Sunday, 24 June 2018

If we're talking turkey, yule not regret keeping it simple

If we're talking turkey, yule not regret keeping it simple

CHRISTMAS without turkey — like a kiss without tongue. Although there’s a good argument for goose, Britain’s original Christmas feast, writes Paul Clerehugh.

Acquiring your turkey — what a mission. So many different types and prices. Narcissistic chefs and righteous foodies telling you what to buy ... organic, free range, privately educated. I’ve bought secondhand cars for less than a posh turkey.

There’s some bargain basement birds to be won in some supermarkets, prices from under a tenner. Although cheaper birds can be a false economy, quickly grown, egg to supermarket in nine weeks, no doubt aided with a few growth hormones.

Fast-track turkey is pretty tasteless meat with high water content and poor weight to meat yield.

Slow-grown free-range turkeys are a better buy. More for your money after cooking, tastes great, no need to butter ball or wrap in bacon — the bird sings for itself. Clever shopping makes a great chef.

Try not to overcomplicate your turkey accompaniments. Christmas day lunch — you couldn’t invent it! Talk about over-gilding the lily. What sane individual would put such daft ingredients together?

Brussels sprouts, brandy butter, cranberry and sausage. Turkey with three sorts of stuffing: apricot, sage and pecan. Mince pie, gravy, marzipan, potato, royal icing, parsnips and plum pudding. God bless your colon.

How could a simple celebratory feast of roast goose with baked cider apples go so horribly wrong?

Turkey is a relative newcomer, arriving from the Americas around the same time as the Crooked Billet at Stoke Row was built. Previously, Oxfordshire feasted on geese, heron, crane, swan and peacock (presented with their tail feathers stuffed back into their sorry overcooked backsides).

Christmas day lunch — it’s like a badly extended house. What originally started as a pretty cottage, add on a bathroom, Sixties kitchen extension, new porch, conservatory, uPVC windows, crazy paving, satellite dish and a couple of gnomes.

Keep it simple. Buy locally farmed slow-grown turkey. We have some triumphant award-winning local poultry farmers, including Starveall Farm, Thame; Copas, Cookham; Cowdreys, Cookham; Derehams Farm, Loudwater; Peach Croft, Abingdon; and Walters at Bower Farm, Aldworth. Listed local butchers below are selling these local birds.

How to cook your turkey? Ten chefs, they’ll give you 10 different stories. Brenda Copas, our local Mary Berry of turkey farmers, shared her top tips.

Remove the giblets. Take the turkey from the fridge four hours before cooking and allow to reach room temperature. Season inside and out. Place bird breast-down in a heavy roasting tin. Tightly wrap with foil. Place in a pre-heated 230C oven, reducing the temperature to 190C after half an hour.

When you’ve reduced the temperature, roast the bird for half an hour per kilogram. Remove foil for the last half an hour of cooking and turn the bird breast up to bronze. The juices will run clear. Rest the bird somewhere warm for an hour before carving.

The supermarkets offer birds of all price and provenance. But — and this is my opinion and not necessarily that of the Henley Standard — supermarkets are taking over the planet so I’m supporting our local butchers who offer locally slow-grown free range turkey and helpful advice. Here’s the list:

l Blue Tin Farm Shop, Ipsden/Stoke Row, (01491) 681145.

l Carl Woods, Sonning Common, 0118 972 2228.

l Calnan Brothers, Watlington, (01491) 612240.

l Gabriel Machin, Henley, (01491) 574377.

l Phil Bowditch, Marlow, 01628 483635.

l Shiplake Butchers, Shiplake, 0118 940 2728.

l Town Farm, Bisham, 01628 473781.

l Vicars, Ashampstead, 01635 579622.

l Wallingford Butchers, Wallingford, (01491) 833553.

l White Pond Farm, Farm Gate, Stonor, (01491) 638224.

Paul Clerehugh is chef proprietor of the Crooked Billet, Stoke Row. Catch his weekly show Food on Friday — featuring recipes, kitchen gossip, and light-hearted food chat — on BBC Radio Berkshire from 2pm to 3pm.

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