Here is rewind of the seasonal posts where I share the nutritional benefits of an ingredient and Carol Taylor incorporates it in a delicious recipe.
This week… The Turkey.. a bird that was usually eaten mainly at Thanksgiving and Christmas, but is available all year in supermarkets and butchers. Before handing over to Carol.. a look at all the health benefits this large bird brings to the table.
Meleagris Gallopavo (you can eat if you can catch it) Turkey
The wild turkey Meleagris gallopavo (something to do with difficulty in catching it I think) is native to North America. The bird was brought into Europe, in the early part of the 16th century, by the Spaniards. The English name “Turkey” arose because of a confusion with Guinea Fowl – which were imported through Turkey, from Africa. Both birds were originally known as “Turks”. Eventually, in the 18th century, it was given its Latin name but the original name stuck.
The Native American Indian used the turkey as a staple of their diet. They introduced it to starving pilgrims, along with their native plants and seeds including corn and squash. The pilgrims were so grateful they celebrated the first Thanksgiving in 1621 where their American Indian friends were guests of honour.
Why is turkey so good for you?
Turkey is first and foremost a lean source of protein – 4 oz. gives you 65% of your daily protein requirement and has about half the amount of saturated fat that red meat does.
We are made of protein and we need it to repair ourselves – a bit like the bionic man – we take animal and vegetable protein, add some amino acids and rearrange the nitrogen from the mix to repair or make parts of our body. Don’t forget we are meat – and still a savoury delicacy in certain parts of the world.
Turkey is very high in methionine, which is an essential amino acid that ensures that any protein that we eat is completely used. This means that we get the maximum benefit from the turkey and is particularly important if we find it difficult to digest food as we get older.
Turkey is very high in the amino acid tryptophan, so it stimulates the B3 vitamin, Niacin, into producing serotonin the neurotransmitter. This has a calming effect, and helps depression (particularly useful after a family festive lunch!) And also helps us sleep well and feel good (afternoon siesta). Niacin is involved in cell health. DNA requires Niacin to be healthy and a deficiency of this B-vitamin – and the other B’s like 6 and 12 – has been linked to DNA damage that can lead to Cancer.
Turkey is very high in Selenium, which is a trace mineral and is fundamental to our general health. It is involved in thyroid hormone metabolism – antioxidant defence systems and our entire immune system health – many studies into this mineral are revealing its positive effect on cancers. As an antioxidant, it encourages DNA to repair cells and damaged cells to self-destruct.
Turkey is richer in calcium than any other meat and has over twice the calcium of chicken or beef. It also contains B6, which is extremely important for blood cell health.
It is also high in phosphorus, which is a fundamental need for bone and teeth formation and the production of red blood cells. Phosphorus is also part of the chemical energy store in each cell and in DNA – so is vital for cell health. One of the things to watch for with phosphorus, however, is that it you eat a great many processed foods you will find that they are far too high in the mineral and can cause an imbalance with other minerals.
So, Turkey is low fat – half the fat of chicken – low in cholesterol, sodium and calories. Finally it is also called a short fibre meat which means that it is very easily digestible for any age group.
How to select the best Turkey
I am a carnivore at heart (apologies vegetarians) and even though I do not eat a lot of red meat, I do eat fish and poultry. However, I was put off for a couple of years from eating Turkey at Christmas or any other time of year following the advert for cigars in 1989. For those who missed it – a flock of turkeys are surveying the darkening skies and flakes of snow begin to fall. They look at each other resignedly and head off into the turkey house where they light up a Hamlet Cigar. It was heart wrenching and I think it was salmon for lunch that year. Just so that you can all feel the emotion here it is….sorry…..
There is usually some debate around the table on Christmas day as to who is getting the white meat and who the dark. Usually you end up with a bit of both but it is the white meat that is the most prized.
I am reliably informed that in the United States, turkeys are often bred by artificial insemination because they have now grown too large to get close enough to mate, which seems very sad considering they are also destined for the table. You would have thought they might have been granted a little fun along the way. A turkey can grow up to 70 lbs. but the average for a male (tom) is 20 lbs. and for a female (hen) around 12 lbs.
Buying your Turkey
Although I eat poultry I always buy from guaranteed organic and free range sources. I am also keen that any food that we eat is farmed humanely as possible. The fact is we as humans have been carnivores from the outset but there is still a long way to go in many parts of the world as to the level of respect we afford the animals we consume.
As the turkey has become more popular all year round, smaller breeds have been developed that weigh around 5 to 8 lbs. and fresh and frozen turkeys are now available at any time.
If the turkey is fresh the meat should be smooth, creamy and soft. If the turkey is whole make sure there are no bruises or cuts in the skin as this can lead to bacterial infection.
If the turkey is frozen it is more difficult to judge the condition of the bird but make sure that the wrapping is still intact.
Now over to Carol to share her recipes for Thanksgiving and the festive season and as a regular on your dinner table throughout the year.
Usually in the UK alone over 10 million turkeys were eaten at Christmas so I expect there are quite a few chefs/people stating they have the recipe on how to cook the perfect turkey and a few who will be cooking the not so perfect turkey aka Mr Bean…
To showcase the turkey delicious mushroom stuffing using porcini mushrooms.
- 25g pack dried porcini mushrooms
- 425ml hot vegetable stock
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion finely chopped
- 2 tbsp pine nuts
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 200g risotto rice
- 100ml white wine
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 tbsp shredded basil
- 4-6 tbsp grated parmesan
- Heat oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6.
- Oil a non-stick 12-hole bun tin and line holes with two strips baking parchment, to form a cross. Put the mushrooms in a bowl and pour over the hot vegetable stock. Leave for 20 mins, then strain, reserve the stock and chop the mushrooms, if large.
- Heat oil in a pan, add onion and fry for 5 mins until softened. Add the pine nuts and fry until lightly toasted. Add the garlic, rice and cook for 2 mins.
- Tip in wine, let it bubble, then add the reserved stock, mushrooms and bring to the boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 10 mins, until the rice is just cooked. Remove from heat and cool, then stir in the egg, basil, pepper, and salt, if using.
- Fill the tins with stuffing, sprinkle over parmesan. Bake for 20-25 mins, until golden on top. Cool in the tins, or for 5 mins if serving straight away. Remove by pulling up the parchment crosses.
- You can make these up to two days ahead. Then reheat on an oiled baking sheet, at 200C/fan 180C/gas 6 for 10 mins.
I stuff the neck cavity and just put onion or a lemon with some cloves and butter in the main body cavity. You could use fresh herbs and butter in all honesty mine does vary from year to year.
A tip is to include a small handful of rice in the stuffing as it absorbs all the raw juices from the turkey creating the most delicious stuffing.
I also cook my turkey breast down as then the juices fall into the breast which keeps it moist and succulent…
The turkey must then be turned over 30 minutes before it is done to brown the top….delicious.
Some chefs also push butter under the skin of the turkey…..
It really is personal choice and I wouldn’t presume to tell you how to prepare your turkey as we all have our own way of cooking this bird and all delicious there is no right or wrong way it’s personal preference so I am just going to give you a few different options..
Take the turkey from the fridge and allow it to come to room temperature while the oven is heating up.
Here is the link to a handy website to calculate roasting times for all types of meats: BBC Roast Calculator
This recipe is the one I am going to use this year because I don’t trust my oven temperature and I think adding the hot water into the cavity of the turkey will help not only keep it moist but will ensure it cooks properly
- The night before roasting, soften some butter and season with salt and pepper mixing well.
- I used about 6 oz of butter.
- Remove the giblets from the bird and wipe it inside and out with kitchen paper. Remove any feathers… if there are a lot of them you can singe them over a gas flame.
- I remember my dad doing that but most of the turkeys now are fully plucked and dressed..ours may not be as it is fresh from the farm so I am guessing it will have a few feathers left to pluck out…
- Open the cavity of the bird and season the inside with the remaining salt and pepper. Rub the seasoned butter over the turkey. Take a piece of greaseproof paper twice the size of the breast and fold to give a double layer. Lay this over the breasts (it will protect them during the cooking) and return the turkey to the fridge until morning.
- Calculate your cooking times and pre heat your oven… A 5kg bird should take 3 hrs 10 minutes at 180C(fan) 375F/Gas mark 5 approx as it will depend on your oven…
- Stuff the turkey neck with your desired stuffing.
- Sit the turkey on a trivet inside the tin. Bring a kettle of water to the boil and carefully pour around 250ml of the hot water into the cavity of the bird. Seal with a skewer.
- Pour another 500ml of hot water into the roasting tray with some onions and carrots and a few fresh herbs Thyme and Rosemary plus some garlic cloves.
- Then cover the whole thing with foil (I use two layers) and make sure that it is well sealed around the edges.
- Put the lot in the oven and cook for 20 minutes on 250 C, then reduce the temperature to 180°C/Gas 5 for the remaining cooking time. After 2½ hours, remove the foil and the greaseproof paper and close the door. Don’t open it again until the cooking time is up.
- To test whether the turkey is cooked, insert a skewer or knife blade into the point where the thigh joins the breast. The juice should run clear. If it is pink, then roast the turkey for another 20 minutes and test again.
- If you are using a meat thermometer then it should read 180F in thigh and 165F in breast or stuffing.
- Take the bird from the oven and leave it to rest in a warm place for at least 30 minutes.
- Strain the juice from the bottom of the roasting tin into a large jug to settle. The fat will rise to the top, leaving the aromatic turkey and onion juice beneath. Skim off the fat and thicken the juices if you wish, or serve as it is…..
The turkey Carcass…
I have many happy memories of the luscious soup my mum used to make with the left over turkey carcass…Do you????
- Turkey Carcass
- 2 large Onions chopped
- 4 carrots chopped and divided into 2 halves
- 3 potatoes chopped
- 1-2 cups rough chopped cabbage
- 3 celery stalks 2 rough chopped and one cut into bite sized pieces
- A Cup uncooked barley or mixed dried lentils
- A sprig fresh thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- Cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1 tbsp chopped fresh basil
- ¼ tsp poultry seasoning
- ¼ tsp paprika
- Worchestershire sauce ( optional)
- Salt and pepper to season
- Water to cover carcass .
N.B. You can use any vegetables which you have available sometimes I add some swede or turnip it depends what I have ….anything goes sweetcorn…just some examples ..What do you use?????
- In a large pot put the chicken carcass and cover with water add your roughly cut carrot, onion, a bay leaf and thyme sprig bring the water to the boil reduce heat to very low and simmer for 2 hours.
- Take the turkey bones out of the pot and pick off any meat. If required chop the meat and reserve. Throw away the bones and strain the broth through a fine sieve reserving the liquid and discarding the cooked vegetable.
- In a clean soup pot add the strained broth add the remaining raw chopped vegetables carrot, onion, celery, potato, cabbage) parsley, barley, and simmer for an hour until the vegetables are tender. Adjust seasoning and add worchestershire sauce if using.
- My mum would sometimes add dumplings or we would eat with fresh crusty bread.
- It is a lovely soup basically using leftovers and my kids still love this and remind me sometimes of their memories of eating this soup….
I think that is what makes turkey such a special meal..The memories we make…..
This is how I cook the perfect roast turkey and I hope you have enjoyed it and that you enjoy your Christmas….
©Sally Cronin- Carol Taylor 2021
About Carol Taylor
Enjoying life in The Land Of Smiles I am having so much fun researching, finding new, authentic recipes both Thai and International to share with you. New recipes gleaned from those who I have met on my travels or are just passing through and stopped for a while. I hope you enjoy them.
I love shopping at the local markets, finding fresh, natural ingredients, new strange fruits and vegetables ones I have never seen or cooked with. I am generally the only European person and attract much attention and I love to try what I am offered and when I smile and say Aroy or Saab as it is here in the north I am met with much smiling.
Some of my recipes may not be in line with traditional ingredients and methods of cooking but are recipes I know and have become to love and maybe if you dare to try you will too. You will always get more than just a recipe from me as I love to research and find out what other properties the ingredients I use have to improve our health and wellbeing.
Exciting for me hence the title of my blog, Retired No One Told Me! I am having a wonderful ride and don’t want to get off, so if you wish to follow me on my adventures, then welcome! I hope you enjoy the ride also and if it encourages you to take a step into the unknown or untried, you know you want to…….Then, I will be happy!
Carol is a contributor to the Phuket Island Writers Anthology: Amazon US
Thanks to Carol for her culinary expertise and her wonderful Green Kitchen Column throughout 2021… and thanks to you for dropping in to join us.