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David Jones

Christmas with Neil. Part Two: The Main

Hero Main 1 Samantha Perry | Photography by Mark Roper

Welcome to part two of Christmas with Neil Perry. In this post we unpack the main dish, the one that's going to have everyone begging for seconds. Enjoy! 

Pancetta and Buffalo Mozzarella Turkey Breasts with Traditional Christmas Gravy Silky Potato Puree and Pea & Fetta Salad

Pea & Fetta Salad – Serves 4

  • 3 small heads of fennel
  • 40g (2 tbsp) olive oil, extra for roasting
  • 2 tsp fennel seeds, roasted and crushed
  • ½ bunch of thyme
  • 1 head of garlic, skin on
  • 200g red chilli, oiled, blistered on a barbecue or grill, peeled, deseeded and chopped
  • 2 lemons, juice and zest
  • 1Kg frozen peas, blanched in salted hot water
  • 1 bunch of mint, small leaves picked
  • 150g marinated soft feta 

  1. Heat oven to 180C. Line an ovenproof tray with baking paper.
  2. Cut fennel into quarters, cover very lightly with olive oil, season with sea salt. Add fennel seeds and thyme. Place on prepared baking tray, pointy side up to maximise caramelisation. Roast in oven for 25 minutes, or until golden and caramelised. Allow to cool.
  3. Coat garlic in olive oil and wrap in aluminium foil. Roast in oven for 35 minutes, or until soft. Once done, allow to cool and then peel softened cloves.
  4. In a serving bowl, combine garlic with two tablespoons olive oil. Add the chopped red chilli and lemon juice. Season.
  5. In a serving bowl, combine peas and garlic mix. Add roasted fennel, mint and lemon zest. Mix together then top with chunks of fetta and serve. 
Pea & Fetta Pea & Fetta Salad | Photography by Mark Roper

Pancetta and buffalo Mozzarella Turkey Breasts with Potato Puree – Serves 4
  • 1 large double turkey breast, skin off (about 1.2 kg)
  • 500g pancetta, sliced thinly
  • 2 balls buffalo mozzarella
  • 2 bunches sage, picked
  • 150g plain flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 150 milk
  • 400g panko crumbs
  • 70g butter
  • Grapeseed oil, for frying

Potato Puree

  • 1.2kg desiree potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 500ml cream
  • 200g unsalted butter, diced
  1. Cut turkey breast, producing four even pieces. Butterfly each turkey breast with your knife, then using a meat mallet, shape the 4 breast fillets to an even thickness. Season both sides with sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper.
  2. On a flat surface, arrange pancetta slices into 4 sheets, with pieces slightly overlapping. Make the sheets large enough to cover the surface area of each turkey breast.
  3. Cut the buffalo mozzarella into 7mm-thick rounds. Arrange on each sheet of pancetta and then lay a turkey breast on top. Place several picked sage leaves on top of the turkey, covering most of the exposed side. Carefully roll the pancetta and mozzarella around the turkey breast.
  4. Set up 3 bowls to crumb the pancetta wrapped turkey: 1 with the plain flour; 1 with the eggs and milk whisked together; and the last with panko crumbs.
  5. Prepare an ovenproof tray lined with baking paper for the finished product.
  6. Keeping one hand dry and the other for the egg mixture, dust the wrapped turkey fillets in the flour and shake gently to remove any excess flour, without unravelling the pancetta.
  7. Dip the floured turkey in the egg wash, ensuring it is completely coated. Lift out of the egg wash and allow for any excess egg was to drip off. Place breast in panko, using the dry hand to scoop panko onto all wet surfaces. Once all coated, using your dry hand press down to pack the panko on the breast. Remove breast and place on tray. Repeat for each breast fillet.
  8. Allow the turkey to rest in the fridge for at least 3 hours. The seasoning will act like a cure to help keep the turkey moist and not dry out during the cooking process.
  9. In a deep frying pan place enough grapeseed oil to shallow fry the breasts. Heat the oil on high. Place each breast in the pan gently, laying them away from you to avoid any hot oil splashing on you. Once the breasts are in, lower the heat to a medium temperature. Cook until the underside has just browned, about 3 minutes, then gently turn over.  Once the second side is almost done, another 2 minutes, add 8 sage leaves and the diced butter. Allow butter to foam and, using a spoon, baste the breasts until golden, about 1 minute. When the sage leaves are crispy, let them sit on top of the chicken as you baste so they don’t burn.
  10. Once ready, place on an ovenproof tray lined with paper towel. Season with sea salt. Place in oven at 90C for a maximum of 15 minutes, until ready to serve.
  11. To make the potato puree, place the potatoes in a suitable pot with cold water and a sprinkle of table salt. Bring to a light simmer and cook until tender.
  12. Heat cream and butter and season with sea salt.
  13. Place the potatoes in a ricer or mouli food mill (basically a hand-powered food grater) and pass through into a large bowl.
  14. Add the hot cream and butter mixture a little at a time, whipping the puree until desired consistency is achieved. Check seasoning and add freshly cracked white pepper. 

Traditional Christmas Gravy

  • 1 turkey carcass and wings (available from your butcher)
  • 2 brown onions, peeled and chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 6 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 2 sticks of celery, shopped
  • ½ bunch thyme
  • 1 bunch sage
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 15 peppercorns
  • 12L water
  • 70g butter
  • 70g plain flour

  1. Heat oven to 180C. Place turkey, onions and carrots in a roasting pan, coat with olive oil and roast for 40 minutes, until golden. Place vegetables and bones in a large pot.
  2. Deglaze the roasting pan with water and pour the roasting juices into the pot.
  3. Place all the other ingredients in the pot, except the butter and the flour and only ¾ of the sage leaves. Bring to a light simmer. Once simmering keep on a low-to-medium heat and cook for around 4 hours.
  4. 4 Strain stock into another pot. On a medium-to-high heat reduce to about 1L with the remaining sage leaves.
  5. Place the butter in a separate pot, heat on a medium heat. Once foaming add the flour to make a roux, stir until it becomes a light brown colour. Add this to the reduced stock a little at a time, whisking and allowing the stock to boil before adding more. Continue to add the roux until the desired consistency is achieved.
  6. Season with sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper and strain off the sage leaves.

NOTE: Make the gravy ahead to save yourself time on the day. If you do, once the gravy is made, cool in a container in an ice bath. To reheat, place in pot and heat on a low temperature, bringing to a simmer. 

Turkey Pancetta and Buffalo Mozzarella Turkey Breasts with Traditional Christmas Gravy | Photography by Mark Roper

Words and recipes by Neil Perry

For part one click here

For part three click here