Turkey Gratin

Turkey Gratin, with potato and parsnip mash

At last! I was hoping to make this earlier in the week as ground/minced turkey is on special offer. Then, I realised it wasn’t going to be available until Thursday – which turned out to be the next day by the time the supermarket stocked their shelves. Anyway, pleased to say it’s good quality. So far, and I’ve had two portions already, there was only one tiny bit of gristle. This Turkey Gratin recipe is comfort food, especially for this time of year when nights are getting considerably longer and decidedly chillier. I also think this would be great as a Sloppy Joe (for the most wonderful post, that’s beautifully written about them, click humble feast), something we don’t serve here in the UK. I love the idea of half a toasted cheese and onion ciabatta roll, a good spoonful of this ground/minced turkey topped with perhaps unripe Brie, fresh thyme leaves and grilled until the cheese is golden. Top that with shredded Little Gem lettuce, sliced tomato and maybe a vinaigrette made to include a teaspoon of either redcurrant jelly or cranberry sauce. Hmm, almost licking my chops. Actually, a little bit of shredded ham would be nice, too. And, one of my favourites, cornichons.

Okay, enough already! I’ll do another post. This recipe is similar to one of my first posts on here, Turkey pieces (as in chunks of meat rather than mince/ground) which I cooked with black beans. This takes a little less time to prep and cook. Here I’m serving it with a potato and parsnip mash (for info click here) and slow-cooked shredded Savoy cabbage. As a gratin I’m using cauliflower that’s been chopped into quite small pieces – not exactly finely chopped, though. That was then pan-fried in a little olive oil until tender and almost golden. This was inspired by one of Gretchen’s posts of All the love – Without the wheat about finely chopped cauliflower used as a substitute for rice within sushi. Even though I’ve cooked cauliflower like they do in North African countries, in 2.5 cm (1 inch) of hot oil until golden, I would never have thought of using it this way. Works really well. I’ve topped that with a sprinkling of dry roasted sesame seeds and a light covering of grated mature Cheddar cheese. Popped under a preheated grill/broiler until the cheese melts and this was a winning combination. Admittedly, I used the cheese sparingly as I didn’t want the flavour of it to predominate. Besides, this is fairly low in fat.

Turkey Gratin, with potato and parsnip mash


  • sunflower, rapeseed and olive oil
  • 200g (7.05 oz) x onions, peeled and chopped
  • 2 x round shallots, peeled and sliced crossways
  • 2 x dried bay leaves, ripped
  • 1 x large red jalapeño chilli, washed and kept whole
  • 3 x plump garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
  • 450g (15.87 oz) x lean ground/minced turkey
  • 200ml (0.422 US pt lqd) x water
  • 1/2 x organic very low salt vegetable stock cube
  • 2 x carrots, peeled and roughly chopped into large pieces
  • 2 x celery stalks, washed and cut into large pieces
  • 1/4 x teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 x scant level teaspoon paprika
  • 4 x stems fresh thyme (I use ‘living pots’. If using old thyme with woody stems use leaves only)
  • 1/2 x medium cauliflower, about 300g (10.58 oz), cut into small florets, soaked for 10 minutes. Drain well, slice crossways into thin strips, slice stems 2 or 3 times lengthways then crossways into small chunks
  • sesame seeds, for sprinkling over the mince, toasted in a dry pan before doing so
  • mature Cheddar cheese, use sparingly. Just enough to loosely cover the mince (I’ve used a really nice Davidstow Cornish)
  • hazelnuts, toasted and roughly ground – optional

Measurements within brackets above are approximate only.


  • After preparing the onions put a large heavy-based saucepan on electric heat No 3 (out of 6). When pan is hot pour in enough oil to cover its base (I ended up using a little sunflower, rapeseed and olive oil as I forgot to buy rapeseed). Add the onions, bay leaves and chilli and stir through. Pan-fry until golden, reducing heat if necessary. I usually have to reduce heat to No 2 after about 15 minutes. When onions are turning golden prep the garlic, push the onions to the sides of pan and add the garlic. I tend to add a little more oil and turn the heat down to No 1 for this part. When mixture is nicely caramelised sprinkle over both the paprika and cayenne and take off heat.
  • In a separate heavy-based frying pan/skillet put on heat No 3. When hot add a little oil and the ground/minced turkey. Allow to settle for around 5 minutes. If, as happened to me, there’s a lot of liquid oozing out of the mince then grab kitchen towels and carefully tilt the pan and mop out all of that liquid (I don’t think I care to know exactly what it is. Most mince here does exactly the same thing). Stir through as the mince is beginning to brown, making sure it browns on all sides.
  • Prep the stock in a separate saucepan over heat No 2.
  • When turkey mince is nicely browned pour in the stock. Add the carrots and celery, when ready to do so. Add the fresh thyme along with the onion mixture, stir through and cover with a lid. After bringing this up to boiling point reduce heat to No 2 and simmer, covered, for at least 30 minutes.
  • Either use a clean saucepan or put the saucepan that has been used for the onion mixture on heat No 3. When hot pour in a little oil and add the cauliflower. This really needs to be stirred through often to prevent scorching. Turn down heat if there is any sing of that. And add a little more oil if necessary. Pan-fry until pale gold and tender when pierced with a fork. Take off heat and set aside.
  • For the gratin: using oven-proof cookware (the wide china teacup I’ve used is dishwasher safe) place a layer of the turkey mince (remove thyme, bay leaves, carrots, celery and chilli), then add the pan-fried cauliflower as a thin layer. Sprinkle over sesame seeds (and hazelnuts, if using) and add the cheese, sparingly. Place under a preheated grill/broiler and grill until cheese is bubbling and nicely golden. It’s also possible to add a layer of mash to the base of cup or serving dish.

If you want to slow-cook Savoy cabbage: shred the cabbage heart, put a large saucepan on heat No 2 for the first 10 minutes, then reduce heat to No 1. Pour in a little oil, add the cabbage with a splash of cold water, plonk on a lid and cook, stirring through occasionally, for up to 50 minutes, adding a splash or two of water if it’s drying out too much.


Slicing the cauliflower into small pieces.

All photographs within (Todas las fotografías dentro de) Kitschnflavours:
All rights reserved (© Todos los derechos reservados) – Copyright © Johnny Hepburn


  1. I’m so glad that you found it useful to prepare cauliflower this way! The sesame is a nice match as well; I have been using it more in more in the form of Gomasio. I also just love your image of the sunset, I can image it was a spectacular evening!


    • Yes, it’s a nice and easy way to cook cauliflower as a side. I must replenish my sesame seeds as I think they’ve gone stale. And, must try the Gomasio.

      Sunsets here can be extraordinary. It’s sometimes the largest light show I’ve ever seen, literally all of the sky. Turner used to sketch most of his infamous seascapes around this area, and he used to stay in the Old Town, opposite the Turner Contemporary.


    • Isn’t it odd I should forget about this recipe. It’s a nice, comforting dish. Unfortunately, I’d forgotten to pin it. And hadn’t added it to my recipe index either. Luckily I did have a copy of the post on my HD, so I knew to look for it on here.


  2. Glad this post made it up. It looks so comforting with the starchy veg and aged, special cheese you acquired. I would just eat all the cheese and the gratin would not have enough for the oven! 🙂 This looks awesome, Johnny…. very flavorful and tasty.


    • The post was always there! I published it 1 1/2 years ago. But forgot to add it to Pinterest and the recipe index on here. It was only when I found the photos earlier today that I realised. And couldn’t remember the recipe at all. And it’s a nice little recipe. At least I’ve found it again. And, what surprises me, the photos didn’t make me cringe!


  3. This sounds delicious, Johnny. First glance at the photo I thought it was a macaroni and cheese. How exciting that it’s something much healthier, heartier and tastier than that! Great use of cauliflower!


    • It was thanks to Gretchen for the cauliflower/topping idea. Which worked well with the turkey. And it is relatively healthy. Especially compared to my first Mac ‘n cheese on here! It’s heart attack inducing. Although, the second version is a lot lighter.


      • I love the use of turkey in recipes like this, as the fat is so much lower than beef. The recipe, as a whole, seems to fairly simple to prepare. Yet contains many layers of flavor. Love all of the components!

        As for Mac and cheese, I only eat it a few times a year so I want it in all of it’s fatty goodness!


  4. Your turkey gratin had to have been very flavorful with the addition of jalapeño, cayenne and paprika combined with the vegetables and cheese.


    • Thank you. It was. Shame I’ve got such a bad memory! Yet, I vaguely remembered cooking with (ground) turkey mince at least once before. What makes things even worse is that I very seldom cook meat. Oh well, blame it on…hitting mid 30’s – again!


  5. Sound really good–cauliflower, cheese, turkey and chili peppers. One minor suggestion (offered in the spirit of making life easier–not a critique): Instead of mopping out the fat in the second step, why not scoop the contents of the pan out with a wide slotted ladle and then just pour everything out except a small remainder? Just a thought. Ken


    • Hah! I do like your suggestion. There’s a snag! I prefer getting rid of the paper towels/tissue rather than washing another bowl. Call me lazy. Or economical. I find most times I cook that I have to wash up as if feeding a small family. So, less is definitely more.


    • It is a fairly light gratin. I agree, a lot of gratins are way too heavy. Yes, I could happily gorge on them. Then suffer! So these lighter, and healthier, versions are a win/win. Still all the flavour without the consequences.


    • I would have thought so. The opposite is true over here, where minced turkey seems to be fairly normal. But minced chicken I’ve never seen. Presumably too much of it is used in…actually, I don’t like to think! I really do have a problem with using any type of mince, apart from Quorn!

      Hmm, perhaps I shouldn’t admit this but I’ve literally just read through the recipe ingredients. This is very typical of the way I cook. Yes, lots of veg. Cooking for one and it’s usual to end up with spare veggies. This is a great way of using them up. And sneaking in those wretched carrots! Honestly, having to hide veg from myself is a bit ridiculous.


  6. This looks fabulous! I really love this dish. I like how you have a little cayenne and a jalapeno. I also like that you layer the turkey with veggies for flavor and that the cheese is not overwhelming. It’s an accent. Nice attention to detail with the sesame seeds too. I’m going to give this one a shot.


    • I don’t know about you but I find cooking with turkey quite flavoursome. Which is why I played sort of low key with the other ingredients, including the cheese. One of these days I will do a version of a Sloppy Jo as I’ve never had them before. And I think this could work quite well, rather than having to grill the cheese. Even a smoked, nutty sort of cheese might go with this. Anyway, if you do try it I very much hope you like it. Especially as it’s over a year since I’ve made it.


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