Monday, 7 April 2014

The Ranelagh Kitchen Diaries - part 6: The Guinea Fowl

I have learned a couple of things this week, which I think it only right to share with my small, but loyal readership:
  1. Rosa's Thai Cafe serves mediocre, overpriced food and is now on my notorious blacklist (alongside Ping Pong, Carluccios and various other crappy chains).  
  2. Entering the Viking exhibition at the British Museum on a Saturday morning is rather like being thrust in to the black hole of Calcutta: a mass of writhing bodies, poor ventilation and an unseasonably warm spring day combined to make it less of an experience to remember. You'd be much better off leaving the Vikings to the tourists and heading upstairs to the Roman and Anglo Saxon galleries, where the exhibits are equally magnificent but the crowds fewer.
  3. The bacon flavoured ale from Brodies Beers (tried at the Old Coffee House on Beak Street) is like drinking liquidised bacon fries - a bridge too far in the endless quest to put bacon in every foodstuff. 
  4. I remembered why I used to spend all that time at Borough Market on a weekend. I returned for the first time in two or three years last Saturday (the parents were in town and keen for a visit). Yes, it is expensive and crowded, and the real foodie connoisseurs head to Maltby Street or somewhere similarly trendy, but there isn't anywhere else in London where there is such a critical mass of good food. My tip is to go at the end of the day when prices start to drop and take full advantage. 
With mother in residence for the weekend, the market proved a decent hunting ground for ingredients for a Mother's Day meal. Mrs L is partial to a guinea fowl, so one of those ended up in my bag of swag, as did a handful of morels which caught the eye. At something like £80 per kilo they are not cheap, but a little goes a long way and ours cost less than a fiver. Finally, a bunch of tarragon finished off this holy trinity.

With these three ingredients, our Sunday lunch almost chose itself...

Roast Guinea Fowl with Morel and Tarragon Sauce

Serves four hungry lunchers

1 Guinea Fowl, c. 1.2kg
15-20 morels, cleaned and halved - I also used the same amount of chestnut mushrooms to bulk things out a bit
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
100ml white wine (optional)
250ml chicken stock
100ml double cream
1 tsp dijon mustard
3 tblsp chopped tarragon
juice of half a lemon (optional)
25g butter, plus extra for the guinea fowl
olive oil
salt and pepper
  1. Heat the oven to 220c. While it is heating up, prepare the guinea fowl. Season inside and out with plenty of salt and pepper and massage some olive oil in to the breast and legs. You can also rub some butter into the fowl's flesh as well if you like - I do.
  2. Place the bird in to the oven at 220C for 10 minutes, then turn the heat down to 160c and roast for another 30-35 minutes, or until the juices from the leg run clear when you insert a skewer. Once the fowl is cooked, take it out of the oven, cover with foil and leave to rest for ten minutes.
  3. While the fowl is cooking, you can deal with the accompanying sauce. In a non-stick frying pan over a low heat, melt 25g of butter and a tablespoon of olive oil, then add the garlic and cook gently until softened.
  4. When the garlic has softened add the mushrooms to the pan, turn up the heat slightly and fry until they start to release their juices! Keep cooking until the juices have evaporated, then add the wine (if using) and reduce until there is a scant tablespoonful or two of liquid in the pan.
  5. When the wine has reduced, add the stock and cream, lower the heat to a brisk simmer and leave uncovered to cook for ten minutes. If it looks like it is reducing too much, lower the heat, or you can always add some more stock to achieve the desired consistency - a smooth and velvety sauce.
  6. When the guinea fowl is out of the oven you can finish off the sauce by adding the mustard, tarragon, lemon juice, the juices from the rested bird and season with salt and pepper. I like the lemon juice as it is quite a rich sauce and the acidity lightens it slightly, but the amount you add is up to you.
  7. To serve, I jointed the guinea fowl into 10 pieces (two thighs, two drumsticks, the breasts into four and two wings), put it into a warmed serving dish and poured the sauce over the top. On this occasion the guinea fowl came with a bowl of boiled new potatoes and some purple sprouting broccoli.  

Suffice to say, Mother was impressed!

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