Roast turkey with shallots, chestnut and thyme

Serves 10-12 Starters and mains




  • 4.5-5kg turkey
  • 100g butter, softened
  • 1kg shallots, peeled (see above)
  • small bunch fresh thyme
  • 1 lemon
  • 150g pancetta or dry-cured
  • bacon
  • 2tsp caster sugar
  • 2tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 500g chestnuts, peeled and cooked
  • 600ml giblet stock
  • 2tbsp plain flour
  • 2 glasses red or white wine thyme sprigs and bay leaves, to garnish


Wash and dry the turkey and season inside. Beat the butter with 2 chopped shallots, 1tbsp chopped thyme, 1tsp grated lemon zest, salt and pepper. Slide your fingers under the skin of the turkey over the breast and spread as much of the butter as you can between the breast and the skin. Push the rest of the butter into the body cavity with the halved lemon, a couple of halved shallots and most of the remaining thyme. Truss the legs with string.

Put the turkey, breast-side down in a large roasting tin and cover with foil. Preheat the oven to 230°C/450°F/Gas 8 and cook the turkey for 40 minutes. Reduce heat to 190°C/375°F/Gas 5 and cook undisturbed for a further 2½ hours.

Lift the roasting tin on to a comfortably accessible work surface and remove the foil. Turn the turkey over (taking care not to tear the skin) and return it to the oven for a further 30-40 minutes, basting 3-4 times with the juices. Test the turkey by inserting a skewer into the thickest part of the thigh: the juices should run clear, not pink. The turkey may now rest, loosely covered in foil, in a warm place for up to 50 minutes.

While the turkey is cooking, cut the pancetta or bacon into 2cm batons, and fry until it browns and the fat begins to run. Lift the bacon pieces onto the plate with a slotted spoon and fry the shallots in the bacon fat until browned. Sprinkle with sugar and allow to brown further and caramelise before adding the vinegar. Let this splutter and evaporate, then turn the shallots into a baking dish and add the pancetta/bacon and a few sprigs of thyme.

When the turkey is cooked, spoon a few tablespoons of the turkey juices over the shallots and bake for 15 minutes. Stir and add the chestnuts and 2tbsp more of the turkey juices. Cook for another 20 minutes until the shallots are fully cooked and nicely glazed.

For the gravy, first heat the stock. Tip all but 2tbsp of the fat and juices from the roasting tin into a wide bowl and leave on a cold surface, so the fat rises to the surface; strain off the fat. Add the flour to the roasting tin and stir over heat for 2-3 minutes, then stir in the hot stock, followed by the wine. Let it bubble, then spoon the shallot and lemon from the turkey cavity into the gravy and stir-cook for about 5-8 minutes. Strain into a clean pan, add the turkey juices (with the grease removed) and let it simmer for another 15-20 minutes stirring frequently. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper and maybe a pinch of sugar. Serve the turkey surrounded by the shallots and chestnuts and decorated with fresh thyme and bay leaves.



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