Gordon loves cooking and experimenting with food. He loves making new dishes, particularly with unusual or underused ingredients.
The Challenges of Creating Family Meals That Work for Everyone
Creating a simple meal that all the family can enjoy together can often be frustrating and represent a bit of a chore as well as a challenge. Different tastes and preferences may well mean that some component parts of the meal have to be laid only on certain plates. The easiest way of addressing the problem is probably by putting all the assembled ingredients on the table in individual dishes and allowing each family member to help themselves to what they do or do not require.
Unfortunately, preparing and serving a meal in this way can often generate a lot of additional work—especially when it comes to the washing up—and in practice may best be reserved for special occasions. That is why this idea of easy to prepare and assemble dishes, accompanied by a main ingredient and tortilla wraps, makes for a really simple solution to the problem, especially in summer. The idea is very similar to the concept of Spanish tapas, where a little bit is eaten from a wide variety of dishes served in small portions.
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- 1 (approximately 3 pounds) whole turkey thigh, fully defrosted (if applicable)
- 2 pork sausages
- 2 tablespoons Indian-spiced onions
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 1 garlic clove, peeled and grated
- 1 teaspoon freshly chopped chives
- 4-inch piece of mooli, peeled and grated (makes around 2 tablespoons)
- 12 pitted black olives, quartered
- 2 ounces cheddar cheese, grated
- 2 tablespoons cranberry and port sauce
- 2 generous handfuls fresh watercress
- 3 small tomatoes, quartered
- 4-inch piece of cucumber, roughly chopped
- 12 tortilla wraps
- Butter, olive oil or substitute for turkey
- Salt and pepper
- Vegetable oil for frying sausages
Note: The ingredients listed above are those precise items which were used in this particular meal. The nature of this creation means that almost all of them can be substituted or omitted to suit the individual tastes of you and your family—even the turkey could be swapped for chicken, pork or beef! Think of this, therefore, merely as a suggested list of ingredients and adapt it as and where you see fit.
Preparing and Cooking the Turkey Thigh
Instructions for Cooking a Turkey Thigh
- Ideally, the turkey thigh should be removed from the fridge a couple of hours before cooking and allowed to reach room temperature (covered).
- Preheat your oven to 400°F (200°C).
- Cut off and discard any elasticated netting that was used to help the turkey thigh keep its shape in the packaging. Wash the thigh in cold water and pat dry with kitchen paper.
- You can use butter or olive oil for greasing tray/rubbing turkey but, in this case, I tried a product which is supposed to do the job of either with considerably lower saturated fat content. I believe it worked very well. Whatever you are using, first grease/oil the tray and lay the turkey thigh in place. Add more butter/oil to the exposed part of the turkey and rub it in well with your hands. Season with salt and pepper.
- Put the turkey thigh in the oven for an hour.
- Remove the turkey thigh from the oven and check with a skewer that the juices run clear. Cover with foil and leave to rest for half an hour before carving for service.
Preparing the Tapas-Style Ramekin Platter
Imaginative Wrap Inclusions
Below is a guide to precisely what I included in this seven ramekin set. Remember, these are only suggestions and are based more than anything upon what I had to use up in my fridge. Why not see what you can come up with in a similar way?
The order below is the order of the photos above:
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- Indian-spiced onions: These onions can be purchased from a great many supermarkets or delis, but why not have a go at making them yourself? This allows for experimentation and adaptation as you learn precisely how hot or otherwise your family like them served.
- Chive and garlic mayo: The mayo is added to a bowl, and the chopped chives and garlic are added and stirred through, before the mix is added to the ramekin with a teaspoon. This is a lot easier than trying to stir and combine them in the ramekin!
- Sliced pork sausage: A variation on the chipolatas which are often associated with Christmas turkey. As soon as the turkey is in the oven, fry the pork sausages in a little oil on a very low heat for 20 minutes, turning occasionally. Remove from heat and leave to cool before slicing into discs.
- Grated mooli (daikon)
- Grated cheese
- Chopped black olives
- Cranberry and port sauce
Preparing the Simple Salad
Lay the watercress in the base of a serving dish. Intersperse the tomato and cucumber pieces and season with salt and pepper.
Serving the Turkey and Assorted Accompaniments
Presentation Is Still Important at the Family Dinner Table
Assemble your ramekins on a serving tray or, in this case, in the serving platter which forms part of the set. A further benefit of serving this way is, in the event of any leftovers, just apply one sheet of plastic wrap over the whole dish and it's ready for the fridge.
Carefully carve the turkey into fairly small slices and transfer to a serving plate.
Heating and Serving the Wraps
Wraps Should Be Heated at the Last Minute
The wraps are so quick to prepare that you should only turn your attention to them when everything else is ready for the table. Check the instructions on the packs you buy. In this instance, they required only seven to eight seconds each side in a very hot, dry frying pan.
Begin by scattering lukewarm water over a clean tea towel to lightly dampen it. Lay it on a plate. As you heat the wraps, lay them on the towel and wrap it over to keep the wraps moist and fresh until they are ready to be assembled at the table.
The Approximate Cost of This Meal
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Jar of black olives in brine
8 tomatoes on vine
Half a cucumber
12 tortilla wraps
Tips for Buying a Turkey Thigh and Keeping Meal Costs Down
It is very often possible in modern times to buy turkey portions in supermarkets, either fresh or frozen. This purchase was a whole turkey leg in the form of the separated thigh and drumstick. The cost was £4 (GB pounds). As the two portions were of similar weight, they can be counted as costing £2 each. The turkey drumstick was used fresh—a couple of weeks prior to this meal being prepared—and the thigh frozen. Remember to defrost the thigh fully in the bottom of the refrigerator for about 24 hours before use.
When thinking about what individual items to serve with your turkey and wraps, your first step should be to look in your fridge, store cupboards or larder. Consider what suitable items you already have available, especially ones which will spoil if they are not used in the next day or two. This way, you save money by cutting down your grocery list and save on waste by using up foods which may otherwise spoil.
The table above shows my actual shopping list for preparing this meal—following the fridge and cupboards scavenge—minus the turkey thigh, which was already in the deep freeze. Compare it to the list of ingredients further up and see how much I saved by employing this tactic. Don't think of this as scrimping and being mean—it certainly is not. You're serving quality food that your family is likely to enjoy, as well as cutting down on costs and waste at the same time. Win, win and win.