey, it all just gets too mind-bending what with the Shall We Cook The Legs Separately Or Not? question. And the How Much Longer Should I Cook It If It's Got Stuffing In It? conundrum and THEN there's the thing about temperatures and whether or not you've got a fan oven. And by then, I have to confess, I feel like I am back in double History before lunch and can barely keep my eyes open.

So really the purpose of this post is to say: it's anyone's bloody guess. Have a fair crack. Try not to get bogged down in detail. Don't be scared because even if it's burnt to a crisp the gravy and bread sauce will save the day.

I told you I was bored.


  1. I don't normally comment on blogs, as it's a bit "green ink", but this:
    is the solution to turkey.
    You stuff sausagemeat based stuffing under the skin of the turkey, and it keeps the breast juicy.

  2. I've decided we're having roast beef. Cheaper to get good beef than good turkey, and the leftovers are nicer.

  3. I made that Jamie Oliver turkey Sleeper posted a link to on Thanksgiving. It was the first time I've cooked anything bigger than a chicken breast, and it came out super delicious. Highly recommended!

  4. This is one of the reasons I appreciate living in a country where Christmas is in summer- most people don't eat turkey. No worries over baking temp or debates over stuffing in vs. stuffing out etc. Just give me a plate of prawns and some cold ham.

  5. Oh, Esther, don't be bored now, there are lots and lots more christmasses ahead of you to get well and truly fed up. You are cheered, I can tell.

    I am fair to middling iffy on turkey. My top tip is to train guests not to complain. If it's not to their liking they can take it up with Delia or Jamie. Or buy me a meat thermometer, though ours got broken because of course somebody had to check it was correctly calibrated. Food is hard enough, badly behaved family members ... worse.

  6. I can't be bothered with turkey, it's not nice to eat.

  7. what ever happened to 'just bung it in the oven'... may I suggest that you're totally over-thinking this whole Christmas melarkey and it has ruined the magic for you... Turkey is very very good in a door-wedge sandwich with coleslaw and stuffing... and that's why you cook a turkey at Christmas xx

  8. It's always a pleasure when someone writes what I'm thinking about the palavers of a turkey dinner. Tell you what, it's a bit like baby advice, everyone has a different way of doing it! X

  9. Yes, what is the point to this brining business. I've roasted turkeys before without the brine. They take a bit of constant TLC to come out in any way tender but it's ok.

    My husband is finishing a DIY kitchen renovation (you know just in time by Christmas Day) and I'm going to be roasting a turkey in an oven I've never used and that will only be recently connected. I haven't had an oven for two years. We bought it five years ago. I don't even know if it works. Now this is scary.

  10. My parents rarely cook turkey on Christmas (thanksgiving is bad enough) and I cooked my first turkey for my hubby's family last was so so (they raved and raved about it)...i would have preferred a standing rib...can still have all the trimmings but without the flaming bird! This year I've put my foot down...Glazed Ginger Ham...with all the trimmings...easy peasy and in my opinion so much better for leftovers! mmmm chutney, ham and cheese...

  11. Brilliant blog post! I love the wreath and door handle - they go so well together! When my family have turkey for Christmas, it is usually dry, but with lots of gravy and cranberry sauce, it hides that very well. x

  12. I have to say the absolute best Turkey recipie I've ever done is from Nigella's Feast book - but not the brine one - the upside down one.

    The trick is the Turkey has to be at room temperature before you start which is handy because who has room in the fridge? You then put a little oil, salt and pepper on the turkey and put it in the oven upside down and turn it just for the last 30 minutes. The cooking times in Nigella's book are scarily short but are right if the turkey is at room temperature.

    And basically the fat from the back of the turkey self bastes the breast by being upside down, and the short cooking time also helps stop the drying.

    So this recipie is easier, faster and simplier than everything else and tastes better.

    Also I now also always have the turkey sit under foil and lots of towels for about an hour and a half after it is done which gives wiggle room in case the turkey needs more time, but also a completely free run at the oven for veggies so you don't have the competition.

  13. Well I had a practice run at my brand new oven last night with a roast chicken. (Happily, after sitting in a spare room for five and a half years, it works!)
    You're dead right about practice runs. I really can't be fagged with Christmas Day now. But the chicken turned out really well; the roast potatoes not so. More practice required.
    Good luck with the real thing next week.

  14. Lurker propelled to comment because of a brined turkey. I love, revere and aspire to be Nigella (minus the Tory dad bit) but this brining business is whole load of tosh. It's a considerable amount of effort to cook a bird that will never be THAT moist in the first place. I also dislike the fact that there's so much extra going into the brine (with or without the star anise) when the actually 'seeping in' of flavour is really minimal/non-existent. I'd ditch the turkey and go for the goose, or else cross guests off my mental invite list for next Christmas if they do not immediately feign orgasmic joy when meat touches tongue. That includes close relatives.

  15. Well, I cooked my turkey upside down as Alex Andronov suggested and it worked a treat. Really moist and much complimented on. As it was hot in Melbourne for most of the day, I cooked it the night before and we ate it cold. It was beautiful.

    I hope you more than survived Christmas Esther and had a splendid day.
    We did until the golf ball sized hailstones arrived followed by the flash flood/waterfall at the back end of house. It was a crazy day but the good bits were very good. Best wishes for the new year to you and your family.

  16. I know I am coming to this really late...but has anyone suggested to get a goose next year instead? It tastes amazing, is never ever dry, gives you fat for a year of roast potatoes, and it's native to the UK so gives you a satisfying feeling of doing things the real traditional way with christmassy connection to olden days feasters with their great halls and mead and log they have dragged in from the forest. I might have gotten a bit carried away with that last bit.