The entertaining season in our home gets underway with Thanksgiving in early October, winds it’s way through birthdays, Diwali, Halloween, and finally gallops towards our wedding anniversary, Christmas and New Year. This Spicy Turkey Ghee Roast recipe has become a festive favourite. It’s my version of a traditional and very popular dish from southern India, re-imagined for simplicity in my Canadian kitchen.
Spicy Turkey Ghee Roast: a non-traditional twist on a Canadian classic
Fiery, tangy and spicy with an unmistakable flavour of spices roasted in ghee, this authentic dish from southern India is not for the faint of heart. A cold-weather favourite, turkey ghee roast is sure to warm your taste buds as well as your heart.
Turkey Ghee Roast is made with whole spices, mild red chillies and tamarind. Think indulgent, festive and made over multiple steps, this dish is different from what I usually make. The boldness of whole spices really enhances the hearty flavour and texture of the bird. And despite the quarter cup of ghee, using a healthy protein like turkey really ups the nutritional value of this dish.
What is Ghee?
Before we go much further, I have to stop to say, Ghee is clarified butter. It is one of those things that you cannot have enough of. My mom makes it at home from fresh cream that collects on top of a freshly boiled pot of milk. You can also buy it in stores around Canada. Recently, I started to cook more and more with ghee – its smoky, nutty flavour is unmistakable. Ghee also adds oomph to the marinade process – the longer you marinate the turkey, the more tender it will be when you cook it.
Why the word “Roast”?
The word “Roast” is a little confusing to use in the context of this spicy turkey dish. People often think it’s a recipe with whole turkey because, well, “roast”. In the context of a South Indian-style dish though it refers to the double-roasting of spices and cooking of the meat in ghee.
Why whole turkey breast?
Frankly, because it looks fabulous on the table. And the kids want to make sure there is enough for leftovers. This spicy turkey dish works well on its own for a small gathering. This recipe is also a good supplement to a traditional turkey. If you’re new to hosting at Thanksgiving, whole turkey breast is a good launchpad for cooking turkey in general – there’s enough to carve at the table but not too much that it feels intimidating in the kitchen.
Disclaimer: I have been compensated by CANADIAN Turkey as part of their #TryTurkeyToday campaign to share with you my fondness for this very Canadian ingredient. As always the narrative and opinion is mine.
Real-life Meal Prep Tips
- Use a meat thermometer if you want to preserve the look of the meat and carve at the table. Check the temperatures here.
- Tamarind is the seed and pulp of the tamarind tree. On its own, it’s sour. That’s how I prefer to use it. You can get it in pulp form or as a sauce. If you’re buying bottled, check the ingredients to make sure there is nothing else in it. And if there is sugar added – skip the addition of sugar in the recipe.
- Add potatoes to the roasting dish and let them cook with the turkey. And voila – instant side dish!
- A whole turkey breast with some (most) of the skin removed – usually 3 1/2 – 4 lbs
- 2 tbsp Coriander Seeds
- 1 tbsp Cumin Seeds
- 1 tbsp Fennel Seeds
- 3 – 4 Kashmiri Red Chillies
- 1/2 tsp Black Peppercorn
- 1/4 cup Ghee + 1 tsp
- 2 tbsp Tamarind Paste
- 2 tbsp Brown Sugar
- 1 tsp Turmeric
- 7 Garlic Cloves
- 1 tbsp Chopped Ginger
- 2 cups Potatoes, cut any way you see fit. I chop them in rustic chunks
- 1/3 cup Sliced Onions
Wash Turkey breast and put it aside in a comfortably sized bowl that will fit in your fridge.
Heat a pan on the stove with a tsp of ghee.
Add whole coriander seeds, fennel, and cumin. Roast, stirring constantly, until fragrant. This will take 5 minutes.
Add in the rest of the whole spices for another min. Keep the mixture moving to prevent burning.
Add all the ingredients for the paste in a blender (or a small food processor) EXCEPT GHEE – all including roasted spices, tamarind pulp juice, turmeric, sugar, 1/2 tsp salt etc. and grind to a paste.
Heat ghee for a few seconds in the microwave. Mix with the spice paste and onions.
Coat the turkey breast generously with this paste. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
The following day, place chunks of potatoes on the bottom of the dish These will cook under the turkey breast and can be served separately or together.
The spicy turkey dish goes in the oven for 35 mins at 350 deg c. Flip if you can at 20 mins.
Use the thermometer to check if it's cooked.
Turn the grill to hot and broil for 10 min to get the colour on top.
Serve hot with salad, rice or bread.