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How to cook the perfect Christmas turkey

PUBLISHED: 11:05 04 December 2017

At the Thornham Deli are executive chef Gemma Arnold (left), director Janie Thompson and manager Denise Le Gallez (right) (photo: Ian Burt)

At the Thornham Deli are executive chef Gemma Arnold (left), director Janie Thompson and manager Denise Le Gallez (right) (photo: Ian Burt)

Archant 2017

They might be a Norfolk institution – having won Best Coffee/Tea Shop, sponsored by EDP Norfolk Magazine – but Thornham Deli’s festive inspiration stretches well beyond the county borders

“It is unavoidable at the deli, with two of our other co-owners, Jeanne Whittome and Derek Woodhouse, hailing from sunny South Africa, that we sometimes bring a bit of their homeland into our Christmas celebrations,” says co-owner Janie Thompson. “Don’t get us wrong, we still love our turkey with all the trimmings but if there is even the smallest hint of a clear blue sky over the north Norfolk coast, then the barbecue or ‘braai’ is wheeled out. Somehow, turkey cooked outdoors over the red and black coals takes on a whole new dimension.

“Of course, the Deli is open all over the Christmas period, except Christmas Day itself, so as you can imagine those sacred 24 hours are very special. It is all about family, friends, festivities and that beautiful Norfolk turkey cooking gently on the braai,” says Janie.

If you fancy giving your Christmas an international twist, here is Derek’s recipe for a perfect Christmas bird.

Recipe for perfect Christmas bird

- Before cooking, let the turkey sit at room temperature for at least an hour.

- Stuff the turkey with aromatics (sage, onion wedges, garlic bulbs), and tie the cavity.

- Make sure the barbecue vents are open top and bottom. You will be using the indirect method, so place about 25 briquettes on either side of the barbecue, lower the grid with enough room in between to place a foil roasting tray to catch the juices (for use in making the gravy). Ignite the briquettes and let them burn until they are ash grey. Top with main grill.

- Rub oil, salt and pepper all over the turkey.

- Place the turkey on the top grill, directly over the roasting tray and cover with the grill lid, keeping the vent open. Every 45 minutes, add eight unlit briquettes on each long side of the roasting pan to keep the heat even.

- Cook the turkey until a thermometer stuck in the thickest part of the thigh reads 165 degrees. This can take between two and three hours depending upon the size of the bird.

- Let the turkey rest for 20 minutes before carving.

Thornham Deli, High Street, Thornham, PE36 6LX, 01485 512 194,


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