28 December 2010

Turkey with saffron butter and preserved lemon & olive stuffing

The table was set...

Table awaiting its guests on
Christmas Eve
the turkey was cooking...

Turkey roasting in the oven for
close to 4 hours
Dean, Frank and Sammy were singing Christmas tunes and my spirits were soaring high. Christmas Eve had arrived and I was cooking my very first Turkey for my beloved, in-laws and parents. It doesn't get much better than this.

The day was planned with tactical scheduling brilliance...and this is saying a lot considering I'm one of the world's most unorganised individuals. I had cookies to finish baking for the christmas hampers, hampers to pack and wrap, a turkey to pick up from the butcher and get in the oven by 3pm, along with a little cleaning and a table setting to complete. Thank goodness for a helping hand from my beloved.

Now, back to the turkey.

I have wanted to cook a turkey for over 12 months. But, due to a little unexpected accident last year resulting in a broken wrist, I had to cancel my turkey order and wait for another year. This was my year. And this is the recipe:

Turkey with saffron butter and preserved lemon & olive stuffing
from the 2009 edition of delicious christmas

I used a 4.8kg turkey, although the below is for a 7 - 8 kg turkey I still kept the measurements the same.
2 tbs milk, warmed
1 tsp saffron threads
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
150g unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup (115g) honey
3 tbs dukkah (purchased from gourmet food shops, or just use some sesame seeds)
2 red onions, quartered
2 tbs olive oil
2 tbs plain flour
300 ml chicken or turkey stock
100 ml dry red wine
2 tbs quince paste (I used some left over Maggie Beer cabernet paste)
2 tsp balsamic vinegar

1 tbs olive oil
2 tbs unsalted butter
1 white onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 cup (125 ml) chicken stock
5 cups (350g) fresh white breadcrumbs
1/2 a preserved lemon (available from gourmet food shops), white pith removed, finely chopped. (The pith is the white 'stuff' underneath the zest, or yellow skin of the lemon)
1 cup pitted green olives, chopped
I added 1 cup of dried apricots to add sweetness, chopped. Prunes would also go nicely in this.
1/2 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

Stuffing method
Make your fresh breadcrumbs by using stale or lightly toasted bread. Put it in a food processor. Don't mix it too much as it's nice to have chunks of bread in stuffing. If you have gluten free guests, don't think they will have to miss out on the best part of this roast, use fresh gluten free bread...it works just as well.

Heat oil and butter in a pan over a low heat. Add the onions and cook for 2-3 minutes until soft. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add stock, bring to the boil, then remove from the heat. Combine the breadcrumbs, lemon, olives, apricots (if adding) and parsley in a large bowl. Add the stock, season and stir to combine. Add extra stock if you think it's too dry or add an egg to help bind the stuffing together (mine didn't need the egg). Cool completely before stuffing the turkey.

Turkey preparation
Preheat oven to 170 degrees celsius.

Place the milk and saffron in a small bowl and set aside for 10 minutes to infuse. With a hand mixer beat the saffron milk and garlic into the softened butter. This will take a little while, but persist, this is what will keep your turkey meat delicious and moist.

Now it is time to get into that turkey. Just like the duck from the other day, you have to suck up the potential horror you feel at sticking your hand inside this animal and pull out the giblets (and neck if that hasn't already been removed). Once this is done rinse the turkey, then dry it inside and out with a paper towel. It is time to fill the cavity with the delicious stuffing - don't overfill it though as stuffing expands during cooking. I skewered up the hole, once stuffed. Next time I would also tie the legs together for a better look.

Grab your prepared saffron butter and have it next to you. Next you need to work your fingers gently between the breast meat and skin of the turkey, taking care not to tear the skin. It is pretty tough so isn't too easy to do, but be gently all the same. Push half the saffron butter in between the skin and breast meat, rub remaining butter all over the outside of the turkey.

The recipe now recommends you wrap the bird in a 2-metre square of muslin. However, I don't have muslin, so I dialed-a-chef (aka Dad) and he said just cover the breast in aluminium foil and wrap it under its wings and legs. Check out the photo above and you can see what I did. This technique worked perfectly. Roast the turkey for 3 hours.

Discard the aluminium foil (or muslin) and brush the turkey with honey. This adds a wonderful sweetness to the skin. It will become dark from the sugars, don't think you have burnt it. Sprinkle with the dukkah. Add the onions to the pan and roast for a further 30 to 40 minutes. Remove onion and turkey from the pan. Transfer the turkey to a tray to rest.

Gravy method
First, I want you all to throw that gravox tin out...you don't need it to make fabulous - and EASY - gravy. Remove some of the fat from the roasting dish, leaving the pan juices behind. If you have a stove top roasting dish you can place this on the element, or if you are like me and have the world's worst roasting tray, place the pan juices into a fry pan; but make sure you take all the yummy burnt bits and left over onion pieces. These will add flavour.

Place the pan over a medium heat, add the flour and cook, stirring, for 1 to 2 minutes. The trick here is to use a whisk, only use a whisk, this will prevent you from getting lumps in the gravy. It is important to cook this part for probably closer to 2 minutes. This will cook out the taste of the flour.

Add the stock, wine, quince paste and vinegar. Cook, stirring (whisking), for 2-3 minutes.

Place turkey on a platter, serve with gravy, roast potatoes and steamed vegetables.

Not the best photo of the turkey,
but it tasted delicious.
This recipe was extremely tasty, and I'm VERY proud to say, the breast meat was exceptionally moist. Certainly a recipe to add to your special occasion dinners' list.


  1. OMG this was fantastic. The BEST turkey and the gravy was divine - by far the best gravy ever, and i was a gravox fan for many years. Whilst i should be biased, i am still a hungry man and Fi nailed this turkey and gravy. Well done babe. The Beloved

  2. I love the oven shot!Congratulations on such a successful meal. What a lucky family and beloved you have!