Sunday, November 26, 2006

The day I plucked a duck and then ate it

I certainly recommend that any omnivore within our society should have a more hands on approach with the animals' lives that they consume. I don't wish to make this a full political post about animal rights or anything but just wanted to express my concern about people that are so far removed from the source of their meat that they cannot stomach the sight of offal or uncooked meat. Both Dan and I have made a pact to only eat ethically reared meat from within the UK. This ensures that our food miles are down and that we don't eat meat too often. That's alright though, because we always have an abundance of vegetables.

Today I became a little more acquainted with dinner. Dan's brother, Leon, is a keen hunter, who, in the season, takes his lovely Labrador, Fern and goes to the local hunting ground to collect his dinner. Today he brought us ours.

He brought us two ducks and four pheasant (3 females and 3 males) from a hunting ground that specifically rears birds to be shot and consumed by us.

Be careful if you're a bit squeamish. If you click through, there are some pretty graphic photos.

The first stage of the plucking. Here I am removing the breast feathers of the female duck which are so soft. My mother, who used to tell me stories of plucking turkeys at the farm in Idaho, would be proud.

Here's Dan doing the second stage. Thankfully, Leon was patient enough to give us full tutelage so we know enough to do the other four birds on our own. After the main plucking, the wings, and feet are removed, the bird is plucked some more and finally the bird is gutted and beheaded. It didn't smell near as bad as I expected. We also chopped its tale off, which would've been odd if we had left it on.

Before they reach this clean stage, the downy feathers are burnt off with a lighter, or even better, a blow torch. The bird is then fully rinsed. Here you can see the male duck (on the left) which had a much simpler ending than the female duck on the right, which had about 6 shot holes throughout and was pulled from the water by Fern which broke its wing on the way out. At least I know what this bird went through for me to get a meal.

We ate the male duck tonight with some roast vegetable. Dan filleted the female duck and made a stock with the skeletons. I used a touch of the stock to make a brillant rich gravy. The duck was superb. Better than I've ever eaten before.

Here are the four pheasants hanging up in our shed. We'll leave them until next Sunday when they'll be just about ripe for the eating. We're going to slow cook them for a game pie. One bird per person is generally a good rule. How pretty are the feathers?

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Elephant garlic

A big boy that packs a punch!

Friday, November 24, 2006

Very Valrhona & white chocolate truffles

This is my modest first attempts at chocolate truffles. I certainly LOVE trying new things and Johanna over at The Passionate Cook certainly came up trumps with this month's edition of Jennifer's Sugar High Friday.

I pretty much decided to wing it this time and only do a bit of research and make up the rest. A very informative Wiki entry led me to this Cooking for Engineers entry. It came up with the ratio of 2 parts of chocolate to 1 part cream for a truffle-friendly ganache mixture.

To make these slightly different from from your standard chocolately truffles, I put a honey-roasted, chocolate-coated almond within each ganache. They were especially decadent with the use of the 75% Valrhona chocolate, recently picked up a my new favourite farm shop, Burwash Manor Farm Larder. The white chocolate truffle was a little too runny and didn't set to stand up on its own, so I flavoured it with a bit of rose water and used it as a filling.

Check out these other wonderful entries for this month's event!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

New England Griddle Cakes aka the best pancakes in my world

There's nothing like getting back into the kitchen and producing a lovely stack of pancakes for a Sunday brunch. What a busy November this has been! Family reunions, a food show, thoughts in career movement and attempts at getting onto the British property ladder have all been encroaching my peaceable existance.

I finally got this recipe from my mother. I have yet to find a better pancake recipe. But why look for another when this recipe is perfection itself. When I was growing up, our Sunday breakfast was our traditional weekend feast - rather than a Sunday lunch. We sometimes had waffles, we sometimes had French toast but more often than not we had pancakes.

It was my brother's ambition to break the household record for the amount of pancakes consumed in one sitting and he often reached the dizzying heights of 24 pancakes in one sitting! Mum often had to triple or quadruple the recipe. I don't blame him for wanting to eat so many, these are so good.

Pancakes (New England Griddlecakes)

1 1/2 cups of sifted flour
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 cups of milk
1 1/2 teaspoons of white vinegar
3 tablespoons of butter, melted

Sift the dry ingredients together. Beat together the egg, milk, vinegar and melted butter. Add the liquid mixture gradually to the dry mixture, stirring constantly to keep it smooth. Drop the batter by spoonfuls onto a heated non-stick heavy metal griddle. No additional butter is needed as there is enough in the batter. Keep the heat low, so the cakes will not cook too fast. When the top is full of tiny bubbles the under side should be sufficiently brown. Turn and brown the other side. Serve hot with maple syrup. Makes 2 dozen small cakes.

From 'The United States Regional Cook Book', edited by Ruth Berolzheimer, Culinary Arts Institute, Chicago, Ill. 1947.

Friday, November 03, 2006

What I did with quail eggs.

This little cute pack of quail eggs arrived home in my basket after a day out of cycling. Along one of our routes we stumbled across a tiny little butcher that I had no idea exsisted. I quickly snatched up a well hung hunk chunk of beef, a dainty pheastant, some amount of Old Sussex Cheddar and 18 of these pretty little eggs.

So what do you do with 18 tiny eggs. I thought a 9 egg omelette sounded quite appealing. But the butcher did say that boiled was the best way to have them. So I decided to make this very comforting potato salad with them. My mother's old recipe was perfect because it has a high potato:egg ratio...

Potato Salad

6 medium potatos
18 quail eggs or 6 medium sized eggs
3 tablespoons of mayonnaise
3 to 4 sweet gherkins
½ teaspoon of gherkin juice
1 tablespoon of american Mustard

Boil the potatoes until a fork can be inserted easily. Drain and cool. Hardboil the eggs for about 5 minutes and chill under running water to prevent grey film forming on the yolks. Peel and dice potatoes and eggs. Listen to music or daydream while doing this as it can get quite tedious - especially with 18 eggs... dice the gherkins. Make a dressing with the mayonnaise, mustard and gerkin juice. Mix into the eggs and potatoes until evenly coated and to taste. Dust with paprika before serving.

Cousins Butchers
36 Grantchester Street
telephone: 01223 352856

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