Nigella Lawson’s perfect turkey

18 Nov


We love Nigella’s turkey recipe, and we’re not ashamed to admit it. Brining the bird overnight makes it super tender and moist and the glaze gives a beautifully bronzed – and more importantly, delicious – finish.

For the turkey

6 litres (10 pints 11 fluid oz) water
125 g (4 1/4-oz) table salt
3 tbsp black peppercorns
1 cinnamon stick
1 tbsp caraway seeds
4 cloves
2 tbsp allspice berries (or 1-1/2 tbsp powdered allspice)
4 star anise
2 tbsp white mustard seeds
200 g (7 oz) caster sugar
2 onions, quartered
7 cm (3 inch) piece ginger, cut into 6 slices
4 tbsp maple syrup
4 tbsp clear honey
Handful fresh parsley leaves
1 orange, quartered

The turkey: 4 to 5 kg (9 to 11 1/4-pound). A bird this size will easily feed 8 people.

For the glaze
75g (2 3/4 oz) butter
3 tbsp maple syrup
The Brining

Place the water into your largest cooking pot or bucket/plastic bin and add all the turkey ingredients, stirring to dissolve the salt, sugar, syrup and honey. (Squeeze the juice of the orange quarters into the brine before you chuck in the pieces.)

Remove any string attached to the turkey, shake it free and add it to the liquid. Add more water if the turkey is not completely submerged. Keep the mixture in a cold place, even outside overnight or for up 1 or 2 days before you cook it, remembering to take it out of its liquid (and wiping it dry with kitchen paper) a good 40 or 50 minutes before it has to go into the oven. The turkey should be brought up to room temperature before being put in the preheated oven. If you’re at all concerned – the cold water in the brine will really chill this bird – then just cook the turkey for slightly longer than its actual weight requires.

The glaze

Place the butter and syrup into a saucepan and cook over a low heat, stirring until the ingredients have melted and combined.

Brush the turkey with the glaze before roasting, and baste periodically throughout the roasting time.

Cooking the turkey

Preheat the oven to 220º C (425º F).

Cook the turkey for 30 minutes at this temperature, then turn the oven down to 175º C (350º F) and continue cooking, turning the oven back up to 220º C for the final 15 minutes or so if you need to give the skin an extra brown boost. For a 4-5 kg turkey, allow 2 1/2 to 3 hours in total. Beware though, as oven temperatures vary enormously. To check whether the turkey is cooked, pierce the flesh between the leg and body with a small sharp knife: when the juices run clear, the turkey is cooked.

Just as it’s crucial to let the turkey come to room temperature before it goes in to the oven, it’s important to let it rest once it’s out of the oven. Cover in foil and let it stand for about 20 minutes before carving. This allows the meat to relax and the juices to penetrate the meat.

For the gravy

Deglaze the roasting pan with some dry white wine and chicken stock, making sure to add any juices that run off the bird while resting. You could add a dash of port if you’re feeling adventurous.

Photo: Edsel L


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