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1. Check the main turkey cavity for the bag of giblets; if they’re in there, remove and tip them into your roasting tray, discarding the bag. The added flavour they’ll give your gravy will be incredible – trust me.
2. Peel the onions, wash the carrots and roughly chop with the celery or the leek tops, then add to the tray with the unpeeled garlic cloves.
3. Place your stuffing in the neck cavity, then pull the skin back over it and tuck it under the bird. You’ll get a good contrast between the soft, juicy stuffing here inside the turkey, and the crispier stuff you can bake separately in a dish.
4. Place the softened butter on a board and press down with your hands. Pick over 3 sprigs of thyme, finely zest ½ a clementine and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, and scrunch all together to make your flavoured butter.
5. Halve the clementines and place in the main turkey cavity with the remaining thyme – not filling it too full allows hot air to circulate, cooking the bird from the inside out and from the outside in.
6. Get your turkey and use a spatula to work your way between the skin and the meat. Start at the side of the cavity just above the leg and work gently up towards the breastbone and towards the back so you create a large cavity. Pick up your butter and push it into the cavity you’ve created. Use your hands to push it through the skin right to the back so it coats the breast meat as evenly as possible. Do the same on the other side.
7. Drizzle the turkey all over with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and generously sprinkle from all sides with salt and pepper.
8. Cover the turkey snugly with tin foil and place it on top of the trivet in the tray.
ON THE DAY
1. Take your turkey out of the fridge 1 hour before it’s due to go in the oven.
2. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas 4.
3. You want to cook a higher-welfare bird for 25 to 30 minutes per kg and a standard bird is 35 to 40 minutes per kg. For a 4kg bird, pop it in the oven for 1 hour 40 minutes, basting several times with all the lovely juices in the tray and covering with foil when beautifully golden brown.
4. The simplest way to check it’s cooked is to stick a knife into the thickest part of the thigh – if the juices run clear, it’s done.
5. Use heavy-duty tongs to lift up your bird so all the juices run from the cavity into the tray, then transfer the turkey to a platter and leave to rest for up to 2 hours while you crack on. You can cover it with a double layer of tin foil and a clean tea towel to keep warm, if you like.
6. Skim away the fat from the turkey tray, save it in a jar, and leave to cool. When cold, transfer to the fridge for cooking with at a later date.
CARVING THE TURKEY
1. Once the turkey has rested, it’s time to carve. There are two ways you can do this.
- The first method is to remove the wings, slice the skin beside the legs, then pull out and chop the legs off. You can either slice or pull this brown meat – it’s so tasty. Keep it warm while you move on to the breast meat. Use the full length of the knife in a nice smooth action to slice through the breast meat, transferring it to a platter as you go.
- Alternatively, remove the leg as above, then feel where the backbone is and cut with the length of your knife all the way down beside it until you hit the carcass. You can then lift the whole breast off the bone. Remove to a board and slice.
“You must let your bird come up to room temperature after being in the fridge. It’ll give you more reliable cooking times, as well as juicier, more tender meat, as the bird isn’t shocked when it hits the heat of the oven.
Don’t be under the illusion that when you remove the turkey from the oven it stops cooking. The residual heat will continue to cook the bird, giving the juices time to travel back throughout the meat, meaning a juicier bird all round. Piping hot meat is not a clever thing – warm, juicy meat, hot gravy and hot plates is the holy grail.”