I've always been a big fan of lavender, but it's not exactly fashionable and still retains it's association with grandmas more than michelin stars. But there's a recipe in the book that I always wanted to try, and it's this one with guinea fowl. Trouble is I've never been unable to source all the right things at the right time in the past, but now I have a regular and reliable source for guinea fowl (a woman at Cullompton Farmer's market - apologies but I've forgotten your name!) I've finally got round to making it.
Well I've almost sourced everything - I should say that the recipe calls for Summer Savory, not mint and thyme, but I reckon they should make a good substitute so have adapted the recipe a bit to suit.
At it's heart the recipe is quite simple - you make a butter from the lavender and the herbs and push this under the skin of the bird before roasting. It's a trick I've done a few times since I first tried it at Christmas, and ensures the bird is moist whilst imparting whatever flavours are in the butter directly into the meat during the roast. There is a trick to the lavender though - you need to make what the author calls "lavender pollen" first.
A very poetic name for something a little more prosaic, but easily made and stored. We have a lavender & rosemary hedge that I planted many years ago, and it's just in flower still so still time to make some. You just snip off the heads of as much lavender as you need, and then pop them into a very low oven (150ºC) for about an hour. They dry up very easily, and then it's a simple job to strip the flowers off the stems and then pound them up in a pestle and mortar until you have a fine powder.
The lavender ready to go into the oven for drying
Now back to the recipe ...
Once the guinea fowl has had the butter added (quick note - should have the rind of 1 lemon added as well), then squeeze the juice of 1 lemon over the bird (yep, that's the rest of the lemon!), and pour over a good amount of olive oil. Then into a moderate-hot oven for ½ an hour. Next in go a good handful of new potatoes - sliced in half in large - for another half an hour. Finally inch chunks of fennel, pepper (orange in my case) and aubergine in equal quantities.
Timing at this point gets tricky. The bird will need to come out in about 15 mins, and then rest for 15 mins, so you have about half an hour to play with to make sure all the veg is properly cooked. At some point though you'll need to get the bird off the roasting tray so you can deglaze all the juices and make the sauce - personally I often just move my veg into a clean roasting pan to let them finish, but this time around the veg was all really well cooked already so I moved it all off onto a serving platter to keep warm with the bird.
The sauce needs a bit of work. Once you've got your bird and the rest of the veg off the original roasting tray, deglaze with a small glass of sweet white wine, and then add about double the amount of stock. Cook this down into a coating sauce, pour over the bird and voila, you're done.
The finished dish, all ready for serving.
So how was it after all this? Pretty damn tasty. Unusual for sure, and I swear we actually spent the first 5 minutes battling the wasps for it who obviously thought this was some sort of wasp nirvana. Thank god for citronella candles ... and a badminton racket! I don't think I'll bother with all the veg next time, but will certainly be using lavender again in my cooking, and I fancy it'll make it's next appearance in a lamb dish. I have some left over lavender pollen ready. The bird was certainly very moist and tasty - better than last time I cooked guinea fowl - so the trick with the butter is worth it that's for sure.
Plated up and ready for munching.