Christmas turkey and all the trimmings

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  • 5.5kg - turkey
  • 2L - apple juice
  • - about 5L water
  • 2 - oranges, quartered
  • 125ml - coarse sea salt (sounds like a lot but this is brine!)
  • 45ml - black peppercorns
  • 4 - cinnamon sticks
  • 30ml - caraway seeds
  • 6 - cloves
  • 5ml - dried thyme
  • 45ml - allspice berries
  • 4 - star anise
  • 30ml - white mustard seeds
  • 200g (250ml) - sugar
  • 200g (250ml) - sugar
  • 2 - onions, unpeeled and quartered
  • 10cm - piece of fresh ginger, unpeeled and sliced
  • 60ml - maple syrup (can be the cheaper stuff)
  • 60ml - runny honey
  • - a good handful of parsley, stalks and all
  • 125g - butter
  • 60ml - maple syrup
I’ve adapted Nigella Lawson’s brined turkey recipe for our feisty festive temperament and climate in South Africa. It’s the only way to ensure a juicy and spicy can’t-fail turkey.

1 Select a container Before you start, choose a brining container (bin or bucket) that the turkey can fit into snugly while being completely submerged – but remember it must be able to fit into your fridge.

2 Make the brine Squeeze the oranges before you throw them into your chosen container, skins and all. Then add all the other ingredients, stirring to combine the salt, sugar, syrup and runny honey, the spices and the liquids.

3 Pop the turkey in the brine Remove the giblets from inside the turkey, and loosen the bird’s legs if they’re tied up. (Save the giblets for making gravy). Hold your turkey firmly and submerge it in the bath; make sure it’s completely covered. You may want to put a little weight on it to make sure it doesn’t float. Keep it covered in the fridge for up to two days.

4 Roasting time When you’re ready to roast your turkey, remove it from its bath, wipe it dry with paper towel or a clean dishcloth and let it come to room temperature at least 2 hours before it goes into the oven. Preheat the oven to 200°C.

5 Make the glaze Melt the butter and maple syrup together slowly over a low heat. Paint the turkey with the glaze before roasting it in the oven, and baste regularly and generously throughout the cooking time. But be as quick as you can so that your oven doesn’t lose heat while you’re admiring the beauty of your bird. (A 3.5kg turkey will roast for 1¾ hours, while a 5kg turkey will roast for about 2 hours.) If your turkey is browning at an alarming pace, tuck a piece of baking paper around the entire bird. When you think it’s ready, use the point of a sharp knife to pierce the turkey where the body meets the leg and if the juices run clear, it’s cooked; if it’s still pink, cook it for a bit longer until they run clear. Otherwise, use a meat thermometer.

6 Remove the turkey from the oven Make a foil ‘tent’ around it and allow it to rest for 20–40 minutes before you slice it. I personally don’t think it’s necessary to eat turkey piping hot and, anyway, warm giblet gravy makes it all good.

Tip Once everyone has oohed and aahed over the whole bird, remove the breast from the turkey in its entirety and slice it on a large wooden board. Then arrange the slices on a warmed platter with a little hot gravy. Remove the leg from the turkey and do the same. It is much less fussy to present and eat it this way.

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