Ingredient of the Week: Turkey
The majority of people seem to only ever eat turkey around Christmas time. A recent survey suggests that over 75% of British families have turkey for their dinner on Christmas Day and over 10 million turkeys are consumed in Britain over the festive period. Turkey got introduced to Britain in the mid 1500’s and before this goose, pheasant or boar were used. Turkey was considered to be more practical to use as it was larger and so could feed all the family. It also meant that other livestock such as chicken’s and cow’s could be saved for other occasions. Despite all this, it is only really the past 70 years where turkey has really risen in popularity at Christmas time.
I like to eat turkey all year round. It is a very lean meat that is high in protein and low in fat. People are often put off by it because if not cooked right it can be very dry, but it is an excellent choice for people trying to eat a healthy balanced diet. It is very similar to chicken but has a richer, more savoury taste. Like chicken, the white breast meat is the leanest and the darker coloured meat from the legs is slightly more fatty. It reacts in a very similar way to chicken when cooked and so should be treated accordingly. However a whole turkey is much larger than a chicken and can weigh up to 9kg, whereas an average chicken weighs about 2kg.
Why is it good for me?
Apart from the fact that turkey is a brilliant source of much needed protein for building and repairing muscles, it also contains several much needed vitamins and minerals. On a macro-nutrient front, ie. protein, carbohydrate and fat, turkey is comparable to chicken. Like most meat and fish, such as cod or coley, turkey also contains good levels of several B vitamins including B2, B3, B6, and B12 which all play an important role in converting carbohydrates and fats in to usable energy by the body. Vitamin B6 or pyridoxine also plays a role in metabolising proteins in to their constituent parts or amino acids, which are then used to build or repair muscles and other proteins. These B vitamins also help to build healthy skin, hair and nerve cells.
Turkey, like eggs, contains choline. This is neither a vitamin nor a mineral, but is still needed by the body to maintain the proper functioning of both the liver and brain, while also assisting with nerve function, muscle movement and metabolism. Our body can make a little choline itself in the liver, but not enough to survive. Including turkey in our diet helps us achieve the recommended amount to stay healthy.
Minerals that turkey contains include selenium, phosphorus and zinc. Both selenium and zinc are important antioxidants tasked with removing toxic free radicals produced from day-to-day living from the body before they can cause damage to cells within the body. A diet high in antioxidants is thought to help protect against cancerous cells from forming, while also preventing infection and keeping the immune system strong. Phosphorus is needed for healthy teeth and bone formation, while also being a vital component of ATP or adenosine triphosphate, which plays an important role in converting carbohydrate to energy in the muscles.
How do I prepare it?
I never buy turkey on the bone, I only ever buy it in breast, steak or mince form. Fortunately these are all readily available in supermarkets and aren’t too expensive. Even the minced darker meat is a healthy substitution for traditional beef mince if you are trying to cut down on your red meat consumption. Therefore all the preparation is already done for me, I simply need to slice it up if required or just cook it. Always try to choose and eat turkey meat that is skinless as the skin, like in chicken, contains a high amount of fat.
How do I cook it?
Turkey cooks similarly to chicken. It can be roasted, fried, grilled or baked. Like chicken, if not cooked correctly it runs the risk of containing salmonella and so you should always check it is cooked all the way through. The texture should feel consistent when sliced in to and if you can see, there should be no pink showing.
If you are looking for some recipe suggestions on what to make with turkey then here are a few of my favourites. This turkey jambalaya is a simple bowl of comfort food that can be adapted to use chicken or chorizo instead. This turkey biryani is another really great one pan meal and this mixed bean salad is a healthy, light meal that pairs perfectly with a griddle turkey steak.
Turkey mince can be used to make meatballs like in this Thai green turkey meatball curry or this cabbage and bean ministrone soup. You could really easily swap the beef mince for turkey mince in this bolognese or this cottage pie with root veg mash recipe.
If you are looking for something a little different that is a healthy choice, then try making this roast aubergine and turkey dahl. I hope this showcases how easy it is to incorporate turkey in to your healthy diet so that you can take the many health benefits from it more regularly and not just at Christmas time. If you have been inspired to make any of my recipes, then please let me know how you get on and also share any tasty turkey recipes of your own in the comments below.
Thank you for reading and speak soon.