UAE: Don't have time this Christmas? The fastest turkey recipe Lebanese style

UAE: Don't have time this Christmas? The fastest turkey recipe Lebanese style

Bored of the same old roast bird? Dubai Chef gives it Arabic twist with spice, rice, nuts

Lebanese-style roast turkey with oriental rice
Roast turkey a la Lebanon: Spice-rubbed turkey laid on a bed of rice and chestnuts Image Credit: Supplied

It’s the most wonderful time of the year – when the smell of roast turkeys waft through our kitchens. As much as we all love carving into a turkey on Christmas Day, there’s no denying that the same old stuffing and trimmings get a tad lackluster year after year.

So why not celebrate Christmas a la Lebanon this year?

We’ve got Chef Hassan Abdallah, Executive Chef of Raffles Dubai, to share a roast turkey recipe with a Levantine twist that will pique the interest of the laziest of cooks.

In Lebanon, the roast turkey is a Christmas tradition borrowed from the West. And like their Western counterparts, the turkey is the star of the feast and is equally juicy and succulent. What sets apart a Lebanese roast turkey from that made in, say the US or UK, are the condiments and sides and the rich spice rub that the turkey is infused with.

The typically Western trimmings of mashed potatoes, stuffing, roasted root vegetables and cranberry sauce are conspicuously missing.

Chef Hassan Abdallah, Executive Chef at Raffles Dubai

In their place, you’ll find generous helpings of rice tossed in with ground beef, gravy and a sumptuous garnish of nuts.

Lebanese-style roast turkey with rice 

Preparation time: 1 hour

Cooking time: 4 hours 30 minutes

Serves: 10 people


For the Turkey

8-10kg whole turkey cleaned

10gm white pepper

5gm black pepper

Mirepoix, 2pcs each of carrot, onion, garlic, celery stick bay leaf. (Mirepoix is a flavour base essential to French cooking and is made from vegetables. Check method to find out how to make it.)

10 gm salt

200gm ghee


200gm pine nuts

200gm almond halves

500gm green pistachio

500gm raw chestnuts (peeled)

Salt, a dash for seasoning

Vegetable oil, for light frying


500gm raw chestnuts (peeled)

20gm 7 spice (Chef Hassan uses Lebanese 7 spice mix, which includes cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, fenugreek, allspice, pepper and cloves.)

Salt, to taste


1 pc medium onion, chopped

750gm finely ground beef

Salt, to taste

10 gm 7 spices

10 gm cinnamon powder

5 gm cardamom powder

1 ½ cups water

2kg long grain rice, rinsed and strained


Cooking the turkey

1) Rinse the turkey with cold water.

2) Rub the insides and outsides of the turkey and mirepoix with 100gm of ghee, and then rub them with all of the allotted spices.

3) Rub ghee over a large aluminium foil and wrap the turkey tightly with it.

4) Place the wrapped turkey on top of the mirepoix in a tray in the centre of an oven pre-heated to 250 ⁰C and cook for 10 minutes.

5) Lower heat to 160⁰C (less than medium), and cook for 1 ½ hours.

6) Remove the turkey from the oven very carefully and empty the juices from the tray into a separate pot.

7) Unwrap the turkey, rub it with ghee again inside and out (watch your hands), re-wrap it with the aluminium foil and pop it back in the oven for another 3 hours.

Preparing the nuts

1) Warm some vegetable oil in a frying pan, add all nuts and fry on medium heat until they turn golden. (You may fry the nuts one category at a time)

2) Place the nuts in a strainer for later use as a garnish.


1) Remove the roasted mirepoix from the tray and add the ingredients in the pot where you previously saved the melted turkey juice, add 3-4 cups of water and boil gently until the vegetables are fully cooked and soft.

2) Leave contents in pot until they cool down. Then, grind finely in a food processor.

3) Place the puree back into pot and cover until serving time Reheat it a few minutes prior to serving.


1) In a pot, sauté the finely chopped onion on medium heat with some ghee until they start turning golden.

2) Add the ground beef, salt and all the spices; stir well until the beef starts turns brownish.

3) Add the rice and stir well.

4) Add 4 ½ cups of water, stir well. As soon as the water boils, lower heat to minimum, cover and let simmer for 15 minutes or until fully cooked.


1) Place cooked rice in a large serving tray and garnish with the fried nuts, and garnish the sides of the tray with the fried chestnuts.

2) If your tray is large enough you can place the turkey in the middle, or you can place it on a separate tray along with the warmed gravy.

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