I haven’t had a turkey for Christmas in years! We always eat goose as per a tradition coming from my partner’s family. However, this year we had a big (ish) Christmas party with our climbing group and decided to host it at home. It was 11 of us with various dietary requirements and turkey seemed to fit the bill – large enough to feed us all and everyone can eat it.

I found two really good recipes in an old BBC Good Food magazine (issue 2011) and ended up joining them up together. I made the turkey as per one recipe and the stuffing as per another recipe and it worked perfectly!

The only thing is, unfortunately, in the chaos of serving up dinner for 11 people, I somehow forgot to take a photo fo the full turkey… In such situations, usually, I will cook a dish again, but it seems like too big a meal to do that with!

Our turkey was also very big at more than 5kgs just for a crown! So it comfortably fed us that night and for a week after… So in the recipe below, I’ve changed up the ingredients a bit to a slightly larger turkey.

Turkey crown with pancetta, roast garlic and sausage & chestnut stuffing

Serves 10 + leftovers | Prep 35 mins + resting | Cook 2-3hrs
A little effort

Picture of the carved turkey, photo by Sarah Ahmad

You’ll need:

For the turkey

  • 4kg turkey crown;
  • olive oil;
  • about 10 thin slices pancetta or streaky bacon;
  • small rosemary sprigs;
  • 1 large onion, cut into 8 wedges;
  • 3 whole garlic bulbs, halved horizontally;
  • 1 lemon, zested (reserve the zest for the stuffing) then cut into 6 wedges.

For the chestnut stuffing

  • 25g pecans;
  • 2 tbsp olive oil;
  • 25g butter;
  • 3 shallots;
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped;
  • 140g cooked chestnuts, finely chopped;
  • 450g good quality pork sausage meat;
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley;
  • 2 tsp chopped thyme leaves;
  • 2 tsp finely chopped sage;
  • lemon zest (from the lemon you prepped for the turkey);
  • 1 egg, beaten.

For the gravy

  • 1 heaped tbsp plain flour;
  • 1.2 litres turkey or chicken stock.

For the turkey. Heat oven to 190C/170C fan/gas 5.  Weigh it to calculate the cooking time, allowing 20 mins per kg, plus 90 mins (or 70 mins when roasting a crown weighing less than 4kg). Sit the turkey on a board, very lightly rub all over with olive oil and season with pepper. Lay the pancetta or streaky bacon over the top of the turkey, slightly overlapping to cover it. Tuck the slices under the bird to secure at the bottom. Insert small rosemary sprigs haphazardly between the slices. Season with pepper. Tie the crown across in 2-3 places with butcher’s string, to hold the shape together. Put the onion wedges in the middle of a large roasting tin and sit the crown on top. Cover the turkey with a loose tent of foil, then roast following your calculated time.

Make the stuffing. Line the base of a baking tray or sheet (big enough to take 16 stuffing balls) with baking parchment. Heat the oil and butter in a frying pan, tip in the shallots and garlic, and fry for a few mins until softened. Stir in the chestnuts and chopped pecans, then tip into a large bowl and cool. Add the sausage meat to the bowl with the nut mixture. Add the remaining stuffing ingredients and season with salt and pepper. Shape the stuffing mixture into 16 balls. Break the remaining pecans into big pieces and press a piece into top of each ball. Arrange balls on the prepared tray, cover with buttered baking parchment and chill until ready to cook. Can be made 1 day ahead and chilled.

Thirty mins before the end of the cooking time, remove the turkey and increase oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Remove the foil, place the garlic halves and lemon wedges around the turkey, then baste them and the turkey with the cooking juices. Return the tin to the oven and continue to roast for the final 30 mins. To test if cooked, pierce the fattest part of the crown with a skewer – the juices should run clear, not pink. If they are pink, continue to roast, checking at 10 min intervals.

Carved turkey, photo by Sarah Ahmad

Remove the turkey, garlic and lemon from the oven, transfer to a warm serving platter and rest, covered loosely with foil, for 30 mins before carving. Meanwhile, cook the stuffing balls. Increase oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7. Bake stuffing balls in the oven for 25-30 mins, removing the paper for the last 5 mins if they need browning.

Make the gravy. Pour off any excess fat from the roasting tin but leave the juices and onions. Sprinkle in the flour, set tin over medium heat and cook, stirring for a couple of mins to cook the flour, scraping up any sticky bits from the bottom of the tin. Gradually pour in the stock, along with any resting juices from the turkey, and continue to stir until slightly thickened. Simmer gently for about 10-15 mins or until reduced to your liking. Season with salt and pepper if needed. Strain gravy into a pan, warm through, pour into a jug and serve with the turkey. Serve the turkey surrounded with stuffing balls, roasted garlic and lemon, and the gravy.

One full Christmas dinner plate, photo by Sarah Ahmad


Original recipes from BBC Good Food magazine, issue December 2011. Turkey Crown with pancetta, available online here. Pecan and chestnut stuffing from another recipe, available online here.