Roasted Turkey with a Lebanese Twist
Happy thanksgiving to all my readers in North America! We usually serve our turkey when hosting a big dinner party. It is the centerpiece of a satisfying dinner or holiday table. Everyone has their favorite way of roasting a turkey. This recipe has been passed down through my grandmother to my mother and eventually to me. The turkey is loosely covered with a tent of heavy duty aluminum foil to control the level of browning and to help keep the bird moist. Salt and seven spice are used as a rub to flavor the turkey. Seven spice is a Lebanese/Syrian mixture that contains ground black and white pepper, allspice, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and coriander. However, if seven spice is not available in your household then use allspice as a substitute.
The turkey is stuffed, after roasting, with a Lebanese rice that is called “totbeea”- rice cooked with ground meat – that gives the bird the typical Lebanese touch.
If you are cooking with a frozen turkey, you need to defrost the turkey by putting it in the refrigerator for 2 days. It is also crucial to remove the turkey from the refrigerator two hours before roasting.
1 (4 kg. / 9 lb.) whole fresh or frozen turkey, giblets and neck removed
Salt, to rub the inside and outside of the turkey
11/2 teaspoons of 7 spice
¼ cup canola oil, to rub the turkey
5 bay leaves, to put in the cavity of the turkey and in the tray
5 cardamom pods
For the rice:
2 cups medium grain rice, I used jasmine rice
3 cups water, to cook the rice
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon powder
1 teaspoon 7 spice
500 g. /1 lb. 2 oz. ground beef or lamb
½ cup black or golden raisins, optional
1/3 cup blanched almonds
1/3 cup ghee or canola oil
3 cups water, to cook the chicken
½ teaspoon tomato paste + 3 tablespoons canola oil, to brown the bird later
Preheat the oven to 225 °C / 450°F.
Rinse the turkey and pat dry using a paper towel.
Rub the inside and outside of the turkey with salt and seven spice. Then rub inside and outside with the canola oil.
Place 2 bay leaves in the cavity of the turkey.
Tie the legs of the turkey with kitchen strings.
Place the turkey on its back in a baking tray.
Add 3 cups of water, cardamom pods and bay leaves to the turkey tray. Cook until the water in the tray starts boiling.
Loosely cover the tray with heavy duty aluminum foil. Make sure the top of the bird does not come in contact with the foil.
Reduce the heat to 180°C/350°F and cook for 4 hours, rotating the pan and adding more hot water if the tray dries out.
Mix the tomato paste with the three tablespoons of canola oil and brush the cooked turkey. Roast the turkey for about 10- 15 minutes. Do not cover at this stage.
While the Bird is roasting in the oven, prepare the rice:
Soak the rice in warm water. Rinse and drain.
In a heavy based saucepan, toast the almond in ghee or canola oil until lightly browned. Set aside.
Add the ground meat to the saucepan and cook for a few minutes until well browned.
Add the rice, salt, cinnamon powder, raisins (if used) and seven spice. Stir well.
Pour the 3 cups of water. Once it starts boiling, reduce heat to very low, cover the pot and simmer for 25 minutes.
Transfer the turkey to a serving plate and stuff some rice inside its cavity. Arrange the rest of the rice around the turkey. Sprrinkle the toasted almonds on top of the rice!
Serve it with your favorite gravy or extract 1 cup of the oven turkey broth and place in a pot. Add 1 tablespoon flour to it and whisk thoroughly over medium heat until the sauce thickens, season with salt and a dash of freshly grated white pepper. Serve the sauce on the side. Happy eating!
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