Ballymaloe’s Darina Allen shares her all-time favourite recipes for delicious Christmas turkey and ham.
Old-Fashioned Roast Turkey with All the Trimmings
This is my favourite roast stuffed turkey recipe. Even after all these years, this buttery fresh herb stuffing is still my absolute favourite, too.
1 x 4.5-5.4kg (10-12lb) free-range, organic turkey with neck and giblets
For the turkey stock: Neck, gizzard, heart, wishbone and wing tips of turkey
2 carrots, sliced
2 onions, sliced
1 stalk of celery
Green part of a couple of leeks, if available
3 or 4 peppercorns
For the fresh herb stuffing:
350g (12oz) chopped onions
175g (6oz) butter
400-500g (14-18oz) approx soft breadcrumbs made from good bread (check that the bread is non-GM) or approx 600g (11/4lb) gluten-free breadcrumbs
50g (2oz) freshly chopped herbs, eg parsley, thyme, chives, marjoram, savoury, lemon balm
Salt and freshly ground pepper
For basting the turkey: 225g (8oz) butter
Large square of muslin (optional)
Roux for the gravy (optional)
To garnish: Large sprigs of fresh parsley or watercress
1. Remove the wishbone from the neck end of the turkey, for ease of carving later. Using a tall, narrow saucepan, make a turkey stock by covering the neck, gizzard, heart, wishbone, wing tips, vegetables, bouquet garni and peppercorns with cold water. (Keep the liver for a smooth turkey liver pâté.) Bring to the boil and simmer while the turkey is being prepared and cooked, 3 hours approx.
2. To make the fresh herb stuffing, sweat the onions gently in the butter until soft, for 10 minutes approx, on a low heat, then stir in the crumbs, herbs and a little salt and pepper to taste. Allow it to get quite cold. If necessary, wash and dry the cavity of the bird, then season and three-quarters fill with cold stuffing. Put the remainder of the stuffing into the crop at the neck end, or you may decide to do a different stuffing. Either way, tuck the remaining neck flap underneath the bird and secure with the wing tips.
3. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4.
4. Weigh the turkey and calculate the cooking time. Allow 15 minutes approx per 450g (1lb) and 15 minutes over. Melt the butter for basting the turkey and soak a large piece of good-quality muslin in the melted butter. Cover the turkey completely with the muslin and roast in the preheated moderate oven for 2¾-3¼ hours. There is no need to baste it because of the butter-soaked muslin.
5. The turkey browns beautifully, but if you like it even browner, remove the muslin 10 minutes before the end of the cooking time. Alternatively, smear the breast, legs and crop well with soft butter and season well with salt and freshly ground pepper. If the turkey is not covered with butter-soaked muslin then it is a good idea to cover the whole dish with a large sheet of parchment. However, your turkey will then be semi-steamed, not roasted in the traditional sense of the word.
6. The turkey is cooked when the thigh juices run clear. To test, prick the thickest part at the base of the thigh and examine the juices: they should be clear. Remove the turkey to a carving dish, keep it warm and allow it to rest while you make the gravy.
7. To make the gravy, spoon the surplus fat from the roasting pan. Deglaze the pan juices with fat-free stock from the giblets and bones. Using a whisk, stir and scrape well to dissolve the caramelised juices from the roasting pan. Boil it up well, season and thicken with a little roux if you like. Taste and correct the seasoning. Serve in a hot gravy boat.
8. If possible, present the turkey on your largest serving dish, surrounded by crispy roast potatoes and garnished with large sprigs of parsley or watercress and maybe a sprig of holly. Make sure no one eats the berries.
9. Serve with cranberry sauce, bread sauce and gravy.
Glazed Ham with Mango Relish
A perfectly glazed ham always looks stunning, but loin of bacon is ideal for this recipe too and is much easier to carve.
1 x 4.5-5.4kg (10-12lb) fresh or lightly smoked ham (make sure it has a nice layer of fat)
60-80 whole cloves, depending on the size of the diamonds
350-450g (3/4-1lb) Demerara sugar
1 small tin of pineapple. Use 75-125ml (3-4fl oz) of the juice
For the mango relish:
50ml (2fl oz) medium sherry
50ml (2fl oz) white wine vinegar
50ml (2fl oz) water
2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp salt
2 cinnamon sticks
1 star anise
Pinch of ground mace
1 mango, peeled and diced
1 small red pepper, seeded and diced
1 tbsp lemon juice
1. If the ham is salty, soak it in cold water overnight. The next day, discard the water. Cover the ham with fresh cold water and bring it slowly to the boil. If the meat is still salty there will be a white froth on top of the water. In this case it is preferable to discard this water, cover the ham with fresh cold water again and repeat the process. Finally, cover the ham with hot water and simmer until it is almost cooked. Allow 25 minutes to 450g (1lb) approx for ham, 20 minutes for a loin of bacon.
2. Meanwhile, make the mango relish. Put the sherry, vinegar, water, sugar, salt, cinnamon, star anise and mace into a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer over a medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the mango, red pepper and lemon juice, lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes more. Remove from the heat and let cool completely. Spoon into a screw top jar and refrigerate until required.
3. Preheat the oven to 250°C/475°F/gas mark 9.
4. Peel the rind off the ham, cut the fat into a diamond pattern and stud each diamond with a whole clove. Blend the brown sugar to a paste with a little pineapple juice. Be careful not to make it too liquid.
5. Spread this over the ham. Bake it in the hot oven for 20 minutes, or until the top has caramelised. While it is glazing, baste regularly with the syrup and juices. Serve hot or cold with mango relish.
Darina Allen’s A Simply Delicious Christmas Revised and Updated 25-Year Anniversary Edition is published by Gill Books
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