The Life Kitchen: Thanksgiving turkey by John Torode

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Ingredients to serve 8:

* 4.5kg turkey

* 100g salted butter

* 2 tsp sea salt

* 2 tsp ground black pepper

* 3 large onions

I wasn't particularly interested in turkey until I met turkey farmer Paul Kelly and started to appreciate what this gem is all about and why it is one of America's greatest exports outside peanut butter. Make sure you have a roasting tin large enough to fit your turkey and a trivet to cook it on – I use a cake cooling rack.

The night before roasting, soften the butter and add half the salt and half the pepper, mixing well. Remove the giblets from the bird and wipe it inside and out with kitchen paper. Remove any feathers – if there are a lot you can singe them over a gas flame. Open the cavity of the bird and season the inside with the remaining salt and pepper. Rub the seasoned butter over the turkey.

Take a piece of greaseproof paper twice the size of the breast and fold to give a double layer. Lay this over the breasts (it will protect them during the cooking) and return the turkey to the fridge until morning.

Calculate your cooking times – allow 20 minutes at high heat, then 30 minutes per kilo after that. A 4.5kg turkey will therefore take approximately two-and-a-half hours to cook in total. Heat the oven to 220C (gas 7).

Take the turkey from the fridge and allow it to come to room temperature while the oven is heating up. Cut the onions in half and place in the roasting tin. Sit the turkey on a trivet inside the tin. Bring a kettle of water to the boil and carefully pour around 250ml of the hot water into the cavity of the bird. Seal with a skewer. Pour another 500ml of hot water into the roasting tray with the onions. Cover the whole thing with foil (I use two layers) and make sure that it is well sealed around the edges. Put the lot in the oven and cook for 20 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 200C (gas 6) for the remaining cooking time.

After one-and-a-half hours, remove the foil and the paper and close the door. Don't open it again until the cooking time is up. To test whether the turkey is cooked, insert a skewer or knifeblade into the point where the thigh joins the breast. The juice should run clear; if it is pink, then roast the turkey for another 20 minutes and test again.

Take the bird from the oven and leave it to rest in a warm place for at least 30 minutes. Strain the juice from the bottom of the roasting tin into a large jug to settle. The fat will rise to the top, leaving the aromatic turkey and onion juice beneath. Skim off the fat and thicken the juices if you wish, or serve them as is.

From 'Chicken and Other Birds' by John Torode (Quadrille, £20).

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