Tired of turkey? Spice it up!

Because we are usually away with family at Christmas, we cook our own turkey for New Year’s Day. What? I hear you say. Turkey and trimmings twice in a week? What gluttons for punishment!

But no. I have a recipe I found many years ago, in a newspaper, for a Moroccan style roast turkey dinner, and it is so different, and so delicious, that I always look forwards to both cooking and eating it.

No rashers. No potatoes. No brussels sprouts. No bread sauce. No cranberry sauce.

Much of the preparation can, and should, be done the day before. So, I’ll give all the ingredients, and then a timeline.


  • 150 ml olive oil
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 2 cloves crushed garlic
  • half an onion, finely grated
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tbsp cummin seeds lightly toasted and ground
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds lightly toasted and ground
  • 1 tsp caster sugar
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • black pepper
  • 1 turkey!
  • juice of 2 oranges
  • 2 bayleaves
  • 4 large onions


  • 160 g butter
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 10 cardamon pods, cracked
  • pinch black pepper
  • 400 g basmati rice, washed and soaked in salted water for 3 hours
  • 100 g whole almonds, browned in olive oil
  • 100 g chopped dates
  • 1 good pinch saffron, infused with a drop of boiling water and a pinch of salt

Moroccan Ratatouille

  • 6 courgettes, cut in 2 cm slices
  • 2 large aubergines, halved lengthways and cut into 4 wedges lengthways
  • 2 medium onions, roughly chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 4 green peppers, roughly chopped
  • 6 medium carrots, peeled, halved lengthways, and cut in 3 lengthways
  • 400 g turnip or swede, cut in 2 cm wedges
  • 4 medium potatoes, cut in 2 cm wedges
  • 6 tblsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 4 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 can cooked chickpeas
  •  1 tin chopped plum tomatoes
  • fresh coriander
  • salt and pepper


Day – 1

Today you should prepare and apply the marinade for the turkey, and prepare the stuffing.


Mix together all the ingredients and rub over and into the turkey, being sure to get under the skin and into every nook and cranny. If you have a large plastic bag this is good for containing the turkey and marinade overnight in the fridge or somewhere cold.


Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the spices, and fry for 3 minutes. Drain the rice well. Add it to the butter and stir it around for a minute to coat it.  Turn the heat up high and add the dates and almonds. Pour on enough water to cover the rice by 1 cm and season with salt. Place a disk of greaseproof paper on the surface of the water and put the lid on the pan. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Lift the lid and paper off the pan, drizzle the saffron water over the rice, and replace the paper and lid. Cook for another 5 minutes, or until all the water is absorbed and you see dimples forming in the rice. When it is cooked turn it out onto a tray and cool it as rapidly as possible. Remove all the whole spices – count them in and count them out is always good operating procedure with whole spices like cardamon pods.

This is just so delicious, you can’t have too much.

You could also prepare and cook the ratatouille today, and just heat it the next day while the turkey is resting.



Preheat the oven to 220°C. Carefully stuff the turkey with the rice stuffing in the cavity and at the neck.

Cut the onions into 1-cm thick slices and place in the roasting tin to form a platform for the turkey. Pour in the orange juice and a pint of water, and the 2 bayleaves. Put the turkey onto the onion slices, and add  a little oil. If there is any marinade left you can pour that in as well.

Cover the turkey with foil, sealing it tightly around the edges of the roasting tin (I imagine a roasting bag could work very well here).

Roast for 30 minutes at 220°C (200°C in a fan oven) and then reduce the temperature to 170°C (150°C in a fan oven). For the last half hour, remove the foil, raise the temperature to 200°C (180°C in a fan oven) and baste every 10 minutes until it is a beautiful deep golden colour. Allow at least half an hour resting time.

Weight                                 Cooking time (approx.)

8 to 12 pounds                  3 to 3½ hours

12 to 14 pounds                3½ to 4 hours

14 to 18 pounds                4 to 4¼ hours

18 to 20 pounds                4¼ to 4¾ hours

20 to 24 pounds                4¾ to 5¼ hours

24 to 30 pounds                5¼ to 6¼ hours

The above cooking times are for a stuffed turkey and are approximate. You should use a meat thermometer to make sure the turkey is cooked through.

If there wasn’t room in the turkey for all the stuffing you can heat it in the oven in a covered dish during the last half hour. It will be extra tasty if you put some of the basting juices on it as well during this time.

I make a gravy with the juices while the turkey is resting. Use your baster to remove some of the fat from the juice. Put the fat in a saucepan, add 4 heaped tblsp flour and stir for a minute or two. Then add the rest of the juices, bring to the boil, and simmer for 10 minutes.



Heat oven to 220°C.

Sprinkle a teaspoon of salt over the courgette and aubergine and leave it to stand for 20  minutes; then rinse it.

Toss all the vegetables except the chickpeas and the tomatoes in the oil, allspice, coriander, and salt and pepper, and roast, turning about every 15 minutes until the vegetables are becoming soft and caramelised.

If you are doing this the day before serving, stop now, and continue with next step on the next day.

Add the chickpeas and tomatoes and cook for another 10 minutes or so (or till heated through). Add the fresh herbs and serve.


Remove the stuffing from the turkey and put it in a large dish.

Put the ratatouille in a large dish.

Carve the turkey and place it on a platter.

Pour the gravy into a heated jug.

Eat and enjoy.

And for after…

This is a refreshing orange salad that makes a great dessert after the dinner.


  • 125 ml orange juice
  •  juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 2.5 tblsp honey (blossom honey if you have it)
  • 5 oranges
  • 20 moist dates
  • fresh mint
  • orange blossom water
Put the juices in a pan with the honey and  gently bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the honey.  Boil until it has reduced by 1/3 and leave to cool.

Peel the oranges, slice them and lay them in dish.

Roughly chop the dates and scatter them over the oranges with some chopped mint.

Add 1 tblsp orange flower water to the syrup and pour it over the oranges, cover, and chill for a couple of hours before serving.


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