Christmas Day is a time to be indulgent and when it comes to lunch, the star of the show is of course, the turkey! If you’re planning a family festive feast and want to make it a meal to remember, then Ben Aveling has the answers.
We’ve asked the Cambridge based poultry and egg farmer, retail and online entrepreneur, food producer, butcher, chef and restauranteur to share his expert advice on how to cook up a storm in the kitchen.
As long as I can remember I have loved Christmas. I would like to take this up a notch. I LOVE Christmas, more than anyone and I challenge anyone to prove to me otherwise. Because of this love I have made it my personal mission to provide Christmas cheer to families all over Cambridge by providing the best ingredients for a Christmas dinner. Over the years this has become more of an obsession.
As you could imagine my Christmas dinners are never short of epic and today I’m going to let you into some of my best tips to sourcing and cooking your Christmas turkey as well as what I believe will make your Christmas special.
So where do I start?
- Buy the best turkey you can afford – it’ll make your Christmas
You probably already do just that, but for those of you reading this who don’t, it’s possibly the most important part of your Christmas dinner. Quality food whether it be meat or even the potatoes, shine through. It’s very difficult to spoil good bacon or dislike a nice red wine. In this category the most important thing is the meat! I recommend the Kelly Bronze. I have sold them for a long time now and I’m always astounded by the quality.
- Ditch the cookbooks
This is a controversial tip. My reason for this is that if you buy the right turkey, make sure you taste that turkey! Don’t cover up the flavour. If you softly brine a turkey or just season it well, I assure you that will be sufficient.
- Keep it juicy
There’s many ways to do this and my way will differ to many but I like to cover the bird entirely in Radmore Streaky Bacon, cover with foil and pop it in the oven. Wait until the last 40 minutes and take the foil off, crisp the bacon for 30 mins and take it off. You can put the bird back in without foil to crisp the skin.
- Keep the steam in
Place the bird into a deep baking dish on a bed of onions, garlic and some stock if you wish. Top with water or stock to half or three quarter up the dish and then attempt the previous tip! It’s a great way of gently cooking the bird and helping it to keep juicy too!
- Upside down
This is where “fortune favours the brave” but I have attempted this with great success. Cook the bird upside down, breast down. The theory for this is that the juices run down with gravity and keep the great extra juicy, only turning it over at the end to crisp the skin.
- Cooking times
Probably the most simple of the tips but it’s very effective; cooking times. This is essential because this stops you worrying and you can enjoy that extra glass of eggnog with the family!
Poultry: 20 mins per lb of weight and add 20 mins to this number and that’s your cooking time based on Fan Oven of 180/190 degrees C
For Beef/Red Meat: If you’d like it a tad pink this will work as above but do it for 15 mins per lb and drop the end 15 to make it pinker.
- This is a thrifty tip to help the pocket – buy a smaller turkey than you perhaps need
This may sound crazy but think about how many years have gone by and you’ve been so fed up of turkey sandwiches you’re glad next Christmas is a year away. The most expensive part of Christmas food is the meat so don’t buy more than you need and go all out on the trimmings! Pigs in blankets, roast potatoes, the works. This will massively help your pocket and actually look like you’ve done more!
- Best time to buy – get the order in!
Butchers always have cut off days to order so keep an eye on those dates, but in my business we have always taken orders right up to Christmas Eve. In short there’s no correct time to buy but don’t leave it to chance. Get your name down on a beautiful bird but make sure the butcher knows the size you’d like and that they are confident they can deliver that size and this will make the buying process easy for you. You can rest assured when the orders in, you just have to pop and collect it on your chosen day.
- Leftovers – it’s easy to have zero waste
This is by far the biggest question we get asked; what about the left overs? Any tips? Well now that you mention it, here’s a few of my favourite leftover tips for cooked turkey:
Turkey stock: Just google a recipe for plain stock. It’s very simple and as your bones have already been roasted this will help the stock to not be greasy.
Risotto: Made using the stock and most importantly use up any spare crispy bacon bits! Amazing!
Curry: Simply my favourite, just be lazy and buy a nice jar and throw in the cooked meat until it’s cooked through. You’ll be amazed how tasty this is.
Sandwiches: I know, you’ve already nailed this one but use it as an opportunity to make an awesome sandwich. Get some fantastic sourdough, thick with rich butter one side and a spread of cranberry sauce in the other and load it up with mayo and stuffing!
Flat breads: This is great and very different. Buy some simple wrap/tortillas, spread with hummus and a touch of harissa, with crunchy salad and top with the turkey. You can also heat the turkey in a bit of harissa with some oil if you fancy it warm.
I am not a big drinker but I always have a glass of wine with my Christmas meal. I could go on about what wines to drink but honestly, walk into any independent wine shop (I use Baccanalia in Cambridge) and tell them what you are looking for and how much you’re looking to spend. The independent wine shops are usually very good quality, very good on price and have a real interest in giving you the wine you’ll really love.
Ben has been in the farming, food produce and retail business since 2006. He is the owner of Radmore Farm Shop Online, Cambridge’s only independent online food supermarket selling food and produce from his farm, local businesses and high quality nationwide brands.