Niall McKenna’s Christmas classics - turkey and slow baked ham hock

Niall McKenna offers a step by step guide to recreating some of his festive favourites.

Niall McKenna's classic turkey

It’s almost time to get busy in the kitchen to prepare Christmas Day’s ‘main event’- the turkey and ham. There is certainly a lot to think about when making Christmas dinner, let alone the pressure to ensure it’s as tasty as possible.

But when cooking turkey and ham, it’s more straightforward than you may think. I always start by bringing the meats to room temperature to ensure even cooking. For Christmas Day, no matter how many you are cooking for, it’s all about timing to bring everything together at the correct times. I therefore strongly recommend planning your day and have your starters and desserts pre-prepared and ready to serve so that your focus on Christmas Day will be on the turkey and ham.

Classic Turkey

(Serves 6)


· 4kg Turkey

· 1 onion

· 2 sprigs of thyme

· 2 sprigs of sage

· 1 garlic bulb

· 8 bacon rashers

· Salt and pepper


· Begin by placing the turkey into a roasting tin, seasoning it with salt and pepper

· Cut the onion and garlic in half, placing them in the cavity along with the thyme and sage

· Next, place in the oven at 200C for 15 minutes before reducing the heat to 180C

· Then lay bacon on top of the turkey and roast for two hours, basting with the juices occasionally

· To check the turkey is cooked, place a knife between the leg and breast, and the juice should run clear

· Once this is the case, remove from the oven, cover in tinfoil and let rest for 30 minutes

Cooking times for turkey
Weight ServesCooking time
4kg 615 minutes plus 2 hours
5kg 815 minutes plus 2 ½ hours
6kg 1020 minutes plus 3 hours
7 kg 1220 minutes plus 3 ½ hours
8kg 1430 minutes plus 4 hours
Slow Baked Ham Hock
Niall McKenna's slow baked ham hock

(Serves 8)


· 1 tbsp black peppercorns

· 2 onions, sliced

· 5kg unsmoked ham

· 10 cloves

For the Mustard Glaze:

· 2 tbsp Dijon

· 2 tbsp American mustard

· 4 tbsp honey

· 2 tbsp ground all spice


· Begin by preheating the oven to 160C and place the peppercorn and onions in the bottom of a large roasting tray, pouring in 2cm of water.

· Place a rack in the tin and sit the ham on top. Then cover the tray with tin foil as tightly as possible and bake in the oven for four hours. Once this time has passed, remove the ham from the oven and turn the oven up to 200C.

· To make the glaze, place all remaining ingredients into a pan to heat gently. If the glaze becomes too thick, add a splash of water and bring to a simmer.

· Next, remove the skin from the ham, leaving a decent layer of fat. For aesthetic reasons, score the fat in a diamond pattern and stud with the cloves.

· Brush the glaze on and re-glaze through the cooking process, cooking for 15-20 minutes. At this point, ensure it doesn’t darken too much.

· Once cooked, the ham will need to be left out for 30 minutes before carving.

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