The summer months are almost here, and for many of us that means time to fire up the barbie, invite family and friends around, and start planning for our Christmas feasts and other seasonal celebrations!
All around the world, this time of year is traditionally associated with big festive meals – with each culture evolving its own special dishes which fit within its distinctive cuisine style.
Much of the traditional Australian Christmas fare has been inherited from Britain, though of course the increasing multiculturalism of our society has brought with it more and more variety in food styles, cooking techniques and ingredients.
But amid all this change, the centrepiece of the Christmas feast in Australia still remains turkey – a tradition which was introduced to Britain by King James I back in the seventeenth century.
The origins of the feast itself go way back to pagan times, when people sat down to eat a joint of meat in the hope of ensuring a good harvest in the new year. Beef, mutton, peacock, swan, duck and goose were all eaten – in Medieval England, the main course tended to be a wild boar!
King James, however, thought that turkey was better for the digestive system – although back then it was a delicacy, and most people at the time enjoyed a “Christmas goose”. Goose is still a mainstay of the Christmas meal in many European countries today, including Germany, France and Denmark.
Game meat such as quail and pheasant has also traditionally been part of many British Christmas meals, and duck and rabbit are enjoyed at this time of year by the Dutch.
Some countries have evolved their own elaborate Christmas feasts, such as Brazil which enjoys an evening meal on 24th December complete with dishes of fresh vegetables, bowls of rice and plates of salad and cold meats. In Finland, the joulupöytä (Christmas table) meal consists of Christmas ham, fish and casseroles, all washed down with glögi (mulled wine).
Some Eastern European countries enjoy a highly ritualized twelve-dish supper on Christmas Eve, with each dish representing one of Christ’s twelve apostles. Due to religious fasting, all these dishes are composed primarily of grains, mushrooms and fish. The meal starts with a prayer and is usually held under candlelight after the first star appears in the night sky.
Of course in Australia, if we were to wait for the stars to come out, we’d be eating rather late! Here we are more likely to be having our main Christmas meal in the middle of the day – but no matter when we’re eating, we’re sure to be enjoying a fabulous feast with family and friends.
ROAST BRINED TURKEY
with lemon and fig stuffing
For the turkey:
1 Game Farm Turkey (4kg)
150g soft butter
2 cups dry white wine
2 cups sugar
2 cups sea salt
1 bunch each of thyme and sage
¼ cup coarsely crushed black peppercorns
200g fresh white breadcrumbs
2 eggs, beaten
½ cup finely chopped sage leaves
100g dried figs, chopped
2 tbsp grated lemon rind
2 garlic cloves, crushed
Salt and black pepper to season
To make brine:
Combine ingredients and 8 litres of water in a large stockpot, bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes over medium heat. Strain and cool.
Completely submerge turkey in the brine and weigh down with a plate. Refrigerate for at least 24 hours and up to 2 days. Four to five hours before cooking, remove turkey from brine and rinse under cold running water. Pat dry with absorbent paper.
To make turkey stuffing:
Combine ingredients, season to taste , then mix to combine with your hands. Spoon stuffing into cavity, truss legs with kitchen twine and tuck wing tips under backbone.
Preheat oven to 180°C. Place turkey in a roasting pan and rub all over with butter , putting half of it under the skin of the breast. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Place a piece of foil over breasts, add wine, and roast, removing foil and basting frequently, for 1 hour 30 minutes. Add water to pan if necessary to prevent scorching. Remove foil and cook for a further 30 minutes, basting frequently, until golden brown and juices run clear when thigh is pierced with a skewer and internal temperature of thigh reads 80°C when tested with a meat thermometer.
Remove from oven, cover turkey loosely with foil and rest for 10 minutes. Carve and serve drizzled with pan juices.
Serves 8 | Note: start this recipe a day in advance!
Even at the height of the Australian summer, turkey is as much a part of Christmas as holly, mistletoe and carol singing! Game Farm Christmas turkeys are flavoursome and tender, available in weights from 2kg up to a whopping 10kg. We also offer fresh Turkey Half Breasts in weight ranges from 1.5kg to 2.2kg, and easy to carve and cook fresh turkey buffets ranging from 3kg to 6kg. So choose Game Farm turkey this Christmas – and make your festive feast one that everyone will be sure to remember!