Roasted & Stuffed Turkey Breast Fillet
As a child, my mother was very consistent in the way she went about preparing the feast we enjoyed each Christmas. In Australia, Christmas falls in the middle of summer, yet Mum always persisted in baking the traditional Christmas roast. I remember the oven going in the kitchen all day, while my parents made rare visits to the neighbours for a snifter of sherry, my sister and I playing cricket or totem tennis with the kids in the neighbourhood, pausing regularly to make an outfit change (we were always given about four complete outfits as part of our Christmas gifts).
I loved those Christmases for their predictability. Mum only let us put the Christmas tree up the week before Christmas Day – I suspect it was her way of keeping a lid on the mania. We’d sit at the table and cut squares of red and green cellophane, and wrap bundles of Christmas lollies and nuts still their shells, and tie them to the tree as little gifts for kids who visited on or around the big day. Mum would make a range of biscuits – coconut cookies decorated with pink or green sugar, and spicey biscuits cut in the shape of bells, stars or Christmas trees, decorated with lemony glaze and sprinkes.
My child’s memory of what was served for Christmas lunch is blurry, but I know there was always roast turkey. I suspect there was a rolled roast beef too. Sometimes there was Yorkshire pudding, drowned in gravy which I loved. And of course there were roast potatoes, pumpkin and our favourite – Surprise Peas. For dessert Mum always served plum pudding with brandy custard. It wasn’t quite to my taste so, she also made a pavlova – not the kind you get these days, which is fluffy and squidgey in the middle. Mum’s pav was the crunchy kind – a hard meringue shell filled with whipped cream and covered with peaches, banana slices and kiwi fruit.
These days, my husband and I try to make Christmas lunch a little lighter – in Australia it’s simply too hot to roast all those vegetables. Plus the post lunch food-drugged sleep is never as enjoyable as you think! Whatever our Christmas menu, we always try to make it tasty in a delicate way; appealing to the eye, and colourful. With the plethora of fresh foods available in summer, this is never hard to achieve.
1.5kg turkey breast fillet
1 loaf of cut sliced bread – preferably 2 days old
180g chopped pistachios, pepitas, sunflower seeds, almond flakes and cashews
1 red onion, diced
1 garlic cloves, crushed
10 sprigs fresh thyme
Zest of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper to season
1. Trim any wonky bits off the turkey breast fillet so it makes a nice ‘diamond’ shape. If your butcher has filleted the turkey well, the tenderloin should still be attached, slice this off the back of the breast fillet and set aside.
2. Using a sharp carving knife, slice a pocket horizontally into the middle of the turkey breast fillet, being very careful not to pierce the flesh on the top or the bottom. Make the pocket as deep as you possibly can.
3. Cut the heel off the loaf of bread and begin tearing the bread out of the middle of the loaf. A white loaf is a good choice for this, but make sure it’s one of those nice ones cooked at a bakery. Ye olde Tip Top loaf of sliced white won’t do for this job. Keeping working until you are left with an empty shell of crust – then toss the crust out. Work through your bread bits, and shred any large chunks. Aim to have fine bread crumbs (if your loaf was good and stale).
4. Add the onion, garlic, nuts, thyme, lemon, salt and pepper and mix thoroughly to combine. You should season with salt and pepper to taste, but aim to have more pepper than salt in your stuffing.
5. Crack the eggs into the stuffing and work through the mix with your hands. Your stuffing should be good and moist, and be easily gathered together in a ball.
6. Hold the pocket in the turkey breast open and stuff handfuls of stuffing into the cavity. Push as much stuffing in as you can, but be careful not to tear the turkey flesh. Your turkey filet should be good and fat with a big ball of stuffing showing. Take the turkey tenderloin and cover the exposed stuffing by tucking the edges of the tenderloin down the sides of the stuffing.
7. Take four good long pieces of kitchen string and tie them tightly at regular intervals around the girth of the stuffed fillet to secure everything and prevent it from falling apart in the oven.
8. Arrange the stuffed fillet on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Note – you may like to use a disposable foil tray as the roasting juices from the meat are notorious for destroying baking trays! Place any turkey off cuts on the tray to roast as well. If you had any leftover stuffing, gather it together in a big ball and place next to the stuffed fillet.
9. Rub the skin on the stuffed fillet with a nob of butter and season with salt and pepper. Place in an oven preheated to 180 degrees and roast for 70 mins (depending on the weight of the breast fillet. The general rule of thumb is to 20mins roasting time for every half kilo of meat).
10. Slice the stuffed fillet and serve with turkey gravy, duchesse potatoes, and red mesculn salad.