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Kangaroo pie February 17, 2013

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Game.
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Apparently Australians are one of the few nations to eat the animals on their coat of arms. I admit I haven’t done any investigation to find out if this is true or not, but it certainly provides a colourful story. The animal in question is of course the kangaroo (although the emu – the other animal on the coat of arms – is also edible and served at some restaurants, although I have not personally seen it for sale) which is a great meat. It’s lean, nutritious and very tasty.

Normally when I cook kangaroo, I sear it on a high heat for a few minutes, so that it gets a nice crust on the surface and is still almost raw inside. Kangaroo has very little fat, so benefits from either very fast or very long cooking. Since I was used to cooking it very quickly, I decided a slow, long cook was in order – and just for fun, I decided to turn it into a pie.

I started by browning the kangaroo in the pressure cooker – I know I have mentioned many times how useful the pressure cooker is, and this time I used the sautee option to brown the meat, and then the onions.

I then added a mixture of spices – cumin, salt, pepper, mustard seeds – and when they were nicely toasted, added carrots and potatoes. Once they had softened slightly, I added the meat and onions back in, then added some tomato paste.

Next I added some previously made beef stock, a very healthy glug of red wine, sage and lots and lots of rosemary. Then it was just a matter of putting the lid on the pressure cooker and letting the machine do its work. In the meantime, I made some pastry and let it chill in the fridge while the kangaroo cooked.

After about 30 minutes, the kangaroo mixture was cooked and the meat was falling apart. I shaped the pie base pastry and blind-baked it for about 15 minutes until it was firm. Then I filled the pastry shell with the kangaroo filling and put the remaining pastry on top. I’ll admit: it wasn’t the prettiest pie ever. There wasn’t quite enough pastry for the top of the pie, so it was slightly misshapen. Nevertheless, I persisted and baked the pie for a further 15 minutes, until the top was starting to brown.

And the end result: not the prettiest but certainly delicious. I did enjoy the combination of the kangaroo and rosemary, and it was nice to have the kangaroo cooked this way for a change. The bonus for me was that there was some filling left over, so I had this the next day for lunch.

Although I can find no evidence of Nero Wolfe ever eating kangaroo, I do think he’d approve. He certainly delighted in eating dishes native to his adopted United States, and I hope he would be equally delighted with the culinary possibilities of kangaroo.

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Christmas 2012: What we ate January 6, 2013

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Game, Vegetables.
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A slightly belated post about what we ate for Christmas in what is now considered last year! I had ordered a goose with the thought of doing a roast goose (very traditional, in an A Christmas Carol sort of way), but then an article by Mrs Wheelbarrow started me thinking about doing bits of goose instead.

I admit I didn’t follow the recipes suggested in the article, but instead decided to do a similar ‘beak to tail’ serving of goose for Christmas dinner. The day before, I made both apple and red currant jellies, and left them overnight to firm up in the fridge. Then the day of Christmas, once the important business of opening presents had been finished and a breakfast of smoked salmon and ham had been consumed, I got down to the job of breaking down the goose.

While I have broken down poultry before, I did follow Hank Shaw’s guide for breaking down game birds – I wanted the pieces to look nice for Christmas! I was quite happy with the job I did, which took about 20 minutes. I was left with the legs and breasts and a bunch of other meat, including the wings – and a pile of offcuts to render down for their fat.

I began by melting some existing duck fat and submerged the legs to confit them. I also put all the offcuts of meat and wings in a pot of water to simmer and cook the meat. I salted the breasts and vacuum packed them with pepper, sage and thyme in preparation for sous-videing them. I put the large pile of skin and fat pieces in a pot with some water to begin the fat rendering process. Then it was just a matter of waiting. Incidentally I felt like this was the calmest Christmas I’d had in the kitchen for quite a while – no mad running around or piling up of dishes!

When the meat offcuts were cooked, I shredded them finely and pounded them in my mortar and pestle while adding duck fat. Ta-daa! Goose rillettes. I added some parsley and sage and packed the rillettes into a serving dish. Now, I know it’s better to cover the rillettes with fat and leave them in the fridge at least overnight, but they were still very good to eat on the day. I served the rillettes as a starter along with some homemade Christmas ham, and the apple and red currant jellies.

Goose rillettes with Christmas ham, apple jelly and red currant jelly

I melted yet more duck fat (actually, the end of my supplies, but luckily I was replenishing them rapidly with the goose fat rendering on the stove) and, after parboiling some potatoes, added the potatoes, carrots, parsnips and onion to the duck fat, and left them in the oven to roast. At this time I also made a bitter salad of radicchio, shiitake mushrooms, tomatoes, capers and lots of lemon juice and vinegar. I figured we needed something to cut through the richness of the goose!

Next I set the goose breasts to cook sous-vide for about 40 minutes at 60ÂșC, and took the legs out of the confit. I finished both the legs and the breasts by searing them in a frying pan – in the case of the legs, this made them go super crispy on the outside.

Christmas 2012: Sous vide goose breast, confit goose leg, vegetables roasted in duck fat, radicchio salad

So to summarise, from one goose I got:

  • Rillettes
  • Sous vide goose breasts
  • Confit goose legs
  • A giant jar of goose fat
  • Delicious and rich goose stock, which I made from the offcuts of vegetables and the goose bones once the dinner was over

I really do like the taste of goose, and it was great to experience so many variations on that flavour in the same meal. While it’s probably not as impressive as presenting a roast goose to the table, it was much more interesting and I was very happy to be able to use the whole goose up so well.

Horrifying meal for Halloweeen (if you are Nero Wolfe) October 31, 2012

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Game, Wolfe recipe.
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Readers, look away now. This post is absolutely shocking. I present to you: the horror that is Nero Wolfe’s Halloween dinner.

Well, horrifying if you’re Nero Wolfe, that is. Let me explain the true terror of this dish: We have lamb cooked with 10 (count them!) juniper berries, corn boiled in water, and perhaps worst of all – warm beer, not poured by Wolfe himself.

In case you are questioning why this meal is so shocking, let me explain. To start with, Nero Wolfe is very particular about the number of juniper berries used in the marinade for the lamb (confession: the original recipe is for venison, but I substituted lamb in this case). Any more than three, and they will impart far too much sweetness to the dish (The Doorbell Rang). Well, I went overboard, and added 10. The horror!

I made the marinade as per the recipe in the Nero Wolfe Cookbook – except with the addition of the 10 juniper berries. I left the meat to marinate and turned to the corn.

Readers of the Nero Wolfe books will know of his particular way of cooking corn – and his aversion to cooking it any other way. Corn plays a key role in the story Murder is Corny, and Wolfe explains his method of preparing it: “It must be nearly mature, but not quite, and it must be picked not more than three hours before it reaches me…Shucked and boiled in water, sweet corn is edible and nutritious; roasted in husk in the hottest possible oven for forty minutes, shucked at the table, and buttered and salted, nothing else, it is ambrosia…American women should themselves be boiled in water.”

Well. I’m afraid I must join those legions of people who should be boiled in water – because that’s what I did to the corn. Worst still, the corn had not been picked less than three hours previously. Just horrifying!

I’d like to point out I’m not a total barbarian. I did make a sauce for the meat by straining the marinade, adding more spices and boiling it until it thickened. And I had plenty of butter and salt for the corn. It was very edible! Lucky I’m not Nero Wolfe…

Perhaps the worst insult to Wolfe’s sensibilities, however, is the addition of beer which he has not opened himself and has not been kept at correct temperature. It does not matter how good the beer is – if it has not been kept to Wolfe’s specifications and opened by him personally, it’s no good.

I know this post will be terrifying and even shocking for some people. I hope it scared you good and proper in time for Halloween, and that you devise your own spooky horrors for your own Halloween!

Rabbit terrine with pistachios July 8, 2012

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Game.
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The weather around here has not been pleasant. Cold, miserable, raining – day after day. I decided that it was perfect terrine making weather and set about making this a reality. I didn’t really follow a recipe, but instead put my skills learnt last year during Charcutepalooza to use by developing my own recipe – otherwise known as making it up a I went along.

I decided to make a rabbit terrine – I am very fond of rabbit but sometimes get sick of slow cooking it so thought this would be another way to serve it. I’d also never made a rabbit terrine before so thought I’d branch out from the usual pork.

I started by taking the rabbit meat off the bones, which I saved and made into stock. I added some pork fat since the rabbit meat was so lean, and ground it together with salt, pepper and rosemary.

I put the mince in the fridge to keep it cool and got to work chopping up garlic, onions and a couple of apples. I cooked the whole lot in some Aperol until they were soft and then left them to cool. I decided to use Aperol because of its orange flavour, but also because I thought the bitterness would be a nice contrast to the rabbit. I also roughly chopped some pistachio nuts. When this was all done and the onion mixture was cool, I mixed it all into the rabbit meat.

Another benefit of using the Aperol was that it turned the whole mix a garish orange! The onions and apples in particular had turned a particularly bright colour. Next I lined a tin with the remainder of my homemade bacon (prompting a crisis of no bacon in the house), and filled it with the rabbit mix. My bacon wasn’t quite long enough to fit over all the edges so I had to patch it together somewhat, nevertheless I was still able to fold the edges over the top.

I cooked it in a medium oven, in a water bath, for about an hour. Now, because I was impatient and did not want to wait another day before I ate the terrine, I wanted to cool it down as quickly as possible so I could slice it without it falling apart. So I replaced the water in the water bath with cold water and ice cubes, and after the tin had cooled down I stuck it in the freezer for about an hour. I acknowledge this was not as good as letting it rest overnight, and the flavours would have had more of an opportunity to develop, but as I said I was impatient.

So, about an hour later, I was ready to slice into my terrine. I served it with a salad which had plenty of capers and lemon juice in it, and some of my homemade olives.

While I’m sure the terrine would have been even more delicious if I’d waited a day, I still really liked this terrine. The rabbit and pistachios matched very well, with the pistachios adding a bit of crunch as well as flavour. The Aperol came through in the form of a bit of bitterness but was not overwhelming. The only thing I’d change next time is adding more rosemary and more apples; both got a bit lost but I really enjoyed the mouthfuls I had where I could taste them.

I was also pleased to see that while I haven’t done a lot of this kind of cooking this year, I was still able to do it and make a lovely terrine, and I found it a nice variation in the normal ways I prepare rabbit.

Hainanese-style quail April 29, 2012

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Game.
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Goodness gracious it has been a while between posts. As you may have seen if you follow me on twitter, at the start of April, we moved house. Once the initial house-moving was over, I sat on the couch for a while wondering what had just happened (and how many boxes there were still to unpack). As usual, I realised I should have followed Nero Wolfe’s lead and never step foot out of the residence – let alone consider moving the residence. I have at least now determined that my moving days are over and I am not moving ever again, so will definitely follow Nero Wolfe’s advice in this regard.

It hasn’t been all doom and gloom, of course. Our new house has space, and light – and a large counter in the kitchen. There is room for all my Nero Wolfe books and my cookbooks (and all the other books too), and so far my cake decorating supplies all fit in one spot. I’ll have some pics of the new place quite soon, but for now I have a couple of things I made before we moved that I never posted – I stupidly thought that I would continue posting during the moving period which of course didn’t happen. First up is this hainanese-style quail.

Hainanese chicken rice is of course a favoured dish in Singapore (among other places) and is definitely a comfort food. I decided to do a version of this using quail. To start with, I brined the quail for a short period of time – about 2 hours. I didn’t bother to rinse them but instead submerged them in almost boiling water for about 20 minutes to cook them. I added some bay leaves and peppercorns to the water.

As I had to cook the quail in batches, I started on the sauce at this time. The sauce is one of my favourites and is super simple: sesame oil, salt and spring onions. I heated the sesame oil until the salt had dissolved and then added the spring onions.

One of the things I like about this sauce is that some of the spring onions end up crispy and fried, and the rest ends up soft and cooked but not crispy. To be honest, I could pretty much eat this sauce by itself, I like it so much.

Once the quail were all cooked, instead of rice, I started some pearl couscous in the water (now broth) I’d cooked the quail in. In the last stages I used the steam from the couscous to steam some bok choi to serve with the quail.

I was very pleased with how the quail turned out. They were juicy and flavoursome from the brining, but not overly so, and the sesame oil and spring onion mix was a great sauce. With quail being a little gamier-tasting than chicken, I actually thought the sauce went even better with the quail than with the chicken (which is plain, and the sauce sometimes overwhelms). The pearl couscous had absorbed the flavour of the broth and all in all this was a very nice dish.

It is clear in many of the stories that Nero Wolfe is a fan of small birds such as quail and starling. While he has his own favourite preparations I would like to think that he would at least try this different type of preparation and perhaps even begrudgingly admit it is worth eating.