Time to get organised!
Christmas is just over six weeks’ away and if you like being organised as we do (hands up all Type As!), now is the ideal time to turn your attention to your festive menu. Butchers and delis like Joburg’s fave, Fournos are already accepting orders, so if turkey is on your wish list, act soon to avoid disappointment.
Ideally, you want to buy organic – or free range at the very least – and collect your meat about two days before Christmas so that it’s still fresh.
A good butcher will help you choose the right sized bird for your bash, but if you’re shopping solo at the supermarket, this rough guide will help you:
The best turkeys are not necessarily blemish free, so rather focus on how the bird feels when you touch it (supple is good) and whether the skin is dry or wet (according to Jamie Oliver, the former is best as it means the bird has been hung and dry-plucked, resulting in a superior taste).
Going the frozen route? No problem, just remember to leave ample time before cooking for the bird to thaw … and then to roast it carefully so that the meat doesn’t dry out (the one downside to choosing turkey over chicken!).
We love this simple advice to preparing and roasting turkeys, found on the Jamie Oliver website (hey, if it’s good enough for Jamie…).
Preparing your turkey
Take your turkey out of the fridge 30 minutes before you intend to put it in the oven. This way, your oven will have plenty of time to preheat, and you’ll get less shrinkage. Remember, there’s no need to wash a turkey – any bacteria will be killed during cooking.
Before you pop it in the oven, check for giblets (the gizzard, heart, liver or other small organs). They’re usually supplied in an oven-safe plastic bag and are sometimes in the cavity of the bird, so remember to remove them before cooking. They might look a bit weird, but don’t throw them away – they’ll add great flavour to your gravy!
Cooking your turkey
Make a note of the weight of your turkey and the suggested cooking time if you buy your bird online or from a butcher. Supermarket turkeys should be clearly labelled to make this easy.
Calculate your cooking time using the weight as a guide, but don’t forget: your turkey will need to come out of the oven an hour before carving to rest and get lovely and flavoursome.
Roast the turkey for the required time, or until the juices run clear from the thickest part of the thigh if you pierce it with a knife or a skewer.
Using a thermometer, check that the internal temperature of the turkey is at least 70ºC. If you have a dry-plucked, dry-aged, excellent quality bird, you can cook it to 65ºC.
Then leave to rest, carve, and enjoy.
If you’re not keen on turkey, but still want a traditional Christmas meal, chicken, duck and roast beef are all excellent alternatives. Again, choose the best quality you can afford and take your time when preparing it. A little love (and patience) goes a long way in enhancing the flavour of a dish. And which cook doesn’t want her guests coming back for more…
Oh, and if you’d like to order a few platters to tempt your guests before you serve your main meaty dish, how about a visit to Thrupps? They have divine cheese and antipasto continental platters (think cheese and biscuits, a pastry platter, fruit platters and baskets … the list goes on!), as well as cold platters – so good! Details: www.thrupps.co.za
Taking the task outside … turkey on a Weber braai!
Holiday entertaining wouldn’t feel right – in South Africa at least – without some sort of braai, so why not cook your turkey (or chicken or beef roast) outside on the Weber? It’s one more way to celebrate summer and lends a lovely, relaxed air to the task. (It also keeps your oven free for other dishes – useful if you’re preparing multiple dishes to feed the masses!)
We love this step-by-step recipe found on the Yuppiechef website – in fact, we love everything there … check out their latest kitchen aids and tableware, everything from bamboo utensils and hand-cast aluminium pans to gorgeous glass decanters … our list to Santa just got longer!
Ingredients (serves 8–10):
6 onions, sliced into thick chunks
1 turkey, approx 4 kg
handful thyme leaves
stuffing of your choice (here are two brilliant stuffing recipes)
500ml ginger beer, cider or beer
salt and pepper
8 – 12 slices prosciutto or parma ham
fresh herbs, to serve
For the salsa:
2 avocados, peeled and finely chopped
1 papaya, peeled and finely chopped
juice of 3 limes
1 chilli, de-seeded and chopped – add to taste
2 tbsp sesame seeds (white or black)
1 tbsp sesame oil
3 spring onions, finely sliced
1 bunch mint, roughly chopped
To make the salsa, mix all the salsa ingredients together and season to taste. Leave in the fridge, covered, whilst you start cooking the turkey.
To prepare the bird, remove from packaging, rinse under water and pat dry with paper towel. Spread the thickly sliced onions over one of the disposable trays and place the bird on top. Loosen the skin over the breast with your fingers, stuff the butter under the skin and tuck in a few thyme leaves.
Now fill your turkey with your choice of stuffing. Here are two tasty stuffing recipes to try.
Once stuffed, tie the ankles together. Pour the cider over the bird and season.
Cover the breast of the turkey with parma ham or prosciutto.
Cover the bird with tinfoil and secure the edges tightly to the Weber tray. At this point, you can leave the bird in the fridge overnight if you wish to cook it the following day.
If you have a fire starter, fill it to the brim with charcoal and burn until the coals are slightly ashy. You will need to set up your Weber for indirect cooking which means placing your coals in two piles opposite each other on the charcoal grate.
Carefully place a large disposable tray in the middle of the grid (in between the charcoal piles) and fill about halfway with water. This will help to maintain the temperature of the fire and Weber. Put the cooking grate in place, close the lid and let the coals burn down to a low heat. Keep the vents open.
Place the turkey in the centre of the cooking grate. Position the pan so that the turkey legs face the Weber handles and the tray is sitting in between the 2 charcoal piles. Cook the turkey over a low heat (approximately 150ºC), with the lid on, for 1 hour.
After half an hour, place 20 briquettes in the fire starter to get hot for your ‘refueling’ of the turkey coals. If you have another braai of sorts, you can also use this to get your briquettes ready.
After another half an hour (it’s been 1 hour since your turkey went on), add the 20 briquettes using long handled tongs. Check the water in the disposable tray and top up if necessary.
After another half an hour, repeat the briquette lighting process.
After another half hour, open the foil and baste the turkey with the juice. Once again, add the other briquettes.
Continue to cook for another hour to brown the top. If you have a meat thermometer, check the internal temperature. When it is 80ºC at the thickest part of the thigh (not touching the bone) and 75ºC in the breast, the turkey is done.
TIP: The cooking time will vary between 2.5-3.5 hours. A 3.8kg stuffed bird takes about 3 hours at 150 -160ºC. Remember, cooking a bird with stuffing will increase cooking time slightly.
Remove the turkey from the Weber and place on a large wooden board. Allow to rest for at least 20 minutes – best have a beer whilst you wait.
Carve the turkey and serve for Christmas lunch or dinner with the avo and papaya salsa.
Looking for the best place to get your turkey? Well, we know just the spot … Joburg’s best continental deli and best bakery, Fournos. Not only do they have a wonderful variety, but you can find them just about anywhere – bonus! Better still, if you’re looking to add a little something special to your Christmas Day lunch, like gift baskets (we just love their Ginger Christmas biscuits!) or some yummy baked goods, they’ll have it for you. Bring on the Turkey and the tasty treats! Details: www.fournos.co.za
Sauce it up!
No self-respecting Christmas turkey would ever make an appearance without gravy (considered an essential part of the meal, along with roast potatoes!) so don’t forget to include it on your ‘must-make’ list. This simple recipe, from the brilliant BBC Good Food website, uses white wine for a pale, light gravy, but can also be made using red wine or Port for a richer feel.
Easy Christmas gravy
Ingredients (serves 8):
1 tbsp flour
200ml white wine or red wine
600ml chicken stock
Pour away any excess fat from the turkey roasting tin but keep any onion halves used in cooking. Set the tin over a medium heat, then sprinkle over the flour. Stir with a wooden spoon and cook for 2 mins, turning the onion over in the mixture to extract the flavour. Slowly stir in the wine and stock, adding any juices from the resting turkey. Bring to the boil, scraping the bits from the bottom, then simmer over a low heat for 15 mins. Sieve and season before serving alongside your Christmas turkey.
Cranberry sauce is another traditional favourite which pairs beautifully with roast cuts of pork or poultry. Fresh or frozen cranberries are hard to come by, so rather than stress, why not try Woolworths’ delectable cranberry sauce, R36.95 per 150g jar, or their cranberry and port sauce, R39.95 per 200g sachet. Both are delicious with camembert and brie too, so can serve double duty with the cheeseboard.
If you’re looking for a few last minute items this Christmas (preparation can only get you so far, after all), there’s no better place to head to Joburg’s favourite supermarket for essentials – Woolworths. Whatever it may be – coffee, tea, bread, milk – they’re your one-stop-shop … which means you’ll have more time to entertain your guests and thrill them with your Jamie Oliver-like cooking skills! It’s a win-win. Details: www.woolworths.co.za
Sensational side dishes
We’re mildly obsessed with side dishes and love to offer (and eat!) a variety of options with our choice of Christmas meat. Roast potatoes, honey glazed carrots, and cauliflower and broccoli cheese are all festive-season favourites, as are creamy potato bake and Brussel sprouts (try them sautéed in olive oil with pancetta and rosemary, then toss with pine nuts and serve warm). Ah-mazing roasted vegetables, braised greens with garlic and lemon, and (guilt-free) olive oil-roasted cauliflower are also utterly moreish!
In the heat of summer however, our best sides are salads – especially those with a twist. You can expect the easy kale, quinoa and roasted beet salad with marinated feta recipe below to be a crowd-pleasing hit, ditto the vegetable tagine salad (both fantastic meal options for non-meat eating guests). Other classy Christmas sides include the other recipe here: elegant asparagus and green beans with hazelnut and cranberry dressing. Hungry, anyone?
Kale, quinoa and roasted beet salad with marinated feta
Pic and recipe via www.taste.com.au
Ingredients (serves 4)
16 (about 350g) baby carrots, trimmed, peeled, halved lengthwise if large
12 (about 300g) baby beetroot, trimmed, peeled, halved (or quartered if large)
2 red onion, peeled, cut into thin wedges
1 cup (about 190g) quinoa, rinsed and drained
150g kale, trimmed, leaves shredded
2 tablespoons pine nuts, lightly toasted
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
1.5 tablespoons orange juice
1 teaspoon honey
60g marinated feta in oil, drained, crumbled
Pink Himalayan salt flakes, to season
Preheat oven to 200°C or 180°C fan forced. Line a large baking tray with baking paper. Place the carrots, beetroot and onion on a prepared tray, spray with olive oil. Roast for 35-40 minutes or until vegetables are golden and tender.
Meanwhile, place quinoa and 500ml (2 cups) water in a medium saucepan, bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 12-15 minutes, or until water has evaporated and quinoa is al dente. Stir through kale until just wilted.
Transfer quinoa to a large bowl. Add the roasted vegetables and pine nuts. Whisk the oil, vinegar, orange juice and honey together in a small bowl. Add to quinoa and stir until well combined. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Serve topped with the crumbled marinated feta.
Let’s be honest, all these delightful recipes require the freshest ingredients … and you can’t get much better than Jackson’s Real Food Market in Bryanston. Yes, we’re talking wholesome, good quality fruits and veggies (and the prices aren’t bad either … hint hint!). They’re sure to make your mouth-watering dishes even tastier! Details: jacksonsrealfoodmarket.co.za
Vegetable tagine salad
Pic and recipe via www.taste.com.au
Ingredients (serves 6)
1/2 butternut or pumpkin (around 300g), peeled, chopped into 2cm pieces
1 carrot, sliced 2cm thick
1 zucchini, sliced 2cm thick
400g can chickpeas, rinsed, drained
2 tablespoons Moroccan seasoning
1/3 cup (80ml) olive oil
1 cup (200g) couscous
1.5 cups (375ml) vegetable stock, heated
grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
250g punnet cherry tomatoes, halved
1 red onion, thinly sliced
½ bunch mint, leaves picked
½ bunch coriander, leaves picked
2 tablespoons flaked almonds, toasted
170g tub tzatziki
Preheat the oven to 200°C and line a baking tray with baking paper.
In a large bowl, toss the pumpkin, carrot and zucchini with the chickpeas, Moroccan seasoning and 2 tablespoons oil. Stir well so the vegetables are evenly coated in the oil and spices, and season. Arrange in a single layer on the baking tray and roast for 20-25 minutes until golden and just tender.
Meanwhile, place the couscous in a large heatproof bowl. Pour over the hot stock, cover with plastic wrap and stand for 5 minutes. Fluff the grains with a fork to separate. Whisk together the lemon juice and zest with the remaining 2 tablespoons oil.
Stir the dressing into the couscous. Gently toss the roasted vegetables, cherry tomatoes, onion, mint and coriander with the couscous.
Spoon the salad onto plates and sprinkle over the toasted almonds. Serve with the tzatziki.
Asparagus and green beans with hazelnut and cranberry dressing
Pics and recipe via www.taste.com.au
Ingredients (serves 8)
3 bunches asparagus, trimmed
500g green beans, trimmed
2 tablespoons olive oil
120g dry-roasted hazelnuts, finely chopped
1/3 cup dried cranberries, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
¼ cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons finely-chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
Cook asparagus and beans separately in a large saucepan of boiling water for 2 to 3 minutes or until bright green. Drain. Rinse under cold water. Remove to a large platter. Toss gently to combine.
Meanwhile, heat oil in a large, non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Add hazelnuts, cranberries and garlic. Cook, stirring, for 1 to 2 minutes or until hazelnuts are heated through. Remove from heat. Stir in vinegar and parsley.
Place asparagus and beans on a platter. Spoon over dressing. Serve.
Food for the day after…
Christmas leftovers are inevitable, but that certainly doesn’t mean you need to eat the same meal twice! With just a little imagination and a few extra ingredients, you can quickly whip up delicious, nutritious fare for Boxing Day.
Obvious options include turkey burgers and roast beef wraps, served with a simple side salad and sweet potato fries (if the latter is not too much effort!). Alternatively, you can’t go wrong with a homemade Christmas pizza featuring your favourite festive meat and veg, ham pasta or a fresh turkey risotto dish. When the time rolls around, we’re definitely going to try the Moroccan turkey salad below (and possibly substitute turkey with leftover beef or chicken), as well as the chicken (or turkey), kale and sprout stir-fry. Any remaining desserts such as Christmas pud will be crumbled and stirred into slightly soft vanilla ice cream, then popped back into the freezer until we’re ready to serve it with flaked almonds, dark chocolate nibs and a drizzle of hot cranberry sauce or maple syrup. Roll on the holidays!
Moroccan turkey salad
Pic and recipe via www.bbcgoodfood.com
Ingredients (serves 4)
2 pitta bread
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 diced aubergine
1 tablespoon harissa
250g cherry tomatoes, halved
500g leftover turkey, shredded
Tear the pitta into pieces and fry in the olive oil until crisp. Tip into a bowl, then fry the aubergine for 10 mins until soft. Add to the pitta with the harissa, tomatoes, turkey and rocket. Toss well. Scatter over pomegranate seeds and mint leaves.
Chicken, kale and sprout stir-fry (a light, wholesome way to get in extra Brussel sprouts!)
Pic and recipe via www.bbcgoodfood.com
Ingredients (serves 2)
100g soba noodles
100g shredded curly kale
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 lean chicken breasts, or the equivalent in leftover roast chicken (skin removed), sliced into thin strips
25g piece fresh ginger, peeled and sliced into matchsticks
1 red pepper, deseeded and thinly sliced
handful Brussel sprouts, cut into quarters
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine or white wine vinegar
zest and juice of 1 lime
Cook the noodles following pack instructions, then drain and set aside. Meanwhile, heat a large wok or frying pan and add the kale along with a good splash of water and cook for 1-2 mins until wilted, with a little bite remaining, then cool under running water to keep the colour.
Add half the oil and cook the chicken strips until browned, then remove and set aside. Heat the remaining oil and fry the ginger, pepper and sprouts until softened a little. return the chicken and kale and add the noodles.
Tip in the soy, rice wine and lime zest and juice along with enough water to create a sauce that clings to the ingredients. Serve immediately.