Try Alex Mackay's recipe for Roast Turkey this Christmas, with Marsala gravy.

Alex Mackay, cook, teacher, writer and regular on cookery television, shares his recipe for roast turkey.

The dried cranberries add a special touch to my traditional chestnut stuffing and the gravy made with Marsala adds incredible richness and flavour. This recipe gives you lots of gravy; turkey tends to soak it up so I always make enough for a second or third round.

I don’t put bacon on my turkey because I think it overpowers the flesh, I don’t cover it with foil which steams more than roasts the bird and I roast the turkey for less time than you’ll be used to. I have carefully checked the temperatures at the end of the cooking time so yes the timing is right, the skin is golden and the meat is juicy and tender.

I only baste the turkey a couple of times, once when I add the stuffing balls and then I give it a good coating in the pan juices once it is cooked. If you take out the wishbone before you stuff the turkey it will be much easier to carve.

Serves 6-8

Prep ahead: You can take the wishbone out of the turkey and make the stuffing at least a day ahead. Stuff the turkey no more than two hours ahead or the salt in the stuffing will draw moisture out of the flesh.

Prep / Cooking 3 – 3.5 hours including resting time | Active Time 45 mins


1 Kelly Bronze Turkey Approx 4kg
700g best quality sausage meat
2 medium onions, peeled and finely chopped
200g Merchant Gourmet whole cooked chestnuts
100g polenta or breadcrumbs
150g dried cranberries
5 large sprigs of rosemary, picked and chopped
1 teaspoon mixed spice (or if you can find it Mauritius Masalle)
2 large egg yolks
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 heaped tbsp flour
350ml Marsala
2 tbsp soy sauce
850ml chicken stock
16 chipolatas
16 rashers unsmoked streaky bacon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper


1. Pre-heat your oven to 180c /Gas 4 Upper Middle Shelf. Boil your kettle.

2. Take your turkey out of the fridge, take out the giblets and set them aside. Lift up the flap of skin at the neck end of the turkey to uncover the wishbone. With a sharp knife, cut down either side of the wishbone, very firmly and perhaps with a helping hand, pull the wishbone out towards you (don’t worry if it breaks, just make a wish) and set it aside with the neck and giblets. If you have a big knife, chop the neck into six pieces. (This gives you more roasty bits around the turkey, which add more flavour to the gravy.)

3. Next, make the stuffing. Mix the sausage meat together with the chopped onions, chestnuts, polenta, dried cranberries; rosemary, mixed spice, egg yolks and a heaped teaspoon each of salt and black pepper.

4. Lift the flap of skin at the top of the turkey breasts. Loosely push about 1/3 of the stuffing underneath. Fold the flap of skin back over so that it holds the stuffing in, but make sure that it is not too tightly packed or the skin will split as it roasts. Truss the turkey, making sure that you leave the skin slightly loose, but secure the neck flap well. If you don’t have a trussing needle, use a wooden skewer to do this. Separate the remaining stuffing into 16 pieces, dust your hands with polenta if the stuffing is sticky and roll the 16 pieces into balls. Put them in the fridge until you need them. Put the turkey onto a large roasting tray and put the chopped neck and giblets around the outside.

5. Brush the turkey, neck and giblets with vegetable oil. Rub salt all over the turkey’s skin. Put the tray onto the middle shelf of your pre-heated oven.

6. Roast the turkey for 1 hour and 30 minutes; check it twice, as, depending on whether your oven has a hot spot at the back, you may need to turn the turkey so that it roasts evenly. Take the turkey out of the oven. Baste it with the cooking juices. Put the stuffing balls around the outside. Roast for a further 30 minutes. Transfer the turkey and stuffing balls to a large dish. Cover the stuffing balls but not the turkey with foil and leave both to rest for at least 30 minutes. Pour the cooking juices from the roasting tray into a saucepan, leaving just a little fat in the tray. Put the saucepan with the juices to one side to settle so that you can scoop the fat off the top. (Only if you want to, I leave the fat in).

7. Add the flour to the roasting tray, put the tray over a medium heat and stir it for a minute until the flour goes brown. Add the Marsala, being careful as it will catch alight, and boil until it has reduced by half. Stir in the soy sauce and chicken stock and bring to the boil. Scrape the bottom of the roasting tray with a fish slice to remove all the caramelised goodies, bring to the boil, and transfer to a saucepan. Scoop the fat off the top of the turkey cooking juices (only if you want to) and add them to the pan. Bring to the boil and simmer rapidly for 15 minutes. Strain your gravy into a clean pan. Season to taste, and keep it off the heat until you are ready to serve.

8. At any time you get a free minute while the turkey is cooking, roll each chipolata in a rasher of streaky bacon and place them onto a baking sheet with the overlapping side of the bacon downward so that they don’t unravel. Once the turkey is cooked, bake the chipolatas for 10 minutes then put them under a hot grill for 3-4 minutes until the bacon is crispy.

9.Serve the turkey in all its glory with the gravy, stuffing balls, chipolatas and whatever veg you like the best.


If we’re honest, Christmas is never truly stress free, but to help, I find the best way is to think of the meal as just a big roast dinner. With that in mind, Jake just loves his roast dinners, so he devours this very happily, James likes the flavours and stuffing, but at the moment, struggles with the texture of the turkey, so we cut it into small pieces. Don’t worry about the alcohol in the gravy, as it gets cooked out by boiling, if you’d prefer to leave it out anyway, try replacing it with double the quantity of grape juice.


• Peel the onion, if you start them off by cutting off the tops with a knife. Then start to peel the skin just enough to give them something that they can grip and then pull off. This is extremely satisfying at any age.
• Pick the spikes off the rosemary stalks
• Measure and weigh the stuffing ingredients
• Help separate the eggs
• Roll the chipolatas in the streaky bacon

December 2013