Q&A with our turkey farmer Stuart

Stuart & James

Our free range Bronze turkeys, fully outdoor bred and reared, are from our poultry farmer Stuart Perkins on the picturesque Castlemead Farm in Radstock, Somerset. Stuart has been raising poultry since he was given twelve chickens as an unusual gift on his sixth birthday, and including a stint at agricultural college (where he met James and James), he has been building his brood ever since. We’re delighted that Stuart is raising our Christmas turkeys this year, as any of you who have tried our field&flower chicken will know the incredible quality of his Castlemead Farm birds.

Hi Stuart, how long have you been farming turkeys?

My father first started to produce turkeys when I was young. I can remember standing on a stall collecting the giblets and putting them back inside the bird, not everyone’s childhood memory! When I was around 14 I had my first flock of Christmas turkeys, just 16 of them which I hatched out in the incubator, and it’s all grown from there.

What breed of turkey do you farm?

All of our turkeys come from Kelly turkeys. We keep both white and bronze. We once had a customer to look around the farm who had to ask which ones were white and which were bronze…it’s fairly obvious! We find the bronze and white turkeys don’t like each other. After 8 weeks they have to be reared separately otherwise they will attack each other!

Have you ever had any turkeys rustled?

Not personally, although I have heard it happen. We have to be very careful around Christmas to ensure they’re secure. This often means someone sleeping on the farm to guard them.

Do they require any special treatment?

Turkeys are extremely fussy birds. They need a very warm and sterile environment as chicks but after 6/8 weeks they then need a very cool and airy environment, the complete opposite to what they need in the first few weeks.

How old are your turkeys when they are killed?

We keep our turkeys until 5 months of age (20 weeks). They are then mature birds.

What’s the best thing about your turkeys?

Has to be the taste! The birds are dry plucked and hung which gives them a fantastic succulent flavour.

Any turkey cooking tips?

I’ll have to consult my mum on that one…I would say experience is important, although the most important thing is not to over cook the bird as this will begin to dry it out.

Does your family eat one of your turkeys for Christmas?

Naturally, they get it free!
Because we let them do their own thing, our turkeys, like people, come in all shapes and sizes. We’re offering the following options:

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Our founder James Mansfield’s Christmas favourites…

James Mansfield's Christmas order

James’s Christmas order:

1 small Turkey

1kg Honey roast ham

1kg topside beef

Sausages in bacon

200g smoked salmon

Hot smoked trout

Somerset brie

Bath blue

 

We usually have a Beef Roast on Christmas Eve. It’s become a bit of a tradition of my Dad’s but since I’ve been running field&flower I haven’t been able to be there, so this will be enjoyed in my absence unfortunately.

We will have the smoked salmon as a bit of a starter before our Christmas meal. My dad does it, he fancies himself as a bit of a Rick Stein in the kitchen!

We normally have six at ours for Christmas lunch, so a small turkey means we get plenty of left-overs. I always think it’s nice to have a smaller turkey and then have a few other meats rather than having to just eat turkey for the next four days.

The cheese is for whoever can manage it after our Christmas lunch, but I prefer this and our honey roast ham on Boxing Day. I’m looking forward to enjoying our new chutney and pickle range from The Bay Tree too…perhaps I’ll just have to eat all day to get through everything.

 

Do you get to enjoy Christmas when you’re rushing around?

Not really, it’s our busiest time of year. We don’t like letting people down so if it means dragging family members in to help out last minute then it has to be done. My sister will testify to that! field&flower have only had two proper Christmas periods before so sometimes the amount of orders can catch us off guard. We were delivering turkeys to family and friends until 10pm last year on Christmas Eve. I enjoy eating our turkey on Christmas day knowing there are 250 people doing the same thing… I get the odd photo from friends tucking in which is nice, we’re hoping to see lots more this year as we’ll be running our first photo competition.

 

What’s your earliest Christmas memory?

Getting my stocking on Christmas morning, and my Dad falling asleep by 3pm.

 

What do you eat on Christmas morning?

My mum is the most traditional person in the world so we always have to have bucks fizz, croissants and jam!

 

What’s your favourite non-meat Christmas food?

Who wouldn’t say chocolate?

 

Who cooks the lunch in your house?

Last year dad and me, as my mum was working on Christmas Day.

 

How many are there in your house on Christmas day?

Normally 6 but every third year up to 20.

 

What time do you normally eat lunch?

Around 3pm but it can vary depending on the Queen’s Speech and the Christmas walk (via the pub).

 

Do you have any Christmas Eve traditions?

It used to be seeing friends and wrapping presents but now it’s delivering turkeys and getting to the pub in time for last orders.

Rosemary Chicken Escalopes with a Pear and Pomegranate Salad (Wheat Free)

This recipe serves 4.

Ingredients

4 field&flower Free Range Chicken Breasts
2 eggs
Spelt flour
¼ cup oats
¼ cup ground almonds
¼ cup poppy & sesame seeds
3 tsp dried rosemary
Sea salt and cracked black pepper
Olive oil, for frying

Salad
2 firm pears
Seeds of 1 pomegranate
2 baby cucumbers
1 stick of celery, peeled to remove the stringy bits
Juice of 1 lemon

Cook
Sandwich 1 chicken breast between 2 pieces of cling film (about 4x the size of
the breast) and put on a chopping board. Using a rolling pin, bash the
chicken breast until it is an even 1cm thick. Do this with the remaining
chicken breasts and place to one side.
Mix together the oats, ground almonds, seeds and rosemary. Spread on a
plate and put to one side – you will use this mixture to crumb coat the chicken
breast.
Beat the eggs and pour on to a deep-sided plate, or a medium sized roasting
tray. Put beside the oat and almond mixture.
Shake some spelt flour on to a plate and place beside the eggs; the flour
should be furthest away from the frying pan, with the oat and almond mixture
the closest to it.
Prepare the salad by thinly slicing the pears, cucumbers and celery. Scatter
with the pomegranate seeds and toss in the lemon juice. Put to one side.
Heat about 1cm of oil in the frying pan, on a medium heat. Take one chicken
breast and coat with the spelt flour, by laying it on the plate, then turning it
over to coat the other side. Transfer to the egg plate and repeat the motion,
ensuring that it’s completely covered. Transfer to the oat and almond plate,
and repeat the motion again – you may need to place some of the mixture on
to the chicken breast using your hands. Put in to the pan of hot oil and fry on
either side for about two and half minutes. Repeat with the remaining breasts.

Serve with the salad and a wedge of lemon!