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The Gilt Edged Turkey


GOLD has long been worshipped by the ancients – notably kings at this festive season – but this year, the joy of the gilded turkey will, it seems, be gracing certain Christmas dinner tables.

Whether the height of Christmas chic, or a shining metaphor for all that is of questionable taste, golden-coated turkeys – literally the nation’s favourite Christmas fowl sporting a full coat of gold leaf  - look set to be the latest culinary craze.

Not as alarming as it sounds, gold is edible and largely harmless and is a popular inclusion in drinks in Britain and on the continent, albeit in small flakes.

Chefs with a flair for a particular kind of festive alchemy are already drooling at the prospect of cooking up the sort of bird Auric Goldfinger might welcome to the Christmas table.

And BBC Food blogger and writer Stefan Gates says for those with a taste for flair, the bling is the thing this Christmas.

He says: “The gold costs about the same as a bottle of cheap Champagne. So, yes, it’s not cheap, but I think it’s a small price to pay for a Christmas lunch that you’ll never forget.

“Gold is perfectly safe to eat: its food additive E175 for anyone who was watching my last TV series! It passes straight through you and doesn’t taste of anything - other than pure magic.

“For maximum effect it’s best to do this secretly and only reveal what you’ve done when the turkey hits the table.

“It takes about 15 minutes to gild using a combination of loose leaf and transfer leaf, although I have used gold leaf a fair bit, so it may take longer.

“You need a booklet of gold at least 23ct or above, and you can get it cheaply from retail or online art shops - or expensively from edible gold leaf suppliers.

“It usually comes in booklets of 25 x 80x80mm leaves in either loose leaf (which works best) or transfer leaf (where the leaf sits on a piece of paper).

“One booklet is just enough to do a 4kg/8lb 11oz bird if you manage to do it without too much wastage. Keep any spare gold for knocking up golden sausages and mash another time.”

“If you’ve got loose gold leaf (that’s the best sort), the technique I’ve developed is to hold the booklet firmly so that the gold leaves don’t all slip out (it’s so thin that it floats away very easily, even on your own breath), then open each page gently and press the gold from the booklet straight onto the bird. Use a dry brush to dab it into place if you need to, around legs and crevices. It takes a couple of goes to get right, but then it’s dead easy. Just keep going until you’ve covered the whole bird.

“Transfer gold leaf is great, but can give a slightly patchy effect, rather than the appearance of pure golden turkey. The transfer leaf is the easiest to use – you just need to press it against the slightly fatty skin and the gold should come away from the paper. It may need a little help with the back of a fingernail to help it, and if your gold is particularly sticky, you may need to dampen the skin of the turkey with an extra little bit of oil or a very light smear of butter. Once you’ve gilded the turkey as best you can, serve it with your favourite veg.”

Gold leaf, flake or dust is used on and in some gourmet foods, notably sweets and drinks as decorative ingredient.

Gold flake was used by the nobility in Medieval Europe as a decoration in food and drinks, in the form of leaf, flakes or dust, either to demonstrate the host's wealth or in the belief that something that valuable and rare must be beneficial for one's health. Gold foil along with silver is sometimes used in South Asian sweets such as barrio.

Danger Goldwasser  is a traditional German herbal liqueur produced in what is today Gdańsk, Poland, and Schwabach, Germany, and contains flakes of gold leaf.

There are also some expensive $100 cocktails which contain flakes of gold leaf.

However, since metallic gold is inert to all body chemistry, it adds no taste nor has it any other nutritional effect and leaves the body unaltered.

Chef and Yorkshireman Brian Turner, originally from Halifax, speaking from London, said:

“I can see the attraction of the gold but personally I think it is a bit daft. I’d much rather either have a bottle of champagne or advise people to put the equivalent amount of money in a charity box for their favourite cause in these hard times. Yorkshire folk are famous for being careful with their money and I think they’ll see sense when it comes to cooking for the Xmas table as always.”

Mr Turner is a honorary doctorate from both Sheffield Hallam University and Leeds Met University and a culinary legend.

Three-times Michelin-starred chef Marco Pierre White, who was born in Leeds, says:

“If people want to put gold leaf on their turkeys then good luck to them. People have been using gold in cooking for years, especially in chocolate, to great effect.

“But the best dish is still traditional turkey on Christmas Day. I will be enjoying Honey Roast Ham on Boxing Day, traditional turkey on Christmas Day and then a lovely roast goose on New Year’s Day. The most important thing is that people enjoy themselves whatever they do over the season. We should also raise a glass to the great Bernard Matthews who played such an important role in making turkey – which was once expensive – so affordable to everyone. Happy Christmas everybody.”