Paul Merrett's traditional Christmas turkey will be the star of Christmas Day!


  • For the turkey and gravy:

  • 4-5 kg turkey (Norfolk bronze are good) – will serve about 8 people

  • 250g dry cured streaky bacon

  • 250g of unsalted butter

  • 3-4 sprigs of thyme – leaves only

  • 2 tablespoons of chopped flat parsley

  • 1 teaspoon of cracked black pepper

  • 1 peeled onion, sprig of thyme, 1 star anise, ½ head garlic for turkey stock

  • 2-3 tablespoons of corn flour

  • 1 oxo cube

  • 1 glass of red wine

  • For the stuffing:

  • 8 quality thick Cumberland sausages

  • 2 tablespoons of dried cranberries

  • 2 table spoons of dried apricot diced small

  • 300g of good selection of wild mush prepped

  • 4 banana shallots finely chopped

  • 4 cloves garlic chopped

  • 200g of button mushrooms - sliced

  • 1 teaspoon of thyme leaves

  • 1 tablespoon of chopped flat parsley

  • ½ loaf of white bread made into bread crumbs

  • ½ tin of sweet corn chopped finely

  • For the breadsauce:

  • 110g freshly made white breadcrumbs

  • 1 large onion

  • 15-18 whole cloves or freshly grated nutmeg

  • 1 bay leaf

  • 8 black peppercorns

  • 1 pint (breakfast milk

  • 75 g butter

  • 2 tablespoons double cream

  • salt and freshly milled black pepper

  • Accompaniments (we will make no demo)

  • Roast potatoes –blanched day before & then roasted in duck fat with rosemary & garlic

  • Sautéed sprouts with chestnuts and pancetta

  • Root vegetable mash – parsnip, carrot, swede & celeriac – keep lumpy

  • Sausages – chipolatas wrapped in un-smoked streaky bacon


  • For the turkey and gravy::

  • 1.

    The day before you cook the Turkey……

  • 2.

    First of all remove the giblets, wing tips & wishbone from your Turkey - place in a pan with about 3 pints of water, the oxo cube, thyme, onion, garlic and the star anise . Simmer gently for 3 hours.

  • 3.

    The stock may produce a scummy froth which should be removed.

  • 4.

    After 3 hours the stock will have reduced by about ½ pint. Pass out all the bits. Cool the liquid and keep in fridge until needed.

  • 5.

    Next make a flavoured butter by dicing the butter and bringing up to room temperature and then mixing in the thyme, parsley & cracked black pepper

  • 6.

    Lift up the breast skin & separate it from the flesh so that you can slide some of the butter under the skin but on top of the flesh. Use about half the butter for this. Pull the skin back over and from the ‘outside’ smooth the butter gently until its covering the breast

  • 7.

    Next smear the other ½ of the butter over the breasts and legs.

  • 8.

    Finally cover the breast with the streaky bacon

  • 9.

    Place in the fridge over night

  • 10.

    Next day remove from the fridge a good 3 hours before required so that the bird is not fridge cold when it goes into the oven

  • 11.

    Heat oven to 200c

  • 12.

    A 5kg bird will take about 3 ½ to 4 hours – allow also for a good 1 ½ hours to rest the bird before carving

  • 13.

    Place your bird on a roasting tray – bear in mind there will be a lot of juice so make sure the tray has a lip.

  • 14.

    Give the bird about 30 mins at a high heat then drop the oven temperature to 150c.

  • 15.

    The bird should roast on its back and be basted every 20 mins.

  • 16.

    Towards the end of cooking remove the bacon from the breasts and keep warm and allow the b breasts to brown and crisp the skin slightly.

  • 17.

    I use a digital probe for most meats – the thickest part of the leg should read 70c when done.

  • 18.

    The bird should now be rested in a warm place on a serving platter

  • 19.

    All the roasting juices should be brought to a simmer with the turkey stock you made the day before – simmer and test to ensure a good strong flavour.

  • 20.

    Mix the corn flour and the red wine and pour in to thicken the gravy.

  • For the stuffing::

  • 1.

    This can be made up to 2 days in advance and then cooked on the day.

  • 2.

    Fry the mushrooms in a hot frying pan until they caramelise – you may need to do these in batches. Allow to cool and the roughly chop.

  • 3.

    Next sweat the shallot & garlic and cool

  • 4.

    In a large bowl squeeze the meat from the sausage skins.

  • 5.

    Mix in the herbs, cooled mush, cooled shallot and garlic, sweet corn and the dried fruit

  • 6.

    Season the mix

  • 7.

    Now add bread crumbs until the mixture is fairly dry

  • 8.

    Lay out a sheet of foil and lightly butter it

  • 9.

    Make a sausage shape about 6cm thick

  • 10.

    Tighten foil and the ends

  • 11.

    Now wrap in a second coating of foil.

  • 12.

    On the day… the stuffing roll on a roasting tray and bake for about 40 mins or until your digital probe reads about 70c.

  • 13.

    Turn the roll a few times during cooking so that the shape remains even

  • For the breadsauce::

  • 1.

    Place the onion and ground cloves in a small pan. add the bay leaves to the pan with the milk and butter. Season generously with pepper. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and allow to simmer gently for 20 minutes, until the onion has softened. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Roughly tear the bread into even-sized pieces or blitz roughly in a food processor, then stir into the milk with a wooden spoon. Add the nutmeg and season. Return to the heat and simmer for a further 3-4 minutes. Stir in the cream and serve warm. A knob of butter on the top will stop a skin from forming


Preparation: 45 minutes, Cooking: 4 hours plus resting.


• Before you do anything else to perfect your Christmas turkey, do this: buy the best one you can afford. Christmas is a time for overspending but a big bird is good value for money – not only on the day but also for all those sandwiches and leftovers that fill the following week.

• If buying from a butcher, get your order in early. This ensures you’ll get the variety and size you want. Fridge space is also a consideration but you can collect your fresh turkey a day or two before Christmas.

• If you’re lucky enough to have a larder or outdoor storage space, all the better – the weather is usually cold enough. Always ask for the giblets (to use for stock and gravy) and remove them from the cavity of the bird as soon as you get it home. With a frozen turkey, always make sure it is fully defrosted before cooking.


Be prepared. Christmas Day should not begin at 4.30am with a worried cook slaving over the stove

Distract your guests. My theory is if my guests eat enough canapés, they may not notice if the turkey is three hours late

Keep it simple. The turkey is the centrepiece of the meal and the downfall of most cooks

Impress with subtle twists. Ringing the changes with vegetables is a sure way of making out you are a better cook

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