Celebrations are more important now than they have ever been! So many of us are marking milestones with fewer people around the dinner table. This dish – roasted turkey breast, made incredibly juicy when simmered in coconut milk and whole spices – is perfect for small gatherings and to bring us joy, even in these difficult times.
Disclaimer: I am writing this post as part of Canadian Turkey’s #TryTurkeyToday campaign. The narrative and recipe as always is mine.
Festive Cooking in times of COVID
Festivals are hard right now. Diwali for starters is looking very different. Normally our family fall calendar is packed with big parties and dinners, music and even some teen patti gambling (three-card game) on the side. After all, Diwali is the largest celebration for people of South Asian heritage around the world. This season is usually big and loud and fabulous. Not this year though!
The global pandemic has forced people to physically distance from each other. Gatherings are small, in some areas, celebrations are limited to those who live in the same house. This “new normal” is even harder for first-generation immigrants like myself, who leave behind their closest family members to move to the other side of the world, and we find ourselves feeling alone during the festive season.
Festivals are complicated at this time but so very essential, right? Food does bring people together, and then there’s the grocery shopping.
Grocery Shopping during COVID
This once somewhat pleasant activity has changed completely since the dawn of the COVID era. No touching the produce, follow the arrows, maintain distance, keep your mask on and get in, and out, fast, our habits and behaviour have completely transformed. People are shopping infrequently, looking for larger quantities, at fewer places. Specialty places are out, and list-making is essential.
That’s how this dish came to be. My version of a South-Indian turkey stew that’s made in the oven with simplified steps and a way shorter list of ingredients, with spices that you may already have hiding in your pantry. And despite all the shortcuts, this dish is incredibly juicy and flavourful, and deserving of a place on the festive menu.
Reimagined (Kerala-Style) Turkey Stew made in the oven
When I first started testing this recipe, I approached it like curry and cooked it in a karahi (wok). But as I stood there roasting the spices, I knew I had to make it easier and faster if I (and others like me) were going to attempt it for their next get-together. With roasted turkey breast, oven-braised in coconut milk and simmered with whole spices, this dish is a wonderful combination of flavours and showcases local Canadian foods immersed in the flavours of India.
Diwali celebrates new beginnings and fresh starts. Along with the lights and fireworks, the spirit of this time is also tied into community service, helping those around us. Supporting local farmers and others who grow and raise what we eat is just one more way to help the community.
What Spices Work With Roasted Turkey Breast?
I have been cooking with turkey for a while now and have learned that the meat is robust and can take on a whole lot of flavour. My most popular dishes on the blog and with friends and family are the ones where I recreate traditional Indian favourites with simpler steps and fewer ingredients. Like this Turkey Ghee Roast that I made around the same time last year. Or this Turkey Makhani that has become a regular feature at my “party table.” These dishes and also this turkey breast recipe, all use deep, aromatic spices like cinnamon, clove, cardamom and fennel seeds. Herbs like rosemary, sage and thyme also work as do ginger, garlic, onions and green chillies. What spices have you tried with turkey? Tell me on Instagram here and let’s talk.
Why Coconut Milk with Turkey?
Because it works! Coconut milk in this dish adds incredible flavour and juiciness to the meat. A common concern that people have is that turkey can be dry. Here’s the trick – oven-braise it in coconut milk. This technique will ensure juicy results every time. I mix the roasted spices in a little coconut cream and then cover the turkey breast with this mixture. That combined with more coconut milk later in the cooking stage makes this dish really shine.
Health-Boosting Effects of Turkey
Turkey is naturally-lean meat. It is high in iron, zinc and selenium, all crucial to help us remain healthy. Add to that the inflammation-reducing qualities of coconut milk, fresh vegetables and whole spices and this dish is fabulously flavourful and so good for our health. Festive cooking that soothes the body and soul. Exactly what we need right now.
Real-Life Kitchen Tips
- Buy coconut milk that comes in a tetra pack. It’s normally fresher than the canned stuff. If not available, buy canned, organic coconut milk.
- For the initial marinade, scoop out the cream/ thick part of the coconut milk and leave the thin liquid for later in the cooking stage.
- If you don’t like the taste of whole spices, you can totally grind them in a coffee grinder after the light roasting.
- 2 lb turkey breast skinless, boneless (bone-in great for flavour too). Add time if you use bone-in
- 1 Cup Sliced Shallots
- 4 Garlic Cloves (finely chopped)
- 1 tsp Ginger (finely chopped)
- 1 cup Carrots (chopped)
- 1/2 cup Red Peppers (sliced)
- 1 Can Coconut Milk
- Green Chilies (finely chopped) optional
- Whole Spices
- 5 Cardamoms
- 2 in pieces of cinnamon
- 5 Cloves
- 1/2 tsp Black Peppercorns
- 2 Bay leaf
- 2 Star Anise
- 1 tsp Fennel seeds
- 2 tsp Coriander seeds
- 1 sprig of curry leaves optional
- For Tempering
- 1 tbsp Ghee
- 6-7 cashews
- 1 tsp Garlic (big slices)
- 1/2 tsp Mustard Seeds
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
Roast all whole spices in a pan and then coarsely grind with a mortar and pestle.
Mix 1/4 cup of coconut cream with coarsely powdered whole spices and salt, rub all over the turkey breasts.
Heat the ghee in an oven-friendly dish. Add spices and saute.
Add sliced onions, garlic, ginger and the vegetables including green chillies to the oven dish.
Place the turkey breasts on top. Toss everything together and roast for 30 mins.
Check for doneness. It should be almost done by now.
Add the rest of the coconut milk. Roast for another 5 minutes and turn the heat off.
Adjust the sauciness of the coconut gravy to suit your choice of creaminess. This dish is meant to be thicker than regular curry. Check salt, stir and turn the grill on high for 5 minutes.
For the tempering, heat the ghee in another pan. Add mustard seeds and saute until they pop, add cashews, garlic slices and curry leaves and saute. Add this tempering to the turkey dish.
Serve with plan white rice, that's the traditional way. Barley pilaf will also work.