So you can have a rib of beef, a shoulder of pork, a leg of lamb or even some game; but would it really be Christmas without the turkey? Debates rage – the bird is too big! It’s much drier than chicken; they take forever to cook! And yet back we come to these birds.
These complaints are, of course, a bit silly. We want a bigger bird to feed the gathered masses; the larger bird will take longer to cook and their texture is different to that of a chicken. Incidentally you can add moisture to the meat by brining the bird overnight in a heavily salt and sugar saturated solution. But turkey is also distinct – its flavour unique and, most of all, fills us with nostalgia.
We’ve only had the turkey, a North American native, on our Christmas tables for some few hundred years – although story tells that Henry VIII had one for his celebratory lunch. They really found popularity during Victorian times while goose, a favourite once more, dwindled.
The most popular cultural reference to the bird must be in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol when Scrooge sends a large turkey to Bob Cratchitt.
So – where to buy your turkey? This year, we’re loving a favourite of Jamie Oliver’s and Angela Hartnett’s, the Totally Traditional Turkeys (available from www.totallytraditionalturkeys.co.uk, available Harrods, Selfridges, Lidgate of London and Allen’s of Mayfair as well as selected farm shops and butchers) , organic and raised using traditional methods. Check out the recipes below for some cooking inspiration.
At Hello Towers we’ll be going classic, with maybe a little herb butter nudged gently under the skin. We’re also big fans of traditional butcher Donald Russell’s turkeys (www.donaldrussell.com, order before 22/12/11 to guarantee your turkey). He’s picked free range Loue Bronze Turkeys from the Loue region of France and the birds are exclusive to him. They’re naturally plump so stay nice and juicy when roasted.
Click here for lovely recipes for roasted turkey with fig, apple and shallot stuffing with fresh sage from Totally Traditional Turkeys and here for the essential gravy