Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Christmas Cooking

Happy Christmas everyone! Tis the season of Peace on Earth, Goodwill to All Men, and of course, eating!! It is that time of year when, no matter how good you might be for the rest of the year, you let go and allow yourself to indulge in rich foods both sweet and savoury, delights such as chocolate, fruit cake, trifle, and roast potatoes, stuffing, bread sauce to name a few. Being on SCD means our family couldn't eat anything on the list I've just mentioned. But I have to say it has been a bumper Christmas, with glorious food, plenty of sweet treats and best of all, the most incredible turkey I've ever tasted.

We decided this year, inspired by the SCD experiment, that we would have a go at rearing our own turkey. Being on this diet really does give you a keen interest in everything you eat, where it comes from, and what's in it. What better way to ensure you could eat the purest, best meat than to "grow it yourself!" We got our turkey chick in September from a local farmer, from whom we buy vegetables every week. I had bought an oven-ready goose from him last year for Christmas, which was delicious so I knew he would get me a good turkey, and so he did.

She was a bronze turkey, which is different from conventional supermarket turkeys, which are white. As you can see, this one had black feathers with a few white stripes on the wings. Bronze turkeys put on weight slower than white turkeys and are considered to be tastier. Our turkey had the whole back garden to run freely around in, she pecked and foraged on the windfall apples and pears, lots of grass and bugs and she got the best of kitchen scraps. We also gave her about a handful of organic pellets each day. She was a very social bird, she liked the company of the chickens and in fact would call out if the chickens left her alone. She would run up to the back door as soon as it was opened and follow me around the garden or into the garage, sometimes nearly knocking me over in her haste to catch up with me. She was really nice to have around, a much friendlier bird than the selfish chickens!

But the time came to turn turkey into meat. It was a weird day. I went out to feed her and I couldn't look her in the eye! We were very lucky to have the help of my brother-in-law, an experienced chef, to guide us with the hard part, which I won't go into any detail about, except to say my husband did the deed, and I was very glad not to have to do it! The plucking was much easier than I had imagined and was over in a matter of minutes. Our son even plucked a few feathers! The bird was then hung for 4 days in our attic, as we have no shed, and the three cats in the garage were lying in waiting!

The cleaning out was really the most disgusting part! Just as well both of us have strong stomachs! Again, my husband did most of that part of it, I just held the bird and added encouragement!! He has had plenty of experience gutting and cleaning fish but this was a whole different story! You could use the giblets for stock or gravy but I only kept the liver. The dog and the cats had a feast with the other bits.

It was cooked for four hours, draped in Caroline Rigney's free-range, nitrate-free rashers. The stock made the most amazing gravy. We accompanied it with a mixed roasted vegetable dish that I found in the RTE guide a few months ago. It is a simple dish of Brussels Sprouts, leeks, carrots, beetroot and garlic drizzled in honey and warmed duck fat (you could use olive oil), and seasoned with thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper. The beetroot gives the whole thing a lovely festive colour and the roasting makes all the vegetables very sweet. I also made cranberry sauce which was incredibly easy, using honey instead of sugar.

And without doubt, it was the best turkey I've ever tasted. It was moist and had quite a rich distinctive taste. We'll definitely be thinking about doing it again next year!


  1. Just finished reading your blog: from the updates we get from Ireland, I expected it to be interesting but not so entertaining and moving!
    It would be great to meet up some time - our visits always seem to fly by. We might see ye in the Summer?


  2. Would love to see ye in the Summer Sarah, and thanks so much for your interest!!

  3. I concur, Dee you ahve a very warm way of writing and so personal and yes moving, I have cried and laughed with you. X