THERE’S something about roasting ‘the bird’ on December 25 that makes us more stressed than a Bake Off contestant whose Baked Alaska has melted – particularly if, like many of us, you’ve been too busy buying prezzies, catching up with friends and recovering from your office party to plan ahead with your cooking.

But preparing your last-minute Christmas dinner needn’t feel like an audition for Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares. You can still produce a perfectly delicious turkey, minus the frazzle.

What’s more, with a simple recipe like the ones below, and the odd shortcut when it comes to the trimmings, you can still find time to unwrap presents and quaff Buck’s Fizz with the rest of the family.

First things first, choose the right turkey. If you’re feeding a large party and have the time (and oven space) for a big one, all well and good. It will also supply you with plenty of leftovers for turkey sandwiches.

If, on the other hand, you prefer to do things last-minute and your oven is closer in size to an A4 envelope than an Aga, a turkey crown (where the wings and legs have been removed) is probably your best bet. It’s also easier to carve – perfect when you have a host of hungry mouths to field.

Some even come in a roasting bag, meaning you can just pop it in the oven, seal in the flavour and save yourself some washing up.

As for the trimmings, time-saving options needn’t involve sawdust-style dry stuffing and that jar of instant gravy that’s been gathering dust since last December.

These days, supermarkets offer plenty of pre-prepared, deluxe options if you want to wow and are happy to spend a bit more: fresh stuffing and gravy, posh cranberry sauces, vegetable selections, and potatoes already seasoned, basted, and ready to roast.

So bung it all in the oven, put your feet up (keeping an eye on the time) and make sure you have some helpers around when it comes to plating up.


Herb-buttered turkey, roasties and cranberry sauce gravy (Serves 6)

Prep: 30mins

Cook: 2hrs

  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 handfuls of parsley leaves, finely chopped
  • 100g butter, softened
  • 3kg turkey crown
  • 1 1/2kg new potatoes, halved if large, quartered if huge
  • Salt and pepper

For the sauce:

  • 2tbsp plain flour
  • 3tbsp chunky cranberry sauce
  • Splash of port
  • 600ml chicken stock
  • 1tbsp soy sauce (optional)
  • Salt and pepper

Heat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas mark 6.

Tip the garlic, parsley and butter together in a bowl, season generously with black pepper and a pinch of salt, then beat with a wooden spoon or squish through your fingers until everything is combined.

The butter can be prepared up to a day ahead and chilled or made two weeks ahead and frozen. Soften before using.

Place the turkey crown on a board with the thick part of the breast facing away from you. Use your hands to make two pockets between the skin and the meat, then smear the flavoured butter beneath the skin and all over the breast, working down so that the breast is completely covered.

Tip the new potatoes into a large roasting tray. Sit the turkey on top, skin side up, then roast for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, sit the turkey on a board and give the potatoes a good shake.

Then place the turkey back in the tin, spoon over some of the buttery juices and continue to cook for another 40-50 minutes until the turkey is dark golden.

Transfer the turkey to a board to rest, loosely covered in foil, then continue to cook the potatoes for 20 minutes to brown.

Use a slotted spoon to scoop the potatoes into a serving dish, reserving the buttery juices in the pan. Put the potatoes to one side and keep warm.

To make the cranberry gravy, place the roasting pan on a lowish heat and stir in the flour. Let everything sizzle and brown, then add the cranberry sauce and a splash of port.

Sizzle everything for a few minutes until really sticky, then stir in the stock, bring to the boil and cook until thick or to your liking, seasoning to taste.

If the gravy is on the pale side or a bit too sweet, stir in a splash of soy sauce.