When do you eat turkey? Just at Christmas, and maybe Easter? Or any time throughout the year? Would you automatically reach for the chicken breasts in the supermarket rather than looking at the turkey breast steaks?
I think I'm somewhere between the two - I often buy turkey instead of chicken, and turkey mince instead of beef, but I do cook with chicken a lot more than I do with turkey. Luckily, as my boyfriend is a big fan of chicken, I think we eat poultry more than red meat.
I was very pleased to be invited to a cookery demonstration and dinner with TV chef Phil Vickery by the British Turkey Association. I got to meet an interesting selection of bloggers and food writers, including a couple of people whose blogs I follow like Corinna at Searching for Spice and Fiona at London Unattached, as well as the food editors for Sainsbury's magazine and Grazia's website, among many others. I was also seated at dinner next to Paul Kelly - he's head of the British Turkey Association and I'm sure many of you have heard of Kelly Bronze turkeys- he's *that* Kelly. He was a very interesting and entertaining dinner companion!
Before we had dinner, we were treated to a cookery demonstration at the Westminster Kingsway college, which is known for its catering school, so they had a great little demonstration kitchen. Phil Vickery has been on Ready, Steady, Cook hundreds of times, and now appears as the chef on This Morning. He came across as down to earth and friendly, and clearly passionate about British turkey. He made several recipes using British turkey, all of which taking only a few minutes, showcasing the different flavours you can combine with turkey. Turkey is very low fat and high in protein, and cheaper than chicken, so it really is a great option for dinner time.
Phil explained a technique I wasn't familiar with, called velveting - it's popular in Chinese cookery. You coat the turkey in a mixture of egg white and cornflour or arrowroot and a little oil, and leave for up to a day in the fridge. Phil says it really changes the texture of the turkey, and prevents it from becoming dry. If you are worried about turkey being dry (perhaps because that's how you've had it at Christmas) then this is the ideal solution! Having said that, there's no reason for turkey to be dry, and Paul Kelly explained to me that people are so nervous about cooking a big turkey at Christmas that they cook it for far longer than the need to. Phil Vickery said he intends to try velveting his entire turkey this Christmas!
Phil's recipes included a sweet and sour turkey dish, where he combined lime zest and juice and sugar with chopped pineapple and mango, and chopped mint to serve. He made another dish with stir-fried strips of turkey with turmeric, cardamom and garlic for added flavour, and paprika sprinkled on top - he said you should never cook paprika and only add it at the end. He also made a 'surf and turf' dish with prawns and turkey, a combination I would never have thought of trying which was delicious. My favourite was probably the last dish where sugar was allowed to caramelize in the pan, then chopped fresh chilli and white wine vinegar was added to make a barbecue-style sauce. We got to try each dish (see pictures) as Phil made it and the evening was great fun.
I also learnt quite a few new things about turkey thanks to the British Turkey Association, so I thought I would share some of those things with you here.
Six things you probably didn't know about turkey:
- Turkeys are originally from Mexico, and are believed to have been first brought to England in 1526.
- In Britain, turkey replaced peacock as the bird of choice for a roast dinner; turkey at that time was seen as more exotic. Edward VII made eating turkey at Christmas fashionable.
- In 1930, it took a week's wage to buy a turkey, now the average cost is less than 2 hours wages
- Originally black feather bronze turkeys were more popular, but the marks left after plucking the black feathers was deemed unsightly and the white turkey then became popular
- The country that eats the most turkey per capita is not the UK (where about 10 million are eaten at Christmas) or the US (where 60 million are eaten at Thanksgiving) but.... Israel.
- Ever wondered about the white and dark meat on a turkey? The dark meat comes from the legs; as these are the muscles that do the most work, they have higher levels of haemoglobin in the blood (which is needed to store oxygen), which is what makes the meat darker.
Thanks to Phil Vickery and the British Turkey Association for inviting me to the event. I will definitely cook more with turkey from now on - look out for some recipes on my blog!