Southern Angola, early nineties...

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Pan Fried Guinea Fowl

The first book my father ever gave me to read was 'Biggles and the Little Green God'. The next was Robert Ruarke’s ‘Use Enough Gun’. Both books made a huge impression on a childish mind and quickly brought me on to Ernest Hemmingway. As a child, therefore, I not only assumed, but felt deep down in my heart, that an ‘Englishman’ (and I suppose I have to include Americans as well) was essentially decent and invariably right and the idea of blowing any kind of wildlife and the occasional native away seemed perfectly natural. After all, my Father’s oft-quoted claim to fame was being able to hit a running Arab at two hundred paces. What chance did I stand? Racial preconceptions would evaporate with experience but my love of shooting would intensify and during my tours of Belize, I spent many a happy day dropping game birds at an abandoned rice plantation teeming with wildlife including a massive variety of incredibly well fed snakes, one of which left me writhing in pain after venting its displeasure at being disturbed by my erratic perambulations by biting me on the leg, and another that, because it clearly wanted to bite me, was blown into eternity by a now very senior RAF Officer with the most impressive display of marksmanship I have ever seen.

Sadly, while I had picked up the desire and skill, I had not learnt the etiquette of shooting so, much to the horror of my more refined colleagues to whom even an ‘over and under’ was anathema, I was unable to remain content with standing on my pitch and waiting for the little blighters to fly down the barrel of my gun so that I could sportingly dispatch them. Instead I stalked around the overgrown and waterlogged paddy fields blasting away with my 5 shot, semi-automatic Browning. I received no offers to join any of the Gentlemen’s Clubs of which my esteemed fellow officers and guns were members but I generally rewarded the Mess Chef with a heck of a sight more game.

In spite of Ruarke’s and Hemmingway’s thrilling tales of the personal endurance and skill required to do so, I could never see the point of stalking and shooting anything I couldn’t eat. Naturally, my eight year old son feels the same way (about shooting for the pot, not Englishmen always being right; and he has no idea what ‘native’ means, all men in his eyes being divided into friends or dickheads, regardless of ethnic origin or creed) and for him, as me, it is not just the thrill and companionship of a few days shooting in the bush, it is also the pleasure of the cooking and eating afterwards.

For this dish you will need:

2 x Guinea Fowl or wild duck (farmed duck is far too bland and fatty, use pheasant if you cannot get GF or wild duck). The best way to gurantee the quality of the product is to go out and shoot it yourself.
Smoked bacon, preferably a chunk that you have diced.
3 medium onions (or a handful of shallots)
2 Garlic cloves
2 decent sized carrots
4 celery stalks with leaves
2 lemons
2 decent sized oranges
Pepper corns
Bay leaf
Chicken Stock
A few sprigs of Thyme

Pluck the birds, cut the feet and heads off and discard. Separate the neck from the body and put to one side. Clean the birds and retain the liver, which we will use to enrich the sauce.

Cut the legs off the bird and filet the breasts off. Place them in a dish and cover so that they do not go dry.

Chop the hips off the carcass and cut the remainder, the chest, in half.

Roughly chop two onions, a garlic clove, a carrot, a couple of celery stalks (leaves and all), add half a dozen peppercorns, a couple of cloves and a bay leaf, throw in the diced smoked bacon and fry the lot up quickly in a casserole pan (cast iron) that has an oven proof lid. Add the chopped Guinea Fowl carcass and neck and brown it all off. Grind some black pepper over the lot and chuck in a pinch of salt.

Pour in half a pint of chicken stock and a 30cl bottle of ale and heat the lot until it is boiling nicely. Bang the lid on a place the pot in a pre-heated, fairly hot oven and let it simmer away for about 45 minutes. Check it at around half time and if you need to add more liquid, add another beer.

Finely chop the remaining onion, garlic clove, one carrot and about six inches of celery stalk. Finely grate the rind from one orange.

Remove the pot from the oven and carefully strain the liquid off into a jug. There are various ways of separating the fat from the liquid, I usually just pour it into tall glasses and let it settle. The fat separates out in a clear layer on the top.

Spoon out the fat from the liquid into a heavy based deep frying pan (remember the glasses will be boiling oil hot so use oven gloves), add a tablespoon of olive oil and heat the pan up. Season the Guinea Fowl legs and breasts with salt and freshly ground black pepper and lay them in the frying pan. Fry them up until they are nicely browned. Remove from the pan and place to one side.

Add a splash of Cointreau to glaze the pan, followed by a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Add the chopped vegetables and fry them until they are soft. Add the grated orange rind and give it a good stir. Add the stock, the juice of the two oranges and one lemon and reduce the liquid to about a third of its original volume. Add a sprig of Thyme about halfway through this process and remove it when the stock is reduced.

Check the seasoning adding salt and pepper as required. Add a knob of butter to thicken the sauce and mash up the livers and stir them in as well. Then lay in the breasts and thighs and heat them up in the sauce.

Remove the Guinea Fowl and lay out on a warmed serving dish and cover with the sauce. Garnish with a sprig of Thyme.

I like to serve this dish with homemade Spatzle, a type of German pasta, which soaks up the sauce nicely but you can serve it with anything you prefer (or have available). It also works well with roasted sweet potatoes and any green vegetable such as broccoli.


unstrung said...

All good here, apart from the fact that - I note in your profile - you like Simply Red. No, Tom. No. Take it out now. You don't and can't like Simply Red. Simply awful.
But the food looks extremely good. And you look very sweet and naive in the photo with the guinea fowl. I'm sure you were neither.

Hippo said...

A party round a pool, the moon peeping though the palm trees, everyone in evening wear, a lissome young lady with almond eyes and long dark hair in my arms, My Night Nurse playing not too loudly. Of course I bloody well like Simply Red!

Josh said...

Hippo, the story was great! As the Son of Okies, in California, I learned to hunt what I could eat, and I never had access to the Gentlemanly Clubs and whatnot. I still find it hilarious that anybody would sit around while flushing birds are to be had. The only birds I'll wait for are doves and turkeys.

And keep the love for Simply Red. I'm with ya.