Turkey and technology: why it’s about precision not price.

When I was a kid growing up in Scotland, having a succulent turkey at Christmas was a luxury we could only wish for. Most households either served it up dry or in many (like mine) we didn’t have it all. These days, with a plentiful supply in shops, the dilemma has changed to whether or not the bird will fit in the oven.

Now I get it, turkey isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But nevertheless, for so many treats we like to nibble on during the festive season, there are endless options to choose when purchasing.

So before you lash out on the most expensive dressing, meat or salad, here’s a few tips to ensure you have the best Christmas feast to date.

1. Use technology to your advantage

Whether you are on the bus, waiting in a lobby or can’t sleep at night, you and your phone spend a lot of time together. So instead of browsing social media spend a little time looking on the web researching all your culinary queries. Simply searching, ‘How to cook a chook’ will show you endless ways to perform a seemingly easy task. Even as a professional chef, I am constantly scrolling for new and innovative recipes and often come across nuggets of gold.

2. Precision not Price

Too often I get asked about people how much they should be spending on Christmas food. Now while this isn’t the case every time, more often than not you can pick up a frozen product (such as a turkey) for a good price which with the right amount of care can turn out to be just as good (or even better) than a fresh and more expensive brand. My tip is again, do your research and pick a popular option.

3. Try using a water bath.

If you are cooking meat, keeping it succulent and not overcooked is an imperative. In recent years, I have found that cooking using a water bath has been a great way of doing this. Also known as ‘sous-vide’ cooking, this method sees the meat cook within its own juices, producing a mouth-watering finished product that’s super tender. Please note, it does take more than just your average 30+ mins in the oven, so if you do use this technique, allocate yourself plenty of time!

To help, I have also put down the bottom one of my favourite brine recipes, which I use to ‘soak’ the meat before cooking, which will help cook your meat to perfection.

4. Be diligent!

Simply putting a cut of meat, a cake or desert in the oven without diligently checking it regularly is a recipe for a ruined dish. Regardless how you choose to cook or prepare your food, make sure you follow instructions carefully and most of all, always check on the progress.

5. Get creative with your glazes!

Truth be told, I quite fancy a Christmas ham. While they are already delicious straight out of the plastic, they can be made even better by using a simple glaze. Whether it be sugar, honey or even Coca-Cola, there are so many options to choose from.

Rather than telling you which glaze is best, I’ll leave that to you to find out. Just make sure you always leave the fat on the meat. It provides a barrier and scoring it before you glaze will ensure the perfect ham.

And if you’re looking for a sweet treat – try my Christmas spiced Panna Cotta with cherry compote. Delicious.

Have a Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year!

Maple brine for Turkey

  • 4ltrs water
  • 500g dark brown sugar
  • 400ml maple syrup
  • 200ml salt
  • 200ml soy sauce
  • 10 x garlic cloves smashed
  • 10 x bay leaves
  • 10 x sprigs thyme
  • 1 x Tbsp whole black peppercorns

1. Place 1.5ltr of water and the ingredients into a saucepan and bring to boil. Stir to dissolve sugar.
2. Remove from heat and add the rest of cold water and allow to cool completely.
3. Pour brine over turkey and leave overnight.
4. Remove from brine, pat dry and cook carefully as normal.

Christmas spiced Panna Cotta w cherry compote (serves 8)

  • 250ml milk
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 50g honey
  • 3 x gelatine leaves (I use titanium which weigh 5g each)
  • 2 x cinnamon sticks
  • 2 x star anise
  • 6 x cloves
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • Zest of 1 x orange
  • Vanilla
  • 750 ml cream

1. Place cream, milk, sugar, honey, spices, orange zest and vanilla into saucepan and bring to boil. Remove from heat and allow spices to infuse for approximately one hour.
2. Place pan back onto stove and bring back to simmer.
3. Soak gelatine leaves in cold water and when soft squeeze out water and stir into warm cream until dissolved.
4. Strain through a fine sieve.
5.  Pour into dariole moulds or a glass until set about 4 x hour.

Cherry compote

  • 1kg cherries – pitted
  • 400g caster sugar
  • 200ml port
  • 200ml red wine
  • 2 x cinnamon sticks
  • Peel from 1 x orange and 1 x lemon

1. Bring sugar, port and wine to boil with cinnamon and peel, simmer for 15 minutes remove from heat and add cherries.
2. When cool refrigerate until ready to serve with Panna Cotta.

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