The best Christmas dinner ever!

THE LITTLE GERANIUM: The best Christmas dinner ever! Photo: The Little Geranium

This week Celebrity Chef from Ready Steady Cook & Fellow Master Chef Steven Saunders, proprietor of The Little Geranium in La Calashares his Christmas Tips for the best Turkey ever!
IN the 40 years or so that I have been cooking I have seen and tried hundreds of different ways of getting the Christmas bird to the table! My mother who was a great cook used to put it in the oven at about 2 am on Christmas eve and cook it really slowly, it would be ready by about 3 pm on Christmas day!
I will never forget the amazing smells through the house early Christmas morning which were delightful but the Turkey was cremated – I could never tell her!
I was trained at The Savoy in London where we always cooked the Christmas Turkey, stuffings and gravy in the way that I’m sharing with you today.
I remember one year cooking the Turkey in preparation for Frank Sinatra’s arrival when he was performing at The Savoy theatre in or around 1979. I recall that he also had roasted duck on his table and I have used the techniques of both the Turkey and the duck at all of my restaurants since.
Clients come from literally miles away just for our crispy duck at The Little Geranium and that recipe is the same as when I cooked it for Frank some 40 years ago!
Turkey originally comes from the forests of North America and Mexico.There still are some more natural varieties available like bronze or black Turkey which have a more rich gamey flavour.
If you can find them then this will really raise the bar this Christmas.
I can get hold of Bronze free range over here and I think that Corte Ingles may have some free range varieties especially in their Puerto Banus shop. However in Spain the national Turkey is not as intensively farmed as they are in the UK, which is a good thing so its not so bad to just choose a regular farmed Turkey. Choose a large fresh bird to ensure the best flavours, a good size is about 5 kilos. (Serving 8 upwards)
Steven´s Top Ten ChristmasTurkey Tips:

  1. If frozen ensure you defrost your turkey for at least 24 hours per 2 kilos. (A 5 kilo Turkey needs a minimum 3 days defrosting, I would allow 4 days in the fridge)
  2. Take the turkey out of the fridge 1 hour before cooking to allow it to come to room temperature.

3. Put lots of soft butter mixed with parsley, lemon juice and some seasoning under the skin of the Turkey and add salt and pepper to the outside and inside the turkey. Don’t add garlic as Turkey is a gentle, simple flavour and garlic is often overpowering. Smear any butter left over into the breasts on the outside skin. (This can all be done the day before). Lay slices of streaky bacon over the breasts horizontally to completely cover the carcass of the bird.

  1. Put an onion and some bay leaf and thyme inside the bird do not put the stuffing in the cavity as it breeds bacteria. ( salmonella)

5.Cook the bird upright (breasts up) in a deep dish (to collect the fat) in a preheated oven 225 c to get the bird nice and brown for about 20 minutes then lower the heat to 160c and continue cooking it.

  1. Roast the Turkey for 30 minutes per kilo about 2 ½ hours for a 5 kilo bird.Its a myth that the turkey takes a half a day to cook!

7.Remember to baste the bird, every so often (approx. every 20 mins)

  1. Use a thermometer to check that the meat in the thicker thigh of the Turkey or the thicker part of the breast when it is cooked it should read 160F about 70C. At this temperature the juices should run clear if you insert a metal skewer or small knife.

9. Allow the Turkey to rest (it will continue to cook internally) for at least 20 minutes after cooking, then present it and carve!
10.Save the juices from the turkey tray to finish your gravy
Have a fantastic Christmas and look out next week for what to do with all the leftovers. See you then!
Your Stuffing
It is much better to make your own stuffing and very simple.
Don’t include it in the cavity of the turkey make it and cook it separately.
Simple but delicious Christmas stuffing
1/2 kilo of good sausages or sausage meat
2 small onions diced finely and cooked gently in a little butter
200g approx. of wild mushrooms cooked gently with a little garlic and butter
300g of bread crumbs or use Panko crumbs even better
Approx. 4 tablespoons of roasted peeled and chopped chestnuts ( You can buy them ready cooked in the shops)
I leek washed sliced finely and fried until soft in a little butter
A small sprig of fresh sage chopped or some parsley or thyme leaves
2 egg yolks
Note : You can cook the mushrooms, onions and leek in same pan together.
Get all your ingredients together and put the sausage meat in a clean bowl and add all the cooked ingredients to the raw sausage meat. Add all the remaining ingredients — bread crumbs, chestnuts, sage and thyme and the egg yolks and mix well in with your hands wearing plastic gloves. I then roll the stuffing in cling film into like a Christmas cracker and keep in fridge until needed. I slice through the cling film to cook each portion when required but at home you will want to cook it all so just cut open the cling film and squeeze the stuffing into a glass baking dish. Top the stuffing with some little knobs of butter and bake in the oven for about 20-30 mins on about 180c or until the stuffing is crispy on the top.
Easy delicious Homemade Gravy
Serves 8-10
Approx. 2 kilos of chicken or turkey bones and trimmings pre roasted until golden brown
2 onions, chopped
1 head of celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 tablespoons butter 2 tablespoons flour
2 sprigs of thyme
2 bay leaves
½ bottle white wine
4 litres of chicken stock
2 ladles of cooked turkey juices (see above)
In a large stockpot, combine all ingredients. Fill pot with the chicken stock (Caldo in Spain) available in all supermarkets. Add bay leaves and sprigs of thyme. Bring to the boil and then immediately simmer for two to three hours. Strain and transfer the ingredients into a clean saucepan. Add white wine. Reduce this by boiling it until it’s reduced by almost half.  To thicken the stock, combine the butter and flour together into little balls and whisk into the hot gravy or replace with approx. 4 tablespoons of chicken or turkey granules. Either way whisk in until thickish.  Cook the sauce for at least 30 minutes afterwards, Finally use the turkey juices from the roasting tray and add this to the sauce through a sieve to avoid unwanted pieces. Taste and season well and serve.
You can email Steven any queries or questions this Christmas on
Steven Saunders FMCGB
The Little Geranium
La Cala De Mijas
(Behind the Town Hall in central La Cala)
For bookings and Information visit ….

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