Over the years, I have tried a lot of different ways to cook turkey, but I invariably come back to this one. It is an American recipe, cooks fast, is easy to carve and the meat is very moist and succulent. I have tarragon in this recipe, but you could use rosemary or thyme.

It is a good few years, now, since I cooked a full turkey. The crown is a great alternative to roasting a large bird – it is the turkey breasts and wing joints with the legs removed. Your local butcher will bone and roll the legs for you. Remove the turkey from the brine, dry it off before cooking, and make sure you get a Bord Bia Quality Assured turkey and ham.

This ham is cooked in the traditional manner and is one of my mother’s recipes. I make the glaze well ahead; it will keep for a month. Do it today!

Highbank Orchard in Kilkenny have a beautiful apple cider vinegar and apple syrup that you might like to try. This recipe will leave a lot of leftovers, with the smaller Christmas we will all be having this year. But it is a wonderful leftover to have.

Please keep an eye out for my two Christmas specials on RTÉ 1. The first is on Wednesday 9 December at 7.30pm and the second on Thursday 17 December at the earlier time of 7pm. I really enjoyed making them.

Happy cooking,


Buttermilk-brined roast crown of turkey with lemon and tarragon

Serves six to eight

1.8-2kg (4-4½lb) turkey crown, off the bone

75g (3oz) butter, softened

1 garlic clove, crushed

finely grated rind of 1 lemon

1 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

2 tsp chopped fresh tarragon

4 rindless smoked bacon rashers

For the buttermilk brine:

2 litres (3½ pints) buttermilk

2 lemons, thinly sliced

1 garlic bulb, separated into cloves and sliced

15g (½oz) fresh tarragon sprigs, roughly chopped

3 tbsp sea salt

2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 Mix together all the ingredients for the buttermilk brine in a turkey bag, then add the turkey crown. Tie up the bag securely and put in the salad drawer at the bottom of the fridge – up to two days is best, but brine for at least 24 hours.
  • 2 Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F/gas mark 5).
  • 3 Cream the butter until soft, then beat in the garlic, lemon rind and herbs. Remove the crown from the brine and drain off any excess liquid, then pat the skin dry with kitchen paper.
  • 4 Gently loosen the neck flap away from the breast and pack the flavoured butter right under the skin (this is best done using gloves). Rub the butter into the flesh, then re-cover with the skin and secure with a small skewer or sew with fine twine.
  • 5 Cover the top of the turkey crown with the rashers.
  • 6 Put the prepared turkey crown in the oven and calculate your cooking time: 20 minutes per 450g (1lb) plus 20 minutes. This will cook much quicker than a whole turkey, so make sure to baste it often. You can cover it with foil if it’s browning too quickly.
  • 7 When cooked, cover with foil to rest and keep warm. Drain away the cooking juices to make the gravy.
  • 8 To serve, carve the turkey crown into slices and arrange on warmed plates with a selection of your favourite accompaniments.
  • Honey-glazed ham with cloves

    Serves 10-12

    5.25kg (11½lb) leg of gammon, on the bone; skin on

    4 celery sticks, roughly chopped

    2 onions, sliced

    1 bunch of fresh thyme

    1 tbsp black peppercorns

    200ml (7fl oz) Irish whiskey

    200ml (7fl oz) honey

    2 tbsp redcurrant jelly

    2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

    1 tbsp ground allspice

    2 tsp whole cloves

  • 1 Soak the gammon in cold water for at least six hours (or overnight is best), then drain.
  • 2 Weigh the gammon and calculate the cooking time, allowing 20 minutes per 450g (1lb) plus 20 minutes – this size takes about four hours.
  • 3 Put in a large pan, cover with water and bring to the boil, skimming off any scum. Add the celery, onions, thyme and peppercorns and return to the boil, then cover, reduce the heat and simmer until completely tender, occasionally skimming off any scum that rises to the top.
  • 4 If you aren’t sure the gammon is properly cooked, check the bone end – it should come away freely from the gammon joint. Drain and leave until cool enough to handle.
  • 5 Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F/gas mark 4).
  • 6 Carefully peel away the skin, leaving the layer of white fat intact. Using a sharp knife, score the fat diagonally to make a diamond pattern.
  • 7 Put the whiskey in a pan with the honey, redcurrant jelly, balsamic vinegar and ground allspice. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened.
  • 8 Stud the ham with the cloves and put in a large roasting tin with a little water to prevent the bottom from catching and burning.
  • 9 Brush a layer of the glaze all over the ham, reserving the remainder.
  • 10 Cook in the oven for one hour, brushing over another layer of the glaze every 15 minutes until it’s all gone.
  • 11 Transfer to a platter and leave to rest for 15-20 minutes before carving into slices to serve. Use as required.