And all the trimmings

Whether you are tucking into turkey or planning a vegan or vegetarian feast here are some handy tips and recipes for the big day.

Top Turkey Tips

Generally, a 5.5kg bird will feed 8 adults for dinner with no leftovers. A 6-7kg bird will feed 8 adults with plenty of cold cuts and curries etc for Boxing Day and beyond.

Smooth butter or oil all over the breast and season with black pepper.

Fill the cavity with 2-3 lemons/oranges/satsumas, halved or quartered, or a couple of apples, to keep the meat moist and add subtle flavour.

Preheat the oven to 180C (fan ovens) or equivalent and roast the turkey, covered in a tent of foil, upside down: this allows the fatty juices from the legs to run down, keeping the breast succulent.

4 hours should be ample for a 12lb bird and 4½ hours for a 14-15lb one: overcooking will dry out the meat putting paid to tasty leftovers.

Rather than stuff the bird itself, prepare stuffing separately.

Turn the turkey the right way up for the last 30 minutes, remove the foil, and increase the heat to 200C (fan ovens) to brown the skin.

Rest for 20 minutes, covered in foil. 4 hours should be ample for a 12lb bird and 4½ hours for a 14-15lb one: overcooking will dry out the meat putting paid to tasty leftovers.

Test with a skewer in several places, particularly the thickest part of the thigh: the juices should run clear.

Super Veggie Gravy with Treacle and Thyme

Long slow cooking is the secret to this glorious gravy. Chicken stock is the obvious choice but for some of us, beef makes a tastier gravy.

Vegetarian or Vegan?

If serving with a vegetarian dish, swap the chicken or beef gel stock pot 2-3 tablespoons of dark soy sauce and omit the meat juices.

Serves 4 but easy to double quantities

  • 1 onion (red or white) diced
  • 2-3 tablespoons oil
  • 50-75g chestnut mushrooms, diced
  • 1 stick celery, de-strung and diced
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and grated
  • 2 heaped tablespoons plain flour
  • 800ml hot water, plus extra as needed, ideally vegetable cooking water
  • 1 chicken or beef gel stock pot (or use 800ml good chicken, turkey or beef stock)
  • 1 rounded teaspoon of black treacle
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of finely chopped thyme leaves or 2 large pinches of dried thyme

Fry the onion until soft and golden in 1-2 tablespoons of oil. Fry the remaining vegetables in another pan until soft. Sprinkle the flour over the onions (there should still be some oil in the pan for the flour to absorb but add more if necessary) stir thoroughly and cook, stirring constantly, for a couple of minutes. Add the soy sauce and treacle to the hot water; pour gradually over the onions, stirring constantly. Change to a whisk and bring almost to the boil, whisking constantly.

Add the other vegetables and simmer for 1-2 hours. Check and stir from time to time, adding more liquid if necessary: vegetable cooking water is ideal.

Bread and Onion Sauce with Nutmeg

Here’s a slightly different way of making bread sauce. It’s especially lovely with pigs in blankets!

Serves 4-6

Soften an onion in 2 teaspoons of butter until soft and golden. Crumble 125g fresh white breadcrumbs over the onion and stir to combine. Season with black and white pepper and a grinding of nutmeg to taste. Gradually pour 500-550ml milk over the top, stirring constantly: until the bread has absorbed the milk and the sauce is thick and smooth.

You can make this ahead and reheat later if you like. It’s also wonderful cold with cold cuts or hot with sausages.

Super Veggie Stuffing Balls

These tasty little balls are also terrific cold.

Makes 10

  • 100g of sage and onion stuffing mix
  • 150ml hot water
  • 25g grated carrot
  • ½ stick celery, de-strung and diced
  • 1 small dessert apple, peeled, cored and grated
  • 1 medium egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 180C (fan ovens) or equivalent

Make up the stuffing mix with the hot water and stir in the carrot, celery and apple. Stir in the egg. Mould into 10 even-size balls with damp hands and bake in a greased dish for 20-30 minutes until golden.

Summer Revived Sauce

Why not utilise frozen oddments from your summer berry crop in this home-grown cranberry sauce alternative? Combine any of the following: red/white/ blackcurrants/blue berries/blackberries/ tay/loganberries.

  • 300g mixed tart berries (see above)
  • 100g golden granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Zest of a small orange or 1-2 clementines (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a heavy bottomed medium saucepan.

Simmer gently until the berries are softening and the juices running. Turn up the heat slightly and bubble gently for 3-5 minutes. Stir occasionally but avoid breaking up individual fruits.


Get ahead: store sauce covered in fridge for up to a week or freeze: Use small plastic lidded containers and fill to the brim.

Pigs in Blankets and Devils on Horseback

Rindless streaky bacon wrapped round little sausages aka pigs in blankets are a favourite turkey trimming (don’t forget you can make your own cocktail sausages by carefully twisting chipolatas in two and separating with sharp scissors) but don’t leave out the devils on horseback!

Instead of sausage, wrap bacon round a soft-eating, stoned prune, they taste lovely and are less calorific and contain useful fibre into the bargain. Cook both pigs and devils for around 20-25 minutes, turning after ten minutes or so in a very lightly greased dish.