Saturday 8 December 2012. For most, just another day. Not so for me. This was the day I Came of Age. On Saturday 8 December 2012 I cooked my first Christmas Dinner for six, alone, in my own kitchen, sans parental supervision (calls to my mother don’t count).
Given the import of this Event, and with the hope of inspiring others just as daunted as I was, here, documented in glorious technicolour is the story of one brave turkey’s journey. With only myself to guide him, neither of us would ever be the same again.
I opted for a turkey crown. This apparently would be easier, and it would allow me to avoid sticking my hand up its arse. The beast weighed in at over 3kg, was capable of feeding 9 people and was larger in diameter than my own torso. Throughout my life I have roasted three chickens, one of which was a team effort, and all of which could be described as glorified poussin. Concerned this might be trickier than anticipated, I found a recipe which seemed to have the more remedial chef in mind.
It did require a sage-and-butter paste to be rubbed onto the flesh between the skin however, a wholly uncomfortable experience. I am the worst type of carnivore – the chicken-or-fish kind where white, boneless meat is sexed up with sauces and vegetables to disguise the fact it was once alive. I wasn’t keen to know this bird so intimately, but being the martyr I am, I closed my eyes and pretended I was massaging my feet.
45 minutes and three phonecalls to my mother later, the beast was lovingly wrapped in swaddling of turkey foil and introduced to its new home – My Oven.
Irritatingly, that wasn’t the end of it. I had to Baste. This involved another call to head-chef Mum, demanding a definition of ‘baste’ that would rival that of the Oxford English. Thus armed, I performed this requirement with ritualistic precision. Turns out, I’m an excellent baster.
But what to do whilst waiting for the beast to roast and guests (who were bringing sides and vegetables) to arrive? More than once I found myself staring through the oven’s glass door, parting the tea towel and apron like curtains on a miniature theatre, watching in Darwinian wonder at the evolution of my creation. When not doing this, my husband and I made our own fun. (Cue irritated animal in miniature Santa costume:)
Following the arrival of guests, the comparison of Festive knit-wear and another hour of flying solo and arsing around like an inept orchestral conductor with chipolatas, root-vegetables, broccoli (sprouts were banned) and two types of potatoes (lemon a la Emma’s mum and roast a la mine), it was time for the Great Unveiling.
Just in time, because little mouths were watering at the prospect of Festive fare.
And lo, my festive turkey cherry was well and truly popped. Six were fed, five had more (not me – the beast and I needed some time apart), I basked in quasi-maternal glory and all was right with the world.
But Good Times with Turkey didn’t stop there. Oh no.
First up, the fairly unceremonious Turkey Sandwich. A festive favourite, they were also Sunday’s lunch. (Having made those before I didn’t see they warranted a photograph.)
Monday, however, saw the start of the next phase of my new friend’s life: Turkey Broth (recipe courtesy of, yup, Mum).
The first step was Stripping the Carcass for stock. Thanks to having to deal with the entire skeleton of the thing, and fighting off two cats who were determined to assist, this took me to the edge.
The next delight was getting it into the soup pan. Only by rolling up my sleeves and channelling my inner medieval wench did I manage to batter the thing into submission and contort it into the pot. Once in, there it lived in hundred-degree harmony with only some hardy vegetables and lots of water for company.
A day later, the stock was introduced to yet more vegetables, and a huge batch of turkey broth found its way onto our dinner table and into our freezer.
But that wasn’t the end of this turkey’s journey. Not content with litres of soup, it was time to spice things up by showing it the wonders of the East. Wednesday night saw turkey curry on the menu.
So there it is. The evolution of a turkey, from cold slab of dead meat absent of personality, to pre-Christmas Christmas dinner, lazy Sunday sandwiches, meals of hearty broth, and spicy turkey curry. Nothing was wasted. Is it possible to be sick of turkey before Christmas Day? It seems that if you’ve cooked it yourself, the answer is no.
I’m under no allusions. I’m not the first person to have embraced the versatility of a Christmas turkey. In fact, I feel a little like Jamie Oliver’s simpering mrs who had a kid then wrote a book about it, just in case no one else had ever given birth. But, for those people who haven’t had that special relationship with a dead bird, I can’t recommend it enough, daunting though it may seem. It’s a commitment, but I’m confident Christmas turkeys everywhere would be thrilled to learn they live on long after the last cracker’s been pulled. I for one will be eating homemade turkey broth well into the New Year, and nothing could make me, or my turkey, happier.