Christmas is quickly approaching and you’re either feeling very smug about your organisational skills or are in a maelstrom of panic and stress. Present buying is only part of the battle, we hate to remind you but the ‘big food shop’ is also looming.
Now for me enjoying delicious food is the most essential part of Christmas and I have a hunch that I’m not alone in that. Gorgeously gooey puddings, tins overflowing with favourite chocolates and the odd crispy, fluffy roast potato or two!
But what about the main event? The showstopper which will make your table groan with the weight of its tastiness and your family’s eyes fill with longing. For most Christmas lunches around the UK, the trusty turkey is the meat of choice and a bird with tender, moist flesh and crisp, brown skin will make you the toast of the table.
Turkey is a great choice for any roast dinner with more flavour, protein and less fat than chicken. Ignore the naysayers who whisper unkindly about the turkey being dry. They have simply failed to cook their turkey properly, amateurs!
There’s a huge range of different types, sizes and shapes of turkey options. From un-adorned whole birds with impeccable provenance to turkey crowns ready stuffed with gourmet stuffing and coated with bacon.
So, where and what to buy? We’ve researched the best of this year’s offerings to help you choose the perfect turkey for your Christmas dinner.
When you choose your turkey make sure you buy birds that have been allowed to mature to full size. If budget allows then pick a bird that has been fed on organic, natural food and has had plenty of exercise throughout its life.
Keeping these things in mind while shopping will mean you have supported a farmer who has cared for his flock well and will be rewarded with lean, flavour-filled meat. The ideal place to buy your turkey is from your nearest independent butcher, it will be fresh, local and beautifully prepared. However, this isn’t always possible and supermarkets are where most of us now buy our turkeys from.
The magazine, BBC Good Food conducts a taste test every year and has awarded Marks & Spencer the honour of being chosen as the winner of the best tasty turkey award this year. M&S are synonymous with Christmas food so this won’t come as a surprise to many.
The M&S Pembrokeshire Bronze Free Range product was given top marks for its ‘golden colour’ and ‘crisp skin’. The white meat was ‘succulent’ with the legs (my favourite!) said to deliver a ‘savoury and gamey’ taste. These tasty turkeys are from the Welsh farm of Justin Scale, a true expert in delivering high quality birds who have lived a happy, healthy life.
Households who are on a smaller budget should look to Aldi and Lidl. They had a turkey each in the Good food Highly Commended category. Aldi’s Exquisite Ramburgh Farm British Free Range Turkey and Lidl’s Silverslate Turkey are both under £9.00 per kg.
The compliments received from the judges by Aldi and Lidl were that the turkeys had “golden, glossy skin” and “close textured meat” that was “savoury without being too gamey”. Iceland also did well in the taste tests but Tesco lagged behind the competition with only two stars given for the flavour of their meat.
Pre-prepared turkeys and turkey crowns
Christmas is all about spending quality time with family and friends and I’d guess that spending an hour with your hands inside a turkey is definitely not high on your list of fun things to do. Wrapping presents, shopping and writing Christmas cards is enough festive admin to cope with, so the food prep should be as simple and efficient as possible.
Pre-prepared turkeys come with stuffing, a jacket of juicy bacon and all the basting sorted. All you need to do is stick it in a hot oven, set the timer and wait while relaxing with a glass of prosecco or two. Once it’s done the carving is easier and there is much less waste and mess after the meal is finished. Sounds perfect, doesn’t it?
Waitrose’s Cranberry Burst Turkey Parcel (£45) is beautifully presented and doesn’t take up too much room in a busy oven. The parcel is pure breast meat and goes further than the size of it suggests. The filling is sweet but tangy cranberry sauce which oozes out and is a perfect partner for the crispy bacon that encases the meat.
If you have a big family and love to entertain them all on Christmas Day then Sainsbury’s is the supermarket to head to. Their Taste the Difference Turkey Crown is £60 but will serve 14-16 people. Do check the size of your oven, buy a big roasting tray and plan the rest of your roast around the fact this beast will take up most of your cooking space.
This big, juicy bird is stuffed with nicely balanced pork, sage and onion stuffing and has a decorative and generous latticework of bacon on the top. The meat itself is moist and artfully seasoned and the bay leaves add a lovely final flourish.
The Christmas food catalogues have been in print for a while now and it’s time to make your choices and get organised or the best turkeys will soon be snapped up and stashed away in the freezer of Mr and Mrs Smug.