Want a way to take the stress out of cooking this Christmas? Want to spend more time actually enjoying Christmas Day rather than being stuck in the kitchen, alone, muttering at the oven? Want a delicious home cooked turkey dinner with all the trimmings? Want it all ready in under 1h 30mins with only 2 pans and a colander to wash up? Impossible!?! Well, I think I may just have found a way to do it…introducing my Easy Peasy Christmas Turkey Traybake…
So here’s the story…I really love cooking and I’m a total foodie, but there is one day in the year when I really would rather not spend all my time in the kitchen and that’s Christmas Day. I usually feel so torn, (as I imagine many foodies do). On the one hand I want to create a beautiful feast, I want to cook a gorgeous bronzed roast turkey and all the trimmings, mountains of vegetables and lashings of gravy. And the foodie in me really wants to sit down to a sumptuous feast (and she can be quite exacting at times) BUT I also want to enjoy Christmas Day with my family. I want to watch my kids open their presents, I want to sip a glass of chilled champagne and chat with my guests, I want to snuggle on the sofa and watch The Snowman. I’d also like to take a few quiet moments to reflect on the real meaning of Christmas and say a quiet prayer of thanks for all the wonderful blessings I have in my life.
But instead, I so often find myself spending the majority of my day in the kitchen, muttering at the oven and chuntering to myself because something took longer than expected and now I’m behind on my time plan, all the while quietly seething because no one is helping…Except of course everyone does offer to help, but is generally waved away by me with a cheery “no I’ve got it all under control!” (because I’m useless at delegating), only for me to go back to muttering and mumbling as soon as they’ve gone back to their Champagne and lovingly-prepared-by-me canapés
My solution to all this over the years has been to drastically simplify what I do each year (N.B. I’m currently working on a post full of tips and shortcuts where I’ll be sharing my ideas about how to make the traditional sort of Christmas Lunch more easy peasy) and remind myself continually that Christmas is not all about the food and that there are more important things to worry about on Christmas Day than the slightly-too-thick bread sauce and those three roast potatoes that didn’t quite get crispy enough.
Now, this year I’ve been making a lot of traybakes (sometimes called tray bakes or tray roasts) and I’ve totally fallen in love with the concept: the idea of spending 5 or 10 minutes chopping and prepping before popping everything in a roasting tray and sticking it in the oven and basically ignoring dinner for an hour or so, while I get on with other things: playing with the kids, doing some work or even (when I’m really lucky) taking a few quite moments to read a book. You can find a few of examples on this blog: there’s Spanish Style Chicken Traybake, Lemon and Garlic Chicken Traybake and Sausage, Tomato and Bean Bake.
As I was planning yet another new traybake, I was hit by the idea of creating a Christmas traybake: Could it be done, I wondered? Would it work? I felt surely it was possible. After all, a large part of the traditional British Christmas lunch is roasted anyway: the turkey, the potatoes, the parsnips, sometimes the carrots… sausages always do well in the oven, so really it was just the sprouts I wasn’t sure about, so I had a go at roasting them and they worked beautifully. (If you are yet to try roast sprouts you really should: 15 minutes at 200C and they come out beautifully, delightfully crispy with a slightly nutty flavour – I could eat a whole tray of them!)
So then the questions was, would it all come together in one tray? The answer turned out to be a resounding yes…but only if the roasting tray was large enough. I bought a massive 33cm by 40cm one from Tesco for £12, and it has been such a good investment. I know I will use it a lot this Christmas and beyond!
So I bring you my Christmas Turkey Traybake…all the flavours of Christmas in one tray: roast potatoes, roast parsnips, roast carrots, roast turkey breast fillets, roasted red onions and sage to give you all those lovely flavours of stuffing and of course those lovely roast sprouts which are 10 times better roasted compared to boiled. It tastes fabulous, but the best thing of all is it’s a fab way to do the Christmas dinner if you don’t want to spend your whole morning in the kitchen. It took me less than 1h 30mins from start to finish and most of that time I wasn’t really doing anything at all. It was completely stress free…and have I mentioned already – only 1 saucepan, 1 colander and 1 roasting tray to wash up!!! It was also cheap. There was more food than the 4 of us could eat and yet it cost just under £15! That’s a lot less than we would normally spend and really no less tasty.
Yes I appreciate, you do lose a bit of the drama and theatre of having a big centrepiece turkey, but you could always adapt this traybake and do everything but the turkey in the traybake and roast a turkey separately… In fact, you can make this traybake in the time it takes for a turkey to rest covered in foil. And yes, I realise I have missed a few things out…bread sauce, cranberry sauce and stuffing, for example. But if these are important to you there is plenty of time to make them while you are hanging around waiting for the oven to do its thing. I am toying with the idea of making some simple stuffing balls and popping them in the traybake next time I make it.
The beauty of this traybake is it will work for really small numbers too…I made mine for 4 (and there was food left over) but you could easily halve it if there are only two of you. And if you are cooking for lots of guests you could do 2 or even 3 of these traybakes, so long as you have enough room in your oven. And this traybake can be really easily adapted for other meats too – I’ve already tried it successfully with duck and I’m convinced it would work well with chicken too. And if you are catering for a mix of vegetarians and non-vegetarians, why not roast the veg in the tray, do the turkey separately and you will have plenty of time in the middle to make a stunning vegetarian centrepiece too.
Serve this traybake in the centre of the table accompanied by a big jug of gravy, plus any other sauces you like at Christmas. I always think a buttery French Chardonnay goes best with turkey but I know a lot of people prefer red on Christmas Day, so this would also work well with a Southern French Grenache or a Spanish Garnacha. I’m personally not a fan of turkey and Claret, but if it works for you go for it!
I appreciate this version of the Traditional Christmas meal will not be for everyone, but I hope it will be helpful for some, and if not for the main Christmas meal perhaps for another event over the festive season. Whether you make this as your main Christmas meal this year, use it to have a cheeky little taste of Christmas flavours before Christmas or use it to hoover up the leftovers lurking in the fridge, I hope these ideas will help you have a less stressful time in the kitchen this year and give you more time to focus on the things that really matter this Christmas time.
Easy Peasy Christmas Turkey Traybake
- Olive oil
- 1 kg baking potatoes peeled and cut into 50g chunks
- Salt and pepper
- 500 g parsnips peeled cut into batons
- 500 g chantenay carrots left whole
- 8 garlic cloves gently bashed, skins left on
- 1 large red onion peeled and cut into 8 wedges
- 10 cocktail sausages wrapped in bacon you can buy these ready prepared
- 8 turkey breast fillets each one approximately 100g
- 8 sage leaves
- 200 g sprouts
- Gravy and other sauces to serve.
- Pre-heat your oven to 200C. Drizzle about 8 tablespoons of olive oil in the base of a very large roasting tin (roughly 40 x 33cm) and place the tray in the oven to heat up.
- Peel the potatoes and cut them into chunks that weigh roughly 50cm. Place them in a large saucepan and cover with boiling water. Add a teaspoon of salt and cook over a medium-high heat for 12 minutes. (Start timing as soon as you turn on the heat, NOT from when the water reboils)
- Meanwhile peel the parsnips and cut into large batons. I usually cut my parsnips in half lengthways and then widthways and then cut the top part in half again lengthways so I get 6 roughly even sized batons.
- Gently bash 8 garlic cloves and peel and cut a red onion into quarters. Slice your sprouts in half and get the sage and carrots out of the fridge and you are all ready.
- When the potatoes are done, drain them and then tip them into the hot fat. Spread them out and add the parsnips and carrots. Sprinkle over a good amount of salt and pepper and then baste everything with a little of the hot fat (take care not to burn yourself!)
- Put the tray in the oven and roast for 20 minutes.
- After 20 minutes remove the tray and add the garlic cloves, red onion wedges, cocktail sausages and sage leaves. Give everything another good baste and return the roasting tray to the oven. Roast for another 20 minutes.
- After 20 minutes, season the turkey breast fillets then add them to the tray along with the halved sprouts. Give everything another good baste and then put back in the oven for 15 minutes. This would be a good time to make a jug of gravy and any other sauces you want to serve with the traybake (e.g. bread sauce and/or cranberry sauce)
- After the last 15 minutes, check the turkey is done (cut the largest fillet in half and check it is white and not pink) and serve with your gravy and sauces. Easy Peasy!