A classically flavoured and indulgent centerpiece for a Christmas feast.
Cook4 hrs 15 mins
Total time5 hrs 15 mins
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1 medium bronze turkey (about 5kg), with giblets
30g fine sea salt
10g light brown soft sugar
250g unsalted butter, softened
30 bay leaves (3 packs), plus extra to decorate (optional)
2 x 20g packs thyme, leaves picked from 1 pack
2 lemons, halved, plus extra to decorate (optional)
4 large onions, unpeeled, roughly chopped
1 celery heart, trimmed and roughly chopped
2 garlic bulbs, halved widthways
250ml dry white wine
4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
6 tbsp plain flour
500ml fresh chicken stock
1 tbsp clear honey, plus extra to taste
Remove the string from the turkey. Cut away the parson’s nose and any excess skin from the neck end. Put these in a deep roasting tin, along with the giblets (neck, liver and heart).
Mix the salt and sugar together, then use to season the bird, inside and out. Ease your hand between the meat and skin on the top of the turkey, slowly working across the breast and legs to loosen all the skin (take care not to pierce the skin).
Mix 200g butter with 10 bay leaves and the picked thyme leaves; stuff under the skin, pressing to spread out evenly. Spread any excess herb butter over the skin. Put the lemon halves inside the cavity along with the remaining thyme and 10 more bay leaves. You can truss the bird at this stage, if you like. Put the chopped vegetables and garlic into the tin and sit the turkey on top, ideally on a wire rack.
Preheat the oven to 160˚C, gas mark 3; let the turkey sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Pour the wine into the tin and cover it tightly with foil. Roast for 3 hours 30 minutes, until the thickest part of the leg is tender and piping hot (75˚C on a meat thermometer).
Remove from the oven and raise the heat to 220˚C, gas mark 7. In a small pan, heat the remaining 50g butter, 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce and the remaining 10 bay leaves, then brush the butter over the bird and lay the bay leaves on top. Roast, uncovered, for 10-15 minutes until the skin is nicely browned. Transfer to a carving board to rest for 1 hour, loosely covered with foil.
Meanwhile, put the roasting tin over a high heat. Add the flour, stir it into the juices and cook, whisking, for 3-4 minutes. Pour in the stock, honey and the remaining 3 tsp Worcestershire sauce. Bubble briskly, scraping the base of the pan as you go, until thickened slightly (8-10 minutes). Strain into a large saucepan (you may need to do this in batches), pressing to extract as much juice as possible (discard the vegetables and giblets). Add any resting juices from the turkey and simmer briskly for 10-15 minutes, until thickened to your liking; season with salt and a little more honey, if liked. Remove the cooked bay leaves from the skin of the bird, then decorate with fresh bay leaves and charred lemon halves, if liked. Carve (see page 135) and serve with the gravy.
Slowly cooking the bird with a herby butter over the breast results in tender, flavoursome meat and lovely crisp skin. To get ahead, prepare the bird up to the end of step 3, then chill overnight. Remove from the fridge 30 minutes before cooking.
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