Why wait till Christmas?

Visiting the US convinced Village East’s Toby Stuart of the value of turkey

This turkey confit recipe was inspired by a trip to Chicago last summer. It’s a very vibrant city with some of the best chefs in the world working there. The top end of the market is phemomenal but you’ve also got places like The Purple Pig just doing really good, uncomplicated food. It’s quite an international city – lots of people stop off there before they fly on to other places – so it’s big melting pot of cuisine.

One of the things I noticed was that Americans eat a lot more ham and turkey than we do. Everyone in England has horrible memories of dry turkey at Christmas, but it’s actually a really tasty, rich meat. I had confit of duck in mind when I was creating this dish but it works brilliantly with turkey. You need to marinade it for two days before cooking so it doesn’t dry out. Try it out with some honey, chilli and ginger. Pineapple juice is another great thing to put with turkey because the enzymes really tenderise the meat.

The crispy rice is something from my fine dining days. The turkey leg is really rich so it needed some crunch and texture to break it up in the mouth. We use wild rice because it goes really crispy and malty. It’s one of the most popular dishes on the menu at Villiage East, up there with our bone marrow burger with truffle, duck liver parfait and caramelised onions.

We also make an organic bread baked in a woodfired oven; we wanted to stop giving away cheap bread because I think people expect more from their bread these days. We’re introducing some lighter dishes now for summer so there’ll be some baby veg creeping in. I really enjoy playing around with the menu and trying new things; that creativity is what really makes the job for me.

At Village East, the resataurant I own in Bermondsey alongside Adam White, we’ve tried to break the format of starter, main, dessert and to encourage people to eat in a different way. If you wanted to come in and have a three course meal, or just a burger, you could, but we really emphasise the sharing dishes. Younger people who come in tend to go for the more modern style of eating, whereas older ones want the same dishes they’ve had before. There’s something for everyone, I think.

The goal is to make everything feel very natural, and that goes for the venue as well as the food. Village East is furnished with hessian sacks and reclaimed doors from markets. There are lamp shades made from old gramophone speakers – we wanted to make it feel lived in, accessible, social and comfortable.

Find Village East at 171-173 Bermondsey Street, SE1 3UW. Call 020 7357 6082 or email info@villageeast.co.uk.

Dish of the day

Toby Stuart’s Confit turkey leg with wild rice crispies and coriander

2 900g turkey drumsticks
For the marinade:
100g table salt
20g caster sugar
2 peeled cloves garlic
2 sprigs of thyme
15g smoked paprika
2g dried oregano
5g toasted coriander seeds
5g toasted fennel seeds
1 juniper berry
5 black peppercorns
Food processor
For cooking:
2kg duck fat
Tin foil
Deep baking tray, large enough to comfortably hold the turkey
For the wild rice:
150g wild black rice
500ml grapeseed oil for frying
Greaseproof paper
Oven tray
To serve:
Crispy wild rice
Coriander cress
400ml roast Turkey gravy

Wild rice crispies;
Pre-heat an oven to 80C.
Prepare the rice by washing it well. Cover with water, add a pinch of salt and bring to the boil.
Simmer until tender, remove from the heat, drain and spread out over a baking tray on greaseproof paper. Let it cool. Place into the oven until it returns to being dried rice.
Very carefully bring a fryer up to 200C, be extremely careful with the oil at this stage. Fry the rice in small batches and drain in a colander. The rice should puff very quickly. Season it while still hot; allow it to cool completely, before placing it into an air-tight container until needed.

Turkey marinade;
Peel the garlic and place into a food processor. Add the rest of the spices and herbs, salt and sugar. Blend to make a wet salt mixture.
Rub the mix all over the turkey drumsticks and massage gently into the skin. Leave to marinade in the fridge overnight.

To cook the turkey;
Preheat a fan oven to 110C.
Wash off the marinade and place the drumsticks into the deep baking tray. Warm duck fat through so you can cover the drumsticks. Cover with tin foil and place into the oven for six hours.
To make sure the turkey is cooked, the meat should be soft and falling off the bone – remove them gently and carefully from the fat and the tendon bones that should be poking out of the meat by the bone at the skinny end. Cover with tin foil if you are serving them directly or leave to cool in the fat. You can reheat the legs in the fat without drying them out when you are ready to serve them.
You can then leave the fat in a separate container in the fridge to cool and use it to cook some roast potatoes.

To serve;
Place the legs onto a deep serving dish and arrange. Pour over the hot turkey gravy.
Sprinkle a good handful of crispy rice, a good pinch of coriander cress and serve immediately.
You could serve with mashed sweet potato and roasted mixed vegetables.