Marco Pierre White: On Christmas lunch

Marco Pierre White gives his tips on how to cook the perfect Christmas lunch.

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To me, Christmas lunch is not Christmas lunch without a roast turkey on the table. A turkey gives a real sense of occasion. When I was growing up we were poor but we never had Christmas without a turkey, although it was seen as a luxury. I know a lot of people don't rate turkey but I love it - it has much more flavour than a chicken. The recipe here explains how to brine, but the bird will turn out well without it, too.

Please don't fall into the trap of buying the biggest turkey you can find so you can boast about it. A turkey that weighs 4 to 5kg is more than enough to feed 12. If you're having to set your alarm to get up before dawn to put the bird in the oven, it's too big.

The key to a successful Christmas lunch is to put your energy where it matters. So don't make cranberry sauce, buy it, and use your favourite shop-bought stuffing, too.

But the gravy needs to be made from scratch. Everyone makes a fuss about gravy, but there's really nothing to it. Just pop the roasting pan with juices on the hob and skim the fat off. Mix the fat with some flour in a small bowl to form a paste (known as the roux). Add chicken stock and whisk, be sure to scrape all the roasted bits from the bottom of the pan, they contain all the flavour. Cook to reduce, then add the roux and whisk while cooking until the gravy becomes thick and smooth, then season. I like to add some fresh chopped thyme and sage at the last minute.

And don't worry about using frozen sprouts - I always do and have had no complaints so far. Sprouts benefit from a good frost and they're unlikely to get that anywhere here bar in the freezer.

I will be in Norfolk in the UK for Christmas, enjoying my turkey with all the trimmings. I hope you have a lovely Christmas lunch, whatever you choose to eat.

Take Home the TurkeyEnjoy a holiday takeaway feast with a whole roasted turkey with all the trimmings and traditional puddings created for you by Marco and the Fairmont Bal al Bahr. Available until January 10, priced from Dh410 (serves 4), exclusive of taxes and fees. Orders must be placed 48 hours in advance by calling 02 654 3238, or e-mail

MAKE IT YOURSELF: Roast turkey



8 litres cold water

300g salt

110g brown sugar

1 tbsp black peppercorns


1. Bring 2 litres of water to the boil and add the salt, sugar and peppercorns.

2. Once the salt and sugar dissolves, cool the mixture and add to the remaining 6 litres of water. Let the brine cool completely.

3. In a large pot, plastic pail or container, submerge the defrosted turkey in the brine. A good rule of thumb is 1 hour in the brine for every pound of turkey.

INGREDIENTS: Roast turkey

Whole brined turkey

100ml olive oil

Salt and pepper

1 large bunch fresh thyme

3-4 sprigs fresh rosemary

6 garlic cloves

4 medium carrots (diced large)

4 medium white onions (diced large)


1. Once the turkey has been removed from the brine be sure to dry it completely.

2. Rub the outside of the turkey with the olive oil, salt and pepper and stuff the inside of the bird with the fresh herbs and garlic cloves.

3. In a roasting pan large enough to hold the turkey, place the carrots and onions on the bottom to give the turkey a base to roast on. Cover the turkey and pan with aluminium foil.

4. In a preheated oven roast the turkey at 180C. A good guide to follow for cooking time is 20 minutes of roasting for every 500g/1.1lbs of turkey or roast until the juices in the thigh run clear when pierced with a knife.

5. During the last 45 minutes of cooking remove the foil to nicely brown the turkey.

6. Remove the turkey from the pan a let it rest on the board. The next step is making the gravy.