Can't serve turkey this Christmas? Here are 10 delicious alternatives – as chosen by top chefs

With staple foods in short supply and more expensive than ever, this could be the year to try something new. How about slow-roasted lamb, or mullet with sage and onions?

Get ready for the possibility of a turkey-free Christmas. The bird flu epidemic means that demand may exceed supply this year. What's more, the cost of living crisis means that shooting giant birds may not be feasible for many of us. But don't be discouraged. First, not everyone likes turkey – for some, it's too plain, too dry, and too annoying to cook – and second, it's the perfect opportunity to start a new tradition. We asked a number of top chefs for their best turkey alternatives. (For vegan and vegetarian options, try this recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi and Anna Jones.)

Luke French, Jöro, Sheffield

A fantastic seasonal alternative to turkey is venison. Ask your local butcher to give you a saddle of venison (or loin, depending on how much you're cooking). Marinate it in olive oil, garlic, rosemary, juniper berries and thyme – for a whole week, if you can. Bake at 100C until core temperature reaches 46C, then remove from oven. Turn the oven on to its hottest setting and put the venison back in for another 10 minutes to make it nice and brown and golden. Serve with lingonberries or cranberries and bread sauce, just like your turkey – absolutely delicious, trust me!

Tom Brown, Cornerstone, London

Fish can be quite impressive on the table, and is much lighter than some of the alternatives. Monkfish and turbot will be fantastic, but they are expensive. Instead, opt for plaice or gray mullet, which can be easily obtained from your local fishmonger. Both can be filled with sage and onion fillings for seasonality, as the flavors complement each other. Don't stuff it with sausage meat, however, as it will take too long to cook – you will end up with an undercooked filling or overcooked fish.

Jan Ostle, Wilsons, Bristol

We used to eat goose at Christmas, but with the bird flu and the cost of everything this year, that might not be possible. Several years ago Mary – my partner and co-owner of Wilsons – and I managed to get a rooster from a nearby small-scale chicken farm. It was absolutely delicious and, most importantly, provided enough high-grade leftovers for at least three days after the main event. We treat it in a very similar way to turkey, marinating it for 24 hours in 10% brine before taking it out and letting it dry for another 24 hours in our fridge. We bake them in a very high oven until they are golden brown, then lower the temperature to 100C and leave them for a few hours to cook.

Jack Stein's restaurant, Rick Stein

My preferred alternative for Christmas Day has always been fish. But if you really want a stopper, then make a salmon en croûte. You can do this with half or whole salmon, store-bought puff pastry, and a sauce made with sparkling wine, butter, cream, and tarragon.

Farokh Talati, St John's Bread and Wine, London

I'm a big fan of games. For many years I have delighted families with quails, pigeons, guinea fowls and partridges. Some of the butchers I spoke to make excellent game pie mixes. These are all fine bits and pieces of the bird that they put together for you to make into an enclosed delight, allowing you to try all of these delicious birds at a reasonable price. My go-to is a Parsi-style spiced game pie, marinating the meat in homemade dhansak masala overnight, then braising it with shallots, garlic, a little ginger and a pinch of tomato, a dash of apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce and chicken broth. Once done, I top with a cover of suet cake, egg wash and sprinkle on top a pinch of caraway seeds, cumin and fennel before baking in the oven at 180C/gas 4 for about an hour to an hour and a half.

Natalie Coleman, Oyster Barn, London

Everyone in my house is crazy about the ham I cook at Christmas — not only that, but it makes the best Ham, eggs, and chip brunch on Boxing Day.

Simmer ham with onions, carrots, celery, chives, and a medley of spices to make a delicious stock, which can be used to cook a traditional Christmas vegetable accompaniment. I would then let the meat rest, sprinkle with cloves, drizzle with a mixture of honey, dijon mustard and a little rapeseed oil and roast in the oven (for a 2.5 kg ham, boil for two hours, then bake at 180C/gas 4 for 45 minutes, basting every 15 minutes) until the marinade is completely absorbed into the joints and the ham turns a delicious golden brown. I'll serve it hot with Christmas decorations.

I can't say I've ever understood the fascination with turkey for Christmas dinner, or any other dinner, for that matter. I prefer to eat roasted guinea fowl roasted in straw. This is a terrific bird to use at Christmas: great flavor, moist, and pot roasting lets you muster up all the nice juices for a simple dressing. They are much easier to cook and better value for money than turkey. You should easily feed four of these larger birds and not have the misfortune of eating them on a sandwich the next day. Place the guinea fowl in a deep casserole with fresh herbs and a few handfuls of straw. Cover and bake at 175C/gas 4 for about 1.5 hours, basting it from time to time. Remove the pot from the oven, and replace the herbs with fresher herbs. Quickly replace the lid and let sit for 15 minutes, allowing the flavors to permeate the bird again. Place the casserole directly on the table without lifting the lid. Open only when it is ready to be served – when the air will be perfumed with its aroma.

Matt Sullivan, Young's pub, London

The show-stopper platter featuring the best of England's seasonal seafood is far better than turkey for me – all cooked in the morning, dressed and cleaned, ready to be served cold to my guests later. The French would call it fruit de mer - I call it steamed south coast scallops and Cornish scallops, dressed Devon crab, poached real lobster, served with three-cornered leeks, garlic butter, oysters from Mersea Island with tabasco and pickled shallots, langoustines from Scottish Hebrides are boiled and served with lemon mayonnaise. All of this sounds scary but it's so easy to put together beforehand, and most are just steaming or boiling, with a little simple preparation.

Imad Alarnab, Imad's Syrian Kitchen, London

While in England lamb is associated with Easter, it is also a good choice for Christmas. It's very traditional to have it in Syria, and there are lots of different ways to cook it. Lamb is a tough meat, full of flavor and very comforting for the winter, and perfect with strong seasonings. I get my lamb kosher, and usually go for the fillets, because you can use the fat of the meat to cook it – you don't need oil. Slow-roasted lamb is also a great option – in Syria we'll serve it with raisins, rice and nuts at Christmas.

Giovann Attard, Norma, London

I'd go for a large whole chicken. Debone and unfold flat (skin side down) on the aluminum foil. It's not that difficult; You may be able to find YouTube videos on how to do this. Then I'll make a pork filling with sage, garlic and breadcrumbs, and layer it over the chicken. Place three or four hard-boiled eggs on top (cook for five minutes, so they are nice and soft on the inside). Then wrap the chicken into a roll, like roly-poly jam. Make sure the foil is wrapped around it, and seal both ends. Bake the stuffed chicken rolls at 180C/gas 4 in the chicken broth for about 45 minutes, and let it rest. Before serving, remove the foil and place in the oven for another 15 minutes at 200C/gas 6 for nice crispy chicken skin. Once ready, slice and serve with lots of gravy and all the trimmings.

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