In Ireland preparations for Christmas can start weeks in advance. My mother still bakes the traditional Christmas cake and plum pudding in October. In the weeks and days leading up to the holiday, Christmas cards are posted and gifts are given to friends. However, those for close family are kept for Christmas day. It is a time that people come home from other parts of Ireland and from abroad to meet up with friends and family.
Children hang up their stockings on Christmas Eve and usually prepare a snack for Santa Claus and his reindeer “Rudolph” which is left by the fireplace. Santa Clause usually enters the house, in the early hours of the morning when children are fast asleep, via the chimney. On Christmas morning, excited children run to the Christmas tree to discover presents Santa Claus has left for them. After a busy morning visiting close family friends and relations or preparing the Christmas dinner, the family sits down in the late afternoon to enjoy the centre piece of the Irish traditional dinner, a Roast Turkey with Thyme and Onion Stuffing followed by plum pudding and/or Christmas cake.
Roast Turkey with Thyme and Onion Stuffing – A traditional recipe that is hard to beat!
Cooking time: 3½ hours approximately
7 kg turkey
Salt, black pepper and a little flour
2 table spoons of softened butter
450g bread broken into pieces
6 table spoons fresh parsley chopped
2 table spoons fresh thyme chopped
1 medium onion, cut into quarters
Salt and black pepper
100g – 150g butter, softened
To make the stuffing
Place the bread, parsley, thyme and onion in a food processor. Process until you have fine breadcrumbs and the onion is finely chopped. Remove to a bowl, season and mix in the butter.
To stuff the turkey
Losen the skin at the neck end with your hands. Pack the stuffing in, pushing it up between the flesh and the skin, but not too tightly because it will expand during cooking. Tuck the neck flap under the birds back and secure with a cocktail stick. Any remaining stuffing can be cooked in a covered baking dish with the turkey. Weigh the turkey and calculate the cooking time. Allow 30-40 minutes per kg. (Allow 20-30 minutes per kg for turkeys weighing over 8kg). Place the turkey breast side up in an oiled roasting tin.
To cook the turkey
Set the oven at Gas Mark 7, 220°C (450°F).
Season the turkey with salt and pepper and dust with a little flour. Rub all over with the butter,wrap the turkey in foil and roast in the preset oven. After the first 30 minutes, reduce the heat to Gas Mark 3 (170°C or 325°F). Baste a couple of times during roasting. For the last half hour, remove the foil.
To check if the turkey is cooked, pierce the thickest part of the leg, the juices should run clear.
When the turkey is cooked remove from the oven and transfer to a large plate. Reserve the cooking juices in the tin to make the gravy. Cover the turkey loosely with foil and allow to rest for half an hour in a warm place until you are ready to serve it.
Guide to good gravy
A well flavoured stock is important, so a day ahead, place the giblets, some onion slices and a bay leaf in a saucepan. Cover with water and simmer gently for 1½ – 2 hours – strain and season.
After removing the turkey from the roasting tin, pour off the fat and leave behind the juices. Stir in a tablespoon of flour over a medium heat. Continue to cook, stir in the stock and simmer for 2-3 minutes.
A tablespoon of cream or balsamic vinegar will also add to the flavour.
You will find lots of Irish traditional recipes on the Irish Food Board website www.bordbia.ie. Bord Bia is the Irish state agency with the aim of promoting sales of Irish food and horticulture both abroad and in Ireland.