Tenderest turkey

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Indy Lifestyle Online

The reason that many of us dislike turkey is because we end up with an overcooked bird, but this is mainly because we misunderstand the cooking process. Because of the size of the bird, the legs and breast have different cooking times. As the legs need much more cooking than the breast, it's therefore preferable to remove the legs and cook them separately. You can bone them, stuff them and roll them up to add a different dimension to the meal. By cooking your legs separately and slowly for maybe an hour and a half, this means that your breasts can be cooked to perfection in slightly less time, perhaps as little as one hour, depending on the size of your bird. Once you separate breast from leg, hot air can circulate around the two separate parts of the bird and the two will cook nicely. As you have only the breast meat to consider, you can concentrate getting it nice and succulent.

Here's a simple recipe in which you stuff the legs with a meaty stuffing so that you can still have your bread-based stuffing in the cavity of the bird. You can vary the ingredients of the meaty stuffing by adding, say, chopped apricots, sweetcorn and raisins, or just keep it simple. What's more, you can do this a day or so in advance and just cook it an hour and a half before you need it.

For the leg stuffing

1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
2tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
A good knob of butter
500g minced pork, containing about 30 per cent fat, or minced chicken thighs
100g fresh white breadcrumbs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Bone your turkey thighs by running the point of a sharp knife along the bone and working it around the bone to release all the flesh. Remove any visible tendons in the drumstick and lay it on a tray, then repeat with the other leg. If you have a friendly butcher, then ask him to do this.

To make the stuffing, gently cook the onions and thyme in the butter for 2-3 minutes to soften, then remove from the heat and leave to cool. Mix the onions with the pork and breadcrumbs and season. Divide the mixture between the two legs, then roll them up as tightly as possible. Tie with string at about 3cm intervals and you're ready to go.

Pre-heat the oven to 180C/gas mark 5. Pre-heat a roasting tray with a little oil in it, season and cook the legs for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Test by inserting a skewer into the centre; if it's hot, it's done. Serve sliced into 2cm pieces. The stuffed breast recipe below will probably take around the same amount of time to cook.

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