Friday, February 27, 2009

Pot Roast Guinea Fowl

Busy as ever cooking away - it's pizza quattro formaggio tonight, at least it will be shortly, but I just thought I'd put up a quick post about my Guinea Fowl.

Now I've not cooked guinea fowl for many years, and the Italian has never had it before, so when we spotted one at Cullompton Farmers market (second Saturday in the Month, as patronised by Prince Charles don't 'yer know - well once at least) we thought we'd give it a try. The lady running the stall said she preferred it to chicken (more flavour) and you know what, now that I've had it I can see what she means. Loads of meat on the thing too, more than you'd think given the size of it. Leftovers went on to make a fabulous stroganoff as well, which stretched for quite a few meals.

The pot roast itself was another wood burner affair, and as ever it's still learning time with that. I mis-timed how long it would take rather majestically which meant that the sticky rice I had in mind to go with it was ready half an hour early :-) Thank god Le Creuset stuff keeps the heat so well. The recipe was one from Sophie Grigson's Meat Cookery book (a good find that) which included lots of onions (courtesy of my Dad) which cooked down slowly to form this wonderful sticky sweet mash, plus lots of fresh thyme from the garden. I'll say one thing for the wood burner cooking, it's making me polish up my skills a bit when it comes to working out when something is cooked. You can't rely on any cook book when you're piling logs in to try and get the temperature right!

Mid way through cooking, so still well uncoooked

Suffice to say that it was so tasty that I completely forgot to take any pictures of the finished dish, that pot roasting is alive and well on my wood burner, and that guinea fowl will be making a welcome return to my kitchen very shortly.

A wider shot of the cooking

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Pictures of Snowy Devon

I know it's not even remotely food related, but I can't let all this snow slide by without posting a few pictures up ...

The Jasmine/Honeysuckle fence between front and back gardens

Looking back down the garden past the fence

The back garden

Looking out over the hills next door

There are broad beans under there somewhere - hope they're OK!

A little while later - with two new additions ...

Close up of our new friends!

Wood Burner Cooking: "Braised Beef 0 - Boiled Ham 1"

Well trying some new does mean you make mistakes, and I think my braised beef in barolo could have been better. In my defence the wood burner is very tricky to interpret as one log will never burn like another, and without a thermometer on it I never really know what sort of temperature it is, I just have to judge by feeling the heat and signs of bubbles, etc. Don't get me wrong, it was very tasty, but when you've put an entire bottle of wine in a dish like this you kind of want it to be great, not just OK.

Browing the beef on the SMEG, just before adding the vegetables from the marinade and the red wine.

Once the meat had been marinaded over night with wine, herbs and vegetables it was drained, dried and browned, then back with all the ingredients and onto the wood burner for about 2 hours. Whilst it came out tender and flavoursome the wine was overpowering and it hadn't achieved any real depth that you'd expect. I think the bottom line is that the stove never really got to the right simmering temperature, at least not consistently, so it never really cooked enough. Oddly enough I used the left overs to create a sort of curry with lots of fresh spices, ginger, garlic and some mascarpone cream we had that needed to be eaten, and that was fabulous - I guess the extra cooking was just what the sauce needed.

Beef in Barolo (actually I didn't use a straight Barolo, but it was an Italian wine made with Nebbiolo grapes - the same as those in Barolo - so pretty much the right wine) is something I've wanted to make for years, and never got round to, so disappointing for the first one not to be great, but no doubt one day I'll have another go.

Just last night I was cooking again on the stove though, this time a Ham shank slowly simmered with shallots, carrots, black peppercorns, bay and thyme, and that came out great. Needed a bit of attention now and then, as logs went in and the lid needed to be pushed aside to compensate, but it made for a fab Saturday ham, egg and chips! And now I have about 2 litres of gorgeous ham stock :-)

So what am I learning about cooking on the wood burner? Well you need to pay more attention than a conventional stove as logs will burn at different temperatures. Slow cooking is relatively easy, so long as you're not cooking for a deadline as it's not unusual to need at least an extra half hour or even more. And it's messy - the Italian is, unusually, cooking today and I have a Sunday off for a change. She's busy frying off some Italian sausage with fennel at the moment, and you can see the state of our wood burner now in the picture below.

Frying Italian Sausage with Fennel

I can hear the odd expletive coming up the stairs so I'm guessing she's discovering the joys of wood burning cooking for herself, although that said she grew up with this sort of thing in the Alps so for her it's not so unusal.

One thing I'll end with though - the cost savings. We've recently got one of those doo-hickeys which measures your electricity consumption, and I don't think I ever realised just how much energy the electric oven uses - it's enormous, and that's with a very modern energy efficient oven! We know we're already saving loads of money on gas due to relying on the wood burner as our core source of heat, but it's also shifted our cooking so that we tend to do pot roasts and stews on the burner instead of using the oven. We also warm plates on it, heat up breads and pastries, pre-heat water for pasta, etc. I reckon we're going to end up saving loads on our electric bill as well as our gas bill as we shift our cooking over more and more to the stove. Interesting times!


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