Turkey is the star of countless Christmas lunches, but so often it comes out of the oven far drier than we’d like. In this recipe, I’ve used a few chefs’ tricks to deliver the festive centrepiece of your dreams – succulent slices of meat, crispy skin and big-hitting flavours.
The secret to this moreish turkey crown? Four easy steps, including dry brining and a harissa-miso butter that melts under the skin as the meat cooks, infusing it with a wonderful depth of flavour – and a kick. Then there’s a glaze, and a chickpea gravy that you drench over the crown just before it’s served.
Dry brining, which I prefer to wet brining if the joint is big, generates moisture from the meat that soaks back in, making the turkey juicy and helping achieve a crisp and evenly browned skin. The brining takes at least 12 hours, so remember to get started a day early.
I like to make the couscous ahead of time, since it is easily reheated in a microwave when the time comes to serve, allowing you to concentrate on the turkey in the interim.
Turkey crown with harissa-miso butter and saffron couscous
Prep 1hr 30 min
Cook 3hr 30 min, plus brining and resting
Serves 8-10 with leftovers
For the dry-brined turkey
6kg turkey crown
80g table salt
2 tbsp light brown sugar
For the saffron couscous
30ml Belazu Early Harvest Extra Virgin Olive Oil, plus a little extra
A generous pinch of saffron
1 tbsp salt
60ml lemon juice
5g ras el hanout (optional)
220g golden sultanas
240g Belazu Chickpeas, rinsed
For the harissa-miso butter
250g unsalted butter, softened
150g Belazu Rose Harissa paste
150g white miso paste
80ml maple syrup
2 tbsp Belazu 1.34 Balsamic Vinegar
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
For the harissa glaze
100g Belazu Rose Harissa paste
120ml maple syrup
50ml Belazu 1.34 Balsamic Vinegar
75g unsalted butter
1 orange, zested
A few rosemary sprigs, leaves only
For the gravy
3 red onions, peeled and cut into 21⁄2cm-thick rounds
5 cloves of garlic, smashed
1 litre best-quality chicken stock
400ml coconut milk
400g Belazu Chickpeas, rinsed
1⁄2 bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped
To brine the turkey, combine the salt and sugar in a bowl and mix using your fingers. Cover the turkey liberally with the salt cure, patting it into the skin all over the crown. Set on a tray and leave in the fridge, uncovered, for 12 or more hours.
Now for the couscous – add it to a large bowl with the olive oil, and stir using a fork (or your hands) to coat all the grains. Measure 1 litre of water into a saucepan and add the saffron. Bring to the boil over a high heat, then remove and allow to infuse for 10 minutes.
Bring the saffron water back to a gentle boil, season with the salt, lemon juice and ras el hanout (if using). Pour two-thirds of the seasoned water (670ml) over the couscous and mix quickly and thoroughly with a fork, breaking down any lumps.
Clingfilm the bowl tightly and set aside in a warm place for 10 minutes, to steam and swell.
Put the chickpeas and sultanas in another large bowl and pour the rest of the infused water (330ml) over them; it should be just enough to barely cover them. Set aside to infuse until the sultanas are plump, then strain and coat with a little olive oil.
Once the couscous has swollen sufficiently, remove the clingfilm and fluff the grains with a fork to separate them, then fold through the chickpeas and sultanas. Check for seasoning, adding extra salt or lemon juice as required. Set aside until needed.
Remove the turkey from the fridge about an hour before you plan to start cooking. Calculate your roasting time by allowing 10-15 minutes for every 500g. Heat the oven to 200C (fan 180C)/gas 6.
While the oven is warming, make the harissa-miso butter by combining all the ingredients in a medium bowl and whisking until fully mixed. Separate the skin from the crown and massage the harissa-miso butter into the breast, so it is covered evenly and entirely.
Take a large roasting tray (40cm x 30cm) that can also go on a hob, and add the onion slices, garlic and 500ml of the chicken stock. Top with a large roasting rack if you have one and put the turkey crown on it. Otherwise place the turkey on to the onion slices before putting the roasting tray into the oven.
With its blend of spices and rose petals, Belazu Rose Harissa adds depth to any dish
Now make the harissa glaze by taking a medium saucepan and adding the Belazu Rose Harissa paste, maple syrup, balsamic vinegar, butter, orange zest and rosemary leaves. Whisk to combine, and bring to a simmer over a medium heat until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 6-8 minutes. Set aside until needed.
After 30-45 minutes take the turkey from the oven and baste with the harissa glaze. Rotate when you put it back to help it cook evenly. Repeat throughout, with increasing frequency as you reach the end of the cooking time. If the skin becomes too dark, loosely cover with foil to prevent it from burning.
The turkey should roast for 2-3 hours and is cooked once the juices run clear, or the internal temperature reaches 72C when probed with a meat thermometer at its thickest part. Transfer to a roasting rack to rest for 15-20 minutes, while you make the gravy.
Place the roasting tray over a medium-high heat on the stove, skim off most of the excess fat (there will be quite a lot from the melted butter) and scrape up any residual flavourful bits from the base with a whisk.
Pour in the remaining 500ml of stock, bring to the boil and reduce for 5-10 minutes. Add the coconut milk and chickpeas, and continue to simmer until thickened, another 5-10 minutes. Check for seasoning, adding more salt and black pepper (or rose harissa) as needed.
Carve the turkey crown and transfer back to the roasting tray containing the gravy. Spoon this liberally over the meat, generously garnish with parsley and serve immediately. The dish pairs well with the reheated saffron couscous, which is perfect for soaking up the gravy.
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