Fowl Play - Autumn 2009
A seasonal recipe from Janet Wynne Evans
Grouse was always special-occasion food but now, cheaper options like pheasant, mallard, partridge and the like seem to cost far more, owing, allegedly to viruses, exports to the continent and decreasing lines of supply as yet another bit of moorland becomes an impractical expense.
Country-dwellers and those having access to genuine farmers’ markets as opposed to the kind which preys on gullible Londoners like myself, may still bag a bargain. When, the other day, I saw a magnificent cock pheasant stepping delicately onto the A1M and into the path of an oncoming people-carrier, I was sorely tempted to swerve from the fast lane into the hard shoulder to catch the sad ball of feathers as it hit the ground so that some good might come of it. But that really would have been paying too high a price.
It’s not only the price of game which is high. Many people find the bosky whiff of a decently hung pheasant a bit much, which makes it a risky option for a dinner menu. A safer bet is guinea-fowl, which tastes as proper chicken used to, is relatively easy to get hold of, and is equally happy with both red and white wine. Try the recipe below with claret, or red or white Burgundy.
Pot-Roast Guinea-Fowl with Shallots and Thyme
One guinea-fowl feeds two generously, so scale up accordingly for larger numbers. Season the bird well, and drape four rashers of smoked streaky bacon criss-cross fashion across the breast, securing with toothpicks and tucking in a handful of thyme sprigs at regular intervals. In a heatproof casserole large furnished with a lid, heat a generous splash of olive oil and a knob of butter.
Brown the bird all over and remove to a plate. Into the hot oil and juices, throw half a dozen whole, peeled shallots, halved lengthways if large and brown well. Return the bird to the pot, breast-side down. Add half a bottle of white wine and bring to the boil, bubble furiously for a minute or so, then turn the heat down to a gentle simmer.
Cook for about an hour (pierce a thigh with a fork after 45 minutes to see if the juices are clear), turning the bird over halfway through. Pick out the thyme sprigs and rest, with the shallots, on a warm carving plate for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, turn up the heat under the pan juices and bubble to reduce a little, Add a small carton of crème fraiche to the juices and whisk to a creamy thickness.
Carve and serve with the bacon, wild rice, and fried wild mushrooms.