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Do you remember the cringe worthy Turkey Buffet scenes from Bridget Jones?
Do you remember the cringe worthy Turkey Buffet scenes from Bridget Jones?
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Why not host a Turkey Curry Buffet in the days following Christmas?

IF, like me, you find yourself wandering into the mists of the mid-40s age bracket, you’ll understand why Christmas as a kid in the 1980s was one long cringe-fest.

There was always shocking, terrible hair. Mine was cut by my mother with a pair of wallpaper scissors, and my sister’s (being a few years older than me) was plied with so much hairspray it was a small wonder it didn’t spontaneously combust.

Truly awful clothes, invariably with too large collars, long white socks and shiny shoes. Cliff Richard non-stop on the radio. And then there was the House Party.

The House Party was an excuse for the grown-ups to get together in those awkward in-between days after Christmas and before New Year’s Eve. It was, ostensibly, an excuse to use up the last of the turkey. There would be vol-au-vents and white bread triangle sandwiches adjacent to chocolate biscuits, the last of the twiglets and, completing the buffet with a final flourish, a bowl of mini gherkins neatly stabbed with cocktail sticks.

Everyone smoked, transforming the house into one big chimney, and drank whiskey and lemonade, even though they didn’t like it, and Lambrusco because it was the sparkling wine of the working classes.

Chas n’ Dave blasted out of the stereo ‘singing’ about rabbits with a healthy dose of Cor Blimey Guv’nor, followed by the cursed sounds of Boney M.

It was, for a 9-year old me, torture. For my sister, who was already well into her teenage years, the evening was spent in sullen silence, intermittently puffing away on her asthma inhaler – unsurprising considering the dense fog of cigarette smoke.

If the Christmases of your 1980s childhood were like mine, then you probably are also a fan of Bridget Jones’s Diary. Whether it’s the book or the film, for me one of the most unforgettable scenes is Bridget arriving at her parents’ house for their Annual Turkey Curry Buffet. A house full of people, Bridget’s mother in full hostess-with-the-mostess mode, inappropriateness lurking round every corner, Turkey Curry on the table, and mini gherkins on sticks.

Aside from the D’arcyisms and cruel trampling of Bridget’s self-esteem at the buffet table, this was the in-between Christmas gathering of my childhood. My love for this vignette in the book (and the movie — it has to be said, this was Zellweger at her finest!), never left me, and a mere 12 years after Helen Fielding’s book was published (in 1996 — if you can believe it), I set about creating my own annual Turkey Curry Buffet complete with Christmas jumpers, songs and festive punch.

The Turkey Curry brought forth from the kitchen of Bridget Jones’s mother was a classic of the Vesta curry generation. Mustard yellow in colour, creamy rather than thick with a predominate flavour of Curry Powder.

Thankfully, we’ve moved on since then: travel and culinary curiosity has seen to it that our knowledge of curry has unwrapped a whole world of incredible flavours and textures.

I love a good curry: spicy or mild, dry or saucy, light or rich with butter. So for my Turkey Curry Buffet, I always make three different style: Indian, Chinese and Thai, and with them I serve up a different rice or noodle, chutney or sambal and a bread. I like to go with crowd pleasers, and flavours people will recognise, so here are my three favourite curries to make for your own Bridget Jones’s Turkey Curry Buffet for this year’s in-betweeny days of Christmas!

The first two curries can be made in their entirety ahead of time, and of course a days’ rest between the making and the eating only helps to improve the flavour. Heat thoroughly just before serving and make your rice fresh.

If in the mood to make your own Thai curry paste, make this a week in advance for the longer it has to meld and mingle with the other flavours the better the final flavour of your curry.

In all recipes I am using leftover meat from the Christmas turkey, alternatively purchase extra turkey legs and breasts from your butcher.

Turkey Bang Bang by Kate Ryan
Turkey Bang Bang by Kate Ryan

Chinese Curry: Turkey Bang Bang

Despite the name, this curry isn’t high up on the spicy scale at all. It is similar to a Satay, made with peanuts for a sweet-spicy sauce.

The sauce can be made in advance and kept in the fridge until ready to mix with the turkey.

I serve this with noodles tossed with a little soy sauce, pre-made prawn crackers and Rebel Chili’s sweet chili and lemongrass sauce. Turkey legs are the best meat to use for this, and is delicious served hot or cold.

Bang Bang Sauce:

2 tsp oil 3 tbsp coarse peanut butter (get out of fridge an hour before use)

1 tbsp sugar (coconut sugar is great here)

2 tbsp thick sweet dark soya sauce (Indonesian works best for this if you can get it)

1 tbsp dark soy sauce

Dash of hot chili sauce

1 ½ tbsp rice wine vinegar

2 tbsp water

  • Place all the ingredients into a saucepan and allow to warm through gently, stirring to mix thoroughly. If it is too thick add a little more water. Set aside.
  • Remove the turkey leg meat and take off any skin.
  • Mix the meat into the Bang Bang Sauce.
  • To serve, finely chop some iceberg lettuce, coriander and mint and mix together on a platter. Down the centre, spoon out your Turkey Bang Bang and top with finely sliced scallions, cucumber and spritz with some fresh lime all over.

Indian Curry: Turkey Jalfrezi

Jalfrezi is one of our most loved curries from the Indian sub-continent. Using the turkey makes this particularly good, especially when using a mix of white breast meat and brown leg meat.

The trick to a really good deep flavour to a Jalfrezi is to cook the onions low and slowly before adding anything else in. Onions are the secret to a really good Indian/Pakistani curry, so the better the onion cookery at the beginning the better the curry will taste at the end.

For the spices, I would always recommend using fresh spices, toast them in a dry pan and then grind them with a pestle and mortar, but powders will also work.

I make a buttery pilau rice with this, rich with ghee, cardamom, cinnamon, clove and saffron, and serve ready-made poppadoms and a lime pickle to counter the sweetness of the curry.

Ingredients:

60g ghee or oil

Min 400g of turkey meat, mostly from the breast

1 large white onion finely chopped

1tsp finely chopped garlic

1 tsp finely chopped ginger

2 large bell peppers: green and red

1 green chili (deseed for a milder curry), finely chopped 1tsp cumin (seeds or powder)

1tsp coriander (seeds or powder)

½ tsp chili powder

½ tsp turmeric powder

1/4tsp salt

400g tin of tinned chopped tomatoes

200g water (use the tomato tin)

Fresh coriander

Method:

  • Melt the ghee in a deep sauce pan and add the onion. Cook slowly over a low heat for at least 10 mins, preferably 20-30 mins. Stir often to ensure the onions do not burn.
  • Add the garlic and ginger, stir for a couple of minutes, then add the bell peppers.
  • If using spice seeds, toast and pound in a pestle and mortar before adding to the mix, along with the spice powders and fresh chili. Add in the tomatoes and water, bring to the boil then reduce the heat to a simmer to allow the sauce to reduce and thicken. This will take about 10 – 15 mins.
  • Towards the end of the cooking, add in the pre-cooked turkey meat, mix into the sauce and allow to heat through completely.
  • Serve onto a hot platter and dress with a squeeze of lemon juice and the chopped, fresh coriander leaf.

Green Thai Curry by Kate Ryan.
Green Thai Curry by Kate Ryan.

Thai Curry: Turkey Green Curry

Fresh, aromatic, zingy and packed with coconut, the secret to any good green curry is the paste!

There are some pretty good ready-made ones on the market, but if you have the time to make your own then do. The best thing about making your own is that it can sit in your fridge in an airtight container long before you need it which means that making the rest of the curry is a doddle. I serve this with Jasmine Rice and Thai rice crackers with a hot chili sambal.

To make the paste, put all the ingredients below into a food processor in the order stated and blend into a thick paste:

6 green chillies, deseeded

2 banana shallots

Thumb sized piece of fresh ginger, skin on

2 large garlic cloves, peeled

Handful fresh coriander

2 lemongrass stalks, bashed

Zest and juice of 1 lime

8 keffir lime leaves

2.5cm piece of fresh galangal skin on, or equivalent of dried galangal soaked for an hour before use 1tbsp coriander seeds

1tsp cumin seeds 1tsp black peppercorns

2tsp Thai fish sauce

3tbsp oil (groundnut, sunflower or olive oil)

To make the curry:

225g new potatoes, par boiled

1tbsp coconut oil or sunflower oil

1 garlic clove, peeled and chopped

1-2 heaped tbsp. of green curry paste (depending on how intense you’d like your curry)

400ml can of full fat coconut milk

2tsp Thai fish sauce 1tsp coconut / palm sugar

100g green beans / mange tout / sugar snap peas

450g pre-cooked turkey meat (breast only)

2 keffir leaves, crushed

Handful of basil leaves and coriander

Zest of ½ lime

Method:

  • Preheat a wok, add the garlic and curry paste. Cook out for a couple of minutes, then add the coconut milk solids and stir to combine. Add the rest of the coconut milk.
  • Cook until the mixture starts to thicken, then add the fish sauce and palm sugar. Stir to combine.
  • Add the green veg and turkey, stir to combine and cook for a couple of minutes for the veg to soften slightly.
  • Add in the lime leaves, the fresh herbs and the lime zest.
  • Serve on a warmed serving bowl, and sprinkle over any remaining fresh herbs.