Sunday 11 November 2007

Game Pie

In Mark Hix's column yesterday, there was a remarkably easy -looking recipe for a cold game pie. The thing I really liked about it was the way he used redcurrant jelly to pour in at the end instead of messing about making jellied stock from scratch, which is usually the thing that puts me off cold pies.

I didn't follow the recipe to the letter - I had a pack of game casserole mix that I'd bought from a farm shop last weekend, so I diced that into smaller pieces rather than boning rabbits and pheasants. And I used sherry instead of port. And I used half wholemeal, half white flour for the pastry and I had a jar of apple, chilli and lime jelly in the fridge, so I used that instead of redcurrant.

It's a qualified success. And I made so many changes that I can't blame the recipe at all! Using the casserole mix I ended up with a much higher proportion of lean meat to fat, so it's a little dry and the meat isn't nicely glued together. For some reason the meat didn't separate from the pastry around the hole in the top, so I couldn't get any jelly into the spaces either, which adds to the dryness a bit. But the flavour is fantastic and it really was so little effort that I can keep practicing!

Leftover Scallops

So, I bought too many scallops for the chicchi salad. And being what they are, I really needed to use them the following day. I'd been craving cauliflower soup (it's been soup weather for a couple of weeks now!) so I decided to combine the two.

Some of the best meals I have ever had involved cauliflower and seafood: my New Years' Eve dinner of a few years ago where I served cauliflower puree with toast and Yarra Valley salmon roe; the birthday cocktails of the year before that where Chinese soup spoons of cauliflower skordalia were topped with scallops and pink grapefruit; lunch at le Manoir in September. So I know it is a combination that works.

I sauteed a diced onion, chucked in a cauliflower, broken into florets, added water to not quite cover with a slurp of Touch of Taste veg stock and put a lid on it. About 10 minutes later, I crumbled in some fairly basic stilton cheese, attacked the pot with a stick blender and added some cream. The scallops went into a hot pan and there it was. And it looked horrible. The soup had turned a pale green from the stilton and the whole thing was pale and unappetising. It was too dark out to get parsley, so I added a spoonful of lumpfish caviar, just to add some visual appeal. I think it worked.


In September, during Judy Witt's fabulous cooking class, we made Chicchi - an amazing warm, truffled salad. It was the thing I most wanted to come home and cook for my husband because the truffle flavour was so amazing and just so sexy.

It has also been the hardest thing to shop for in ages! The firm I found that sell the black rice we used are "in a period of transition" and, while happy to take my money, have been unable to provide me with the goods or a refund. Then I couldn't find the sliced truffles.

So it took until last week to get the bits (or an approximation - I've used Camargue red rice instead of venere nero black rice) in order to make it. At the cooking class we made it as a starter (gluten free and vegan - always useful to have a few recipes like that) but my mum said that when she made it, she put seared scallops on top, and I thought that was a good idea!

Huge success! The nutty rice with the earthy, creamy chickpeas and the little sweet acid hits of cherry tomato, overlaid with the indescribable aroma of truffles and then topped off with salty sweet scallops. Sensory overload. I've even been told I can make it again.

Tuesday 6 November 2007

Sainsburys Pheasant

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness etc etc etc; the exciting thing about a European autumn for me is getting to try all this game that I've heard about. My partridge effort last month was pretty good, and left me wanting more. Our not-very-local supermarket is a Sainsbury, who quite often have some of your more interesting meat, more free range, more organic than the actual local supermarket. So the other week we grabbed pigeon breasts, bambi burgers (one of our regular meals) and a "stuffed easy-carve pheasant".

The pigeon has been stowed in the freezer, because we ended up having quite a disrupted sort of fortnight, but there was no space for the pheasant, which we ended up cooking last night. It was a couple of days past the best-before, but it smelled OK and it looked fine, so thought it was worth risking. Gave it a fairly hard roast at 200C for about 40 minutes. I figured that with a pork-based stuffing (the stuffing was prune, port, liver and mushroom, I think) it needed to be really thoroughly cooked through. Deglazed the pan with a splash of white wine, served it with roast baby carrots, celeriac and caper mash and steamed cabbage with nutmeg and butter.

Yum! The skin was beautifully crispy, the meat moist and flavoursome, and the stuffing meant that one bird was a really good meal for 2 people. Hope they've got more of them in this week!


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