How to cook turkey: 4 alternative recipe ideas to try for Christmas Day
Switch up your festive feast with these creative takes on how to cook a turkey dinner.
Image: Recipe by Maple from Canada
If this year has taught us anything, it’s adapting to different circumstances, and trying new things. So how about taking this mentality into the kitchen with you this festive season, and having a go at one of these alternative turkey dinner recipes?
From enjoying your turkey in the form of a wellington, to smoking it on the barbecue, these four unique recipes are sure to help you do something a little different this Christmas Day.
Read more: How to cook the perfect Christmas turkey
One Pan Roast Turkey with Maple Croutons
A traditional turkey recipe with a Canadian twist, this basil-butter glazed turkey crown is served with home-made, crispy maple-glazed croutons.
- Serves 6-8
- 2.2kg turkey crown
- 185g softened unsalted butter
- 25g chopped basil
- 680 grams of thick sliced white bread
- 2 tablespoons pure Canadian maple syrup (preferably golden colour for its delicate flavour)
- Salt and pepper, to season
- Preheat the oven to 210°C
- Cream 3/4 of the butter with the chopped basil, salt and pepper
- Gently push half of the butter mixture under skin of the bird and spread the remaining mixture on top
- Place the turkey skin-side-up in a large roasting tin and cook at 210°C for 10 – 15 minutes until the top is brown
- Remove from the oven and cover with foil
- Turn the oven down to 200°C and cook the turkey for an hour and 10 minutes
- Whilst the turkey is roasting, prepare the croutons by removing the crusts from the bread and cutting into 1cm cubes
- Fry the croutons in the remaining butter until golden and drizzle with maple syrup
- Add the croutons to the roasting tin and cook with the turkey for a further 10-15 minutes
- Check the turkey is cooked through then transfer to a carving board, cover with tin foil and let it rest for 20 minutes
Slice and serve with the croutons
Turkey and Black Pudding Ballotine
Image: Courtesy of James Cochran and Great British Chefs for Clonakilty Blackpudding.
Served with smoked bacon jam, onions, walnut crumble and pickled cranberries, this recipe is ideal for smaller gatherings – which will be the case for many this Christmas. Just remember to prepare the cranberries a few days in advance – as they will take a few days to pickle.
- Serves 6
For the ballotine:
- 1 turkey breast
- 500g of Clonakilty Black Pudding
- 250g of smoked streaky bacon
- freshly ground black pepper
For the smoked bacon jam:
- 1 tbsp of vegetable oil
- 2 onions, finely diced
- 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 500g of smoked streaky bacon, finely chopped or minced
- 250g of white wine vinegar
- 125g of caster sugar
- 8 sage leaves, finely sliced
For the onions:
- 6 Roscoff onions
- 1 tbsp of vegetable oil
- 1/2 bunch of thyme
- 6 garlic cloves, bashed but with the skins left on
For the Pickled Cranberries:
- 150g of cranberries
- 150ml of water
- 100g of white wine vinegar
- 50g of caster sugar
For the Walnut Crumble:
- 100g of walnut halves
- Begin by making the pickled cranberries, as these need to be made in advance. Place the water, vinegar and sugar in a pan and bring to the boil to dissolve the sugar. Pour over the cranberries and leave to pickle for at least a few days in the fridge.
- Butterfly the turkey breast ,ensuring you have the same width of meat across the whole breast. If it is uneven, place a sheet of greaseproof paper over and bash to an even width with a rolling pin. Season with salt and pepper.
- Discard the skin of the black pudding then blitz in a blender to form a paste. Transfer to a piping bag, then pipe the black pudding down the centre of the breast lengthways. Tightly roll the turkey up into a cylinder.
- Lay the bacon rashers out on a sheet of baking paper, slightly overlapping so there are no gaps to create a sheet of bacon. Place another piece of baking paper on top and use a rolling pin to apply pressure to the bacon, helping it to stick together.
- Remove the top layer of paper, then place the turkey in the bottom third of the rectangle of bacon. Lift up the bottom sheet of paper to help tightly wrap the bacon around the turkey. Remove the paper, then roll the ballotine very tightly in 3 layers of cling film. Tie up the ends and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
- Once rested, set up a steamer oven or steamer basket large enough to hold the turkey. Steam the turkey (still in its cling film) until a thermometer inserted into the centre reads 70°C (this should take around 45 minutes to 1 hour). After the turkey reaches this temperature, place it in iced water to halt the cooking process, then set aside. Leave the ballotine in the cling film to ensure it keeps its neat shape.
- Next, make the bacon jam. Sweat the diced onions and garlic in a splash of vegetable oil over a low heat for 20 minutes, or until very soft and only a pale golden colour. Add the bacon and cook for a further 10-15 minutes, then add the sugar and vinegar and reduce down slowly to a jam consistency. Be careful not to cook the jam down too much, otherwise it will solidify when cool.
- Once you’re happy with the consistency, leave the jam to cool slightly then pulse in a blender for a more consistent texture. Stir through the julienned sage and set aside.
- For the onions, preheat an oven to 200°C/gas mark 6. Cut each onion in half horizontally (keeping the root attached as it keeps the onion together whilst cooking) and peel. Season with salt.
- Heat the vegetable oil in a pan and add the onions cut-side down until nicely caramelised. Once you are happy with the colour, place the onions in a tray on top of the thyme and garlic and cook in the oven for 9-12 minutes (depending on size). Remove the outer layer and set aside to reheat before serving.
- Turn the oven down to 180°C/gas mark 4 and toast the walnuts for 9 minutes. Once cooled, transfer to a blender and blitz to a crumble texture.
- Now all elements of the dish are ready, you can finish the turkey. Turn the oven up to 200°C/gas mark 6, remove the cling film from the ballotine and carefully caramelise in a pan so the bacon crisps up and takes on a nice colour. Transfer to the oven for 14 minutes to finish heating through, then rest in a warm place for 5 minutes whilst you reheat the other elements.
- Carve the turkey into 6 slices then plate up with the roast onions and a spoonful of bacon jam. Sprinkle over the walnut crumble and dot around the drained pickled cranberries.
Bacon Weaved, Maple Glazed Smoked Turkey
Image: Recipe developed by chef ambassadors for Maple from Canada, Samantha and Shauna, from Hang Fire Southern Kitchen.
This turkey breast recipe brings maple syrup and streaky bacon into play. Forget the oven, and instead smoke this showstopper on a barbecue, for a subtly woody flavour.
- Serves 6-8
- 1 large turkey breast (2-2.25kg)
- 600g thick cut unsmoked streaky bacon
- 30g fine sea salt
- 20g maple sugar
- 1 cinnamon stick
- Rind and juice of a clementine
- 3 fresh rosemary sprigs
- 4 cloves
- 6 whole black peppercorns
- 1 lemon, quartered
- Small bunch of fresh thyme
- Small bunch of fresh sage
- 2 tsp finely ground black pepper
- 3 star anise
- 2 litres of water
- 100ml pure Canadian maple syrup (preferably dark syrup for its robust taste
- 3 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 3 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 2 tbsp rapeseed or groundnut oil
- Put all the brining ingredients in a large pan along with the water. Stir over medium heat for 15 minutes, until the sugar and salt have fully dissolved. Take off the heat and allow to completely cool to at least room temperature.
- To prepare the turkey breast, remove the skin, it should simply pull off with a little pressure. We usually keep the skin and any trimmed excess fatty bits to make a turkey gravy.
- Put your turkey in a large container and pour the brine over, making sure it is fully submerged. Transfer to the fridge and allow to brine for 24 hours before cooking.
- Set out 7-8 slices of bacon vertically, and just touching each other, on a large piece of parchment paper. The process involves laying strips of bacon horizontally across and flipping up every other vertical strip so you alternate and ‘weave’ between each slice.
- Try to avoid any gaps in between, so you get a full coverage of bacon.
- Put all the maple glaze ingredients into a clean jar with a secure lid, shake vigorously until combined.
- Set aside and leave at room temperature until ready to use (you may need to give it another shake before you use it).
- After 24 hours, remove the turkey from the bring and pat dry with a paper towel. Place the smooth side of the breast down into the centre of the bacon weave. Using the parchment paper, fold both sides over the breast and tuck in the bacon.
Flip back over, neaten up any stray bits of bacon and you’re ready to smoke it on the barbecue. We usually season with just cracked black pepper (no need for any salt).
- Set your grill up for indirect heat at around 250°F/120-122°C. If you have a fine grill, or silicon mesh baking sheet, set your bacon weaved turkey on that, with a grill pan underneath the grates to catch any juices. You can use cherry wood for the colour and subtle flavour but any fruit wood will give a subtle and wonderful flavour to the turkey.
- Smoke your turkey breast for 3 – 4 hrs, depending on the consistency of heat.
- Glaze the turkey when it’s almost cooked – so around 70-72°C. Simply, and slowly, pour the glaze over from the jar, using a little pastry or silicone brush to ensure the breast is fully coated in the glaze. Continue to cook the turkey until it reaches 75°C.
- Rest your turkey for at least 30 minutes before carving and serving.
Image: Recipe created for The Cherry Tree by Delia-Maria Asser
This recipe created by Delia-Maria Asser, a finalist in the 2019 MasterChef competition, is a twist on the classic and guaranteed to be a hit. Serve alongside her sticky Ale Chutney Brussel Sprouts with Bacon and Chestnuts and your other favourite Christmas trimmings.
- Serves 2
- 1 pack ready rolled puff pastry
- 400g turkey breast
- 6 rashers streaky bacon
- Bunch of sage
- 1 red onion
- 200g mushrooms (mix of white and chestnut)
- Splash of sherry/brandy
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper to season
- Jar of The Cherry Tree ‘Spiced Plum and Cranberry Sauce’
- Egg yolk for brushing
- Finely chop the red onion. Heat a glug of olive oil in a frying pan and sweat the onion until translucent. Slice the mushrooms and add these to the onion.
- Add a large splash of sherry or brandy to the mushrooms and allow the alcohol to cook off. Cook for another 5 minutes until all the liquid has evaporated. Remove the mushrooms from the heat and allow to cool. Blend once cooled to a chunky pâté consistency and season. Keep for later.
- Prepare the wellington – firstly take a large piece of cling film for your turkey breast. Place six rashers of bacon next to one another, slightly overlapping the sides on top of the clingfilm.
- Take your turkey breast and remove any fat or skin. Butterfly it, slicing it open so that it is still one breast but has a large surface area. Once you have done this, tenderise it by pounding it with a mallet.
- Now we will stuff and roll the turkey breast. Down the middle of the breast, spoon 2-3 tbsp of the Cherry Tree Spiced Plum and Cranberry sauce and spread this across the breast. Arrange a line of sage leaves in the centre of the breast.
- Tightly roll the breast from one side to the other, until you form each breast into a tight cylinder. Place the turkey on top of the bacon. Then use the clingfilm to roll the bacon around the turkey, ensuring that it stays tight. Wrap the sausage shaped turkey breast in cling film, really tightly and knot both ends.
- Warm water gently in a saucepan, or if you have a sous-vide machine, heat to 61°C. You will essentially be poaching the turkey whilst it is still wrapped in clingfilm so DO NOT allow the water to boil or really even simmer. Use a thermometer to intermittently check your water, trying not to let it go above 65°C. Poach the turkey for around 45 minutes. It will still feel soft but this is fine as it will cook slightly more in the oven! Cooking your turkey this way also means that it will still be soft and succulent even after being baked in the pastry.
- Remove from the pan and plunge into ice-water. Allow to cool thoroughly.
- Prepare your pastry. Remove from the fridge 10 minutes before using. Ready-rolled pastry should already be rolled to the required thickness of a one-pound coin. Unwrap your sheet and spread the mushroom duxelles all over, leaving a border around it. Place your turkey in the middle and wrap the pastry around it.
- Refrigerate until ready to bake. You can also freeze if making in advance before Christmas. Brush with the egg yolk wash before placing in the oven.
- Bake at Gas Mark 6/200°C/400°F for 45 mins to an hour from chilled or for 1 hour 15 mins to 1 hour 20 mins from frozen until golden and crisp