Perfect pancetta & roast shallot-stuffed turkey served on an oval plate

Perfect pancetta & roast shallot-stuffed turkey

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Prep: 30 mins Cook: 3 hrs, 30 mins - 4 hrs Plus salting and resting

More effort

Serves 8

Stuff your Christmas turkey with shallots and thyme for a flavour-packed main. Pushing pancetta under the skin helps the white meat stay beautifully succulent 

Nutrition and extra info

  • Gluten-free

Nutrition: Per serving

  • kcal401
  • fat23g
  • saturates9g
  • carbs1g
  • sugars1g
  • fibre0.7g
  • protein47g
  • salt1.1g
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Ingredients

  • 5-5½ kg oven-ready turkey, neck and giblets removed (save them to make stock, if you like)
    Turkey

    Turkey

    terk-ee

    While it's the traditional Christmas bird, turkey is good to eat all year round, though…

  • 1 pack smoked sliced pancetta or streaky bacon (about 14 rashers)
    Pancetta

    Pancetta

    pan-chet-ah

    Pancetta is Italian cured pork belly - the equivalent of streaky bacon. It has a deep, strong,…

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
    olive oil

    Olive oil

    ol-iv oyl

    Probably the most widely-used oil in cooking, olive oil is pressed from fresh olives. It's…

For the butter

  • 1 large garlic clove
  • 1 tbsp thyme leaves
  • 1 lemon, zested
    Lemon

    Lemon

    le-mon

    Oval in shape, with a pronouced bulge on one end, lemons are one of the most versatile fruits…

  • 85g butter, softened
    Butter

    Butter

    butt-err

    Butter is made when lactic-acid producing bacteria are added to cream and churned to make an…

For the shallots

  • 400g shallots, peeled
    Shallot

    Shallot

    shal-lot

    Related to the onion (as opposed to being a younger version of it), shallots grow in clusters at…

  • small handful thyme sprigs
  • handful bay leaves
  • lemon halves, from the zested lemon
    Lemon

    Lemon

    le-mon

    Oval in shape, with a pronouced bulge on one end, lemons are one of the most versatile fruits…

  • bay leaves and chopped thyme, for scattering over (optional)

Method

  1. Up to two days ahead, season the bird all over with flaky sea salt – inside and out and under the skin. Leave the turkey in the tin, breast-side up, and put in the fridge for up to two days; the longer you salt it, the more succulent it will be. Weigh the turkey and calculate the cooking time by allowing 40 mins per kg for the first 4kg, then 45 mins for every additional kg. As a guide, a turkey of this size should take 3½-4 hrs plus 30-45 mins resting.

  2. To make the butter, mash the garlic with the thyme, lemon zest and a pinch of salt using a pestle and mortar, then beat in the butter until well mixed. Can be prepared up to two days ahead and chilled.

  3. Gently push your fingers under the skin of the turkey, starting from the neck, until you can push your whole hand down the length of the breast – take care not to tear the skin. Spread the butter under the skin so that it covers the breast meat. Lay the pancetta (or bacon) on your work surface in two rectangles of six overlapping slices. Carefully push each rectangle under the skin to cover and protect each breast. This can be done the night before; take the turkey out of the fridge 1 hr before roasting to bring it back to room temperature.

  4. On the day, heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Tip the whole shallots into a bowl with the thyme, bay and garlic butter, then season and toss to coat. Lift the turkey into a roasting tin, massage the olive oil into the skin and season well if you haven’t already seasoned ahead. Tip the shallots into the roasting tin, around the turkey, and stuff the lemon halves into the cavity. Cover the tin loosely with foil and roast for the calculated cooking time. 

  5. For the final 30 mins, remove the foil and pour off all of the cooking juices (reserve them for the gravy). Spoon the shallots into the cavity and increase the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Roast for the final 30 mins until the turkey is golden and the thigh juices run clear when pierced with a skewer, or until a digital cooking thermometer reads over 70C. Leave the turkey to rest on a warm platter covered with foil – it will stay warm for about 1 hr. If you want to make turkey gravy, pour the fat off the juices and add the gravy to the roasting tin. Bring to the boil, then pour into a gravy jug. To serve, bring the whole turkey to the table, along with the herbs, if using. Carve onto a hot platter with a little of the hot gravy poured over. Any leftover meat can be frozen in the gravy, or used in leftovers.

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