Archive | Game

Recipe | Venison pasties

Its raining……nothing.

Skiing, when snowfall has been, poor gets rather tricky. Beach holidays without the sun are pretty miserable. Camping in torrential rain is not much fun ( well actually camping in any weather is not my idea of fun) and fishing weeks without water are impossible.   So when I headed up to the beats on the river Findhorn ( this is a technical term for parts of the river you fish and not a highlands music festival in case you wondered) it was somewhat alarming it had not rained in a while and none was imminently due.

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Recipe | Garlic, garlic and Pheasant casserole

Phestive Pheasant Phun…

“Welcome to Scotland, Its -6 °C”! the cheerful staff at Enterprise car hire chirped.

I think if they had looked closely at my 5 layers, hat, gloves, fur lined boots, hunched shoulders and hopping around moves, they would have been well aware that I had totally sussed that part of the situation out.

Winning top prize for the most polite and helpful car hire location ever they helped me gather my luggage which included suitcase, aprons, knives and half a butchers shop, chip through the ice cube in which my car was apparently hiding, triple checked I had everything I needed and knew where I was off to then practically waved me off with off with marching bands and a ticker tape parade. I glanced in the mirror as I slipped through the exit barrier to witness the dabbing of wet eyes and the Enterprise team dishing out moral boosting hugs (OK that last bit I actually imagined but they were just SO unbelievably nice). Heart and mood well warmed I headed northwards to Perthshire to cook for a weekend that promised to be filled with fun, pheasants and frivolity.

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In keeping with a proper modern day but nod to the traditional ‘shoot weekend‘ there was to be a balance of hearty food, healthy food, game, games, cocktails, drinks, fresh air, very late nights and very early mornings. By the time I had unpacked the shopping the fridges, larders and cold rooms were bulging with lush ingredients, the butter and cream supplies looked top and everyone was excited…including the spaniels.

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As the heart of the weekends activities were focused around pheasants this postcard recipe is of course championing this delicious, iron, potassium, vitamin B and protein rich meat.

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I often feel it is a great shame that many people generally dismiss all game when cooking, shopping or choosing from a menu. It can have wonderful flavour and is generally less strong or ‘gamey’ that many people assume, especially since it has long since moved out of the macho /over hung maggot infested era. Perhaps people have issues with its firmer texture, distinct of the hill flavour, potential lead content and wild lifestyle but for me that is part of the attraction ( well maybe not the lead bit).

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Pheasant makes an excellent substitute for chicken in most dishes, it just needs a little extra care and attention when cooking. The fresh meat is available in the UK from the 1 st October to the 1 st February and/or if you know anyone with countryside connections there is high probably there will be one lurking in a freezer near you. Pheasant meat is lean so care has to be taken not to over cook it as it will dry out but when successfully done the taste rewards are great. Young birds at the beginning of the season are often more tender as they have not been flying around or had to toughen up as the weather turns colder. It is in the first few months I like to roast the birds whole or quick fry the breasts. As the season goes on and the bird ages they can toughen up so it is best to slow cook or braise them with plenty of liquor. This postcard recipe is perfect for pheasants around now as the slow cooking and lashings of juice will ensure it wont dry out.

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This week

Every home should have: pheasants

I used: 121 eggs

They consumed: 16 packs of butter

I love : Thomas Goodge crockery

I’m driving : an ice cube

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Garlic, Garlic and Pheasant casserole

This is a great dish for this time of year, slow cooking ensures tender and tasty results for the pheasant and the garlic hit may help ward of *vampires and colds

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Feeds 6

3 heads of garlic

5 tbs extra virgin olive oil

3 pheasants jointed into legs and breasts (use the rest of the carcass to make a delicious stock for soup or risottos)

3 tbs olive oil

12 leaves of bay

3 leeks washed and cut into 2cm rings

2 red onions, peeled and thinly sliced

¼ bottle dry white wine

200ml cider

2 tbs chopped parsley

Pre heat the oven to 170 °C

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Peel all the garlic cloves and put 3 to one side. Gently fry the rest in a large pan on a low heat in 2 tbs of the olive oil until lightly golden then place to one side.

Turn the heat up to a medium and add another 2 tbs olive oil. Sear all the pheasant pieces on each side, season with salt and pepper and place into a casserole dish.

Add the last of the oil to the pan and sauté the onions and leeks until just softening (about 10 minutes) then mix in with the pheasant.

Add the garlic, wine and cider, season with extra salt and pepper then cover with baking parchment then foil.

Bake for 1 ½ hours stirring half way through, the meat should be tender and prepared to fall off the bone, if not cook for another ½ hour.

To serve

Finely chop the 3 remaining cloves of garlic and sprinkle on top with the parsley.

This dish is delicious with mashed potatoes or celeriac.

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*Garlic health benefits and vampire repelling qualities are diminished once cooked.

 

Next stop… Pre Christmas Christmas near Toulouse

 

 

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Recipe | Venison Scotch egg

My Fair Lady meets Braveheart

From an early age much of my time has been spent on and off stage so I’m well aware of what it takes to make a production run smoothly. All going well on the face of it we see the actors entering and exiting at the appropriate moments,  impressively and seamlessly remembering their lines (we hope) and brilliantly drawing us into their world.   What we tend to forget as an audience member however is how much work has to go on backstage to achieve all this.

People have been working tirelessly on costumes, props and  scenery.  Directors, musicians , techies and other crew have all shed blood, sweat and probably tears to get the show on the road and not to mention the gentle cajoling , ego massaging, support and camaraderie that has gone on to hold it all together by everyone.

What has all this got to do with venison sausage rolls I hear you ask?! And how can she possibly link this thespian theme to her latest job cooking for a Highland partridge shoot? Well…

Up on the Cawdor estate near Inverness, it’s hard not to get drawn into a dramtic mood, not least because it is the home of the Scottish Play (or Macbeth for those of you who are less superstitious). Add 42,000 acres of extraordinary Highland landscape, endlessly changing light, some of the best field sport in the country and boundless amounts of fresh air and you can understand how one can easily become theatrical. 2017-01-20_0002

Shoot jobs are always busy as there are a lot of hungry men (and more and more so women) to feed.  Despite November being quite late in the season to still be eating outside the group was game to have their lunches up on ‘the hill’, the in the know term for on the moor.

I am always delighted to to be heading out on these adventures, braving the elements, dirt tracks and overcoming the challenges of transporting and serving a top not lunch to the middle of nowhere. The shooting crowd are definitely a set who love their food so ones efforts to go all out are always appreciated.

As the chef your day starts early in the lodge kitchen doing a big cooked breakfast and preparing the elevenses baskets for the game keeper to takeaway for the gun’s mid morning snack. Once breakfast is cleared away the preparing and packing up of a top notch lunch to be served way up on the hill can begin.

Food has to be carefully packed along with tables, tablecloths, plates, candles if the day is dark, flowers, wine (of course) and fire wood into the trusty Range Rover and driven across narrow bridges, winding tracks across babbling burns and reversed down slippery paths to a bothy hidden in the depths of the moor. Undoubtedly more fun than an office job I imagine.  Once there, everything is unloaded come rain or shine or wind (though often in Scotland a bit of all three) and set up, the wood burner lit, hot soup made ready to serve and the wine opened in anticipation for the arrival of the hungry and often cold and wet guns.

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On one of the days on our way to the bothy we had to pause on the hill as the beaters (people with flags energetically waving them on command whilst walking down a hill to flush the birds towards the guns and not Harry Potter like children on broom sticks playing quidditch), were making their sweep ahead of us.

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Turning on our radio to the channel that the head  keeper and beaters were using we received  instructions to wait there for a wee while longer.  Not wanting to scare the birds off course we switched off the engine and due to our remote location and therefore lack of signal to Radio 4, listened into the “ backstage” working of the shoot.

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Like a director of an enormous production (think Aida on a Verona scale) the head Game keeper directs his backstage crew to flush the actors (partridge in this case) onto the stage (the area surrounding the pegs) where the eager audience (the guns) get to take their shot.

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In this case however the actors (partridge) are more temperamental than the worst of divas and it takes great skill and combined effort to get them to fly where and when you want them.

Listening to the instructions was a bit like listening to the shipping forecast, you enjoy it and are strangely addicted but don’t quite understand all that is said.  None the less it was hard not to get swept up in the team effort of getting the birds in the right place and the building excitement of whether it would pay off.

“ Flag up, flag up !!!!! “ was repeated many times and moments later a flurry of flag waving from the guys and girls on the hill.

“I canny see Eion , get oot ‘o the gulley” !! also seemed to be a popular communication.

The crackly line coupled with the heavy Scottish accents meant I couldn’t follow the script exactly but the most entertaining moment was when one group of partridge was spotted flying too far left, the beaters were directed to reposition themselves sharpish to correct the flight path and I distinctly heard in My Fair Lady meets Braveheart style from one of the keepers:

“ come on…come on!…come on !! …come on Beaters, move yer bloomin’ arse!” .

The ripple of gun fire a moment later indicated the move was successful and that the guys on the hill had done a good job. Then came the sound of the horn indicating the end of the drive and our cue to get a move on to the bothy to set up lunch.

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During a lunch the game keeper will inform the head of the party their current bird count ( bag), if their booked number has already been met and if it has if they would like to carry on, for a second act.  Invariably  the answer is yes, unless the weather has turned really foul, so once the feast is finished they all had back out for a few more drives.

At the end of the shoot day, once the show is over, everyone returns back to the lodge and the day’s bag is laid out for the count. The beaters, dog handlers, game keepers and guns gather round for a wee dram and exchange highlights and tales of the day and it is at this point that the backstage crew can take their bow and be thanked for a tremendous show.

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For this postcard I want to share with you my new favourite snack I like to make for the elevenses basket namely venison scotch eggs.  To qualify for a good elevenses shoot snack the food has to be able to survive  transportation, easy to eat with one hand, hearty and  suitable for ketchup or Tabasco (that’s a must according to Lord L who apparently is a connoisseur when it comes to elevenses).

Scotch eggs are totally worth making from scratch as you can get the eggs perfectly cooked ( unlike the obligatorily over cooked shop bought ones)  and the meat perfectly seasoned.

These Venison ones have the advantage that the meat is known to be full of minerals and iron and is low fat.. which in my book translates as you don’t have to feel so guilty about scoffing a whole one.  I have to say on a personal note that when Lord L is not looking you should also try it with crab apple jelly as its mix of tart and sweetness pairs beautifully with game flavours.

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This week

Best bag: 434

Best Bag: Bottega Veneta

Every home should have: A piper

I used : 94 local eggs

Butter usage : off the charts

I’m driving : a Range Rover

 

 

Venison Scotch Eggs

Makes 8

800g venison mince

2 slices white bread

10 eggs

splash of milk

200g bread crumbs ( panko are the best) placed in a small bowl

100g cornflour, placed in a small bowl.

1 litre veg oil for frying

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Bring a pan of salted water to the boil.

Gently plop 8 eggs in and cook on a high heat for 7 minutes.

Gently drain and fill the pan with cold water and a few handfuls of ice.

Once the eggs are cool peel them.

In a large bowl season the venison mince with salt and pepper.

Break the bread into bits, crust and all, and splash on some milk and 1 raw egg. Mush about then mix well into the mince ( if you are feeling fancy you can add 2 cloves finely ground clove and 1 tbs of finely chopped parsley but for me home made venison scotch egg is excitement enough).

Take 1/8 of the mince and wrap around 1 of the cooked eggs. It is easier if your hands are wet.

Repeat with the other eggs.

Then break the last egg into a bowl and add a splash of milk and beat. 

Dip each of the meat wrapped eggs into the cornflour, then egg mix then breadcrumbs.

It is less messy if you dip every egg into the cornflour, then every egg into the egg, then finally the breadcrumbs otherwise you end up with breaded fingers.

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Pre heat the oven to 200°C

Heat your oil in a deep pan, When hot ( a small lump of bread when dropped in should go brown and crispy in seconds) fry the eggs individually until golden ( a minute or so) then lay on a flat baking tray nicely spread apart.

Once they have all been fried, bake in the oven for 15 – 20 minutes.

Remove and transfer onto a wire rack to cool a little.

Eat warm or cold as the perfect elevenses snack.

 

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Next Stop …Thanksgiving

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Recipe |Wild Suckling Boar with roasted quince

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Boar to death, literally.

“Where are you off to now”? my mother asks as I fly out the door.
“London then heading East to Gloucester for that pheasant shoot”
“Erm, Philippa dear, Gloucester is West of London and didn’t you say it was Herefordshire?”
“Ah yes, don’t worry, Ive got it all sussed”! then off I dashed…

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The truth is I did have my travel all sussed but my mind was a little pre occupied on what I was going to cook that weekend. My client had just emailed telling me I had two wild boar piglets to play with. I was somewhat excited and partly wondering if they meant dead, or that I would have them running round my feet in the kitchen. You never know…

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I arrived and was delighted to find out they did mean dead. I have cooked suckling pig before, though admittedly it was a quite few years ago when I worked at Moro in London. I remember slowly roasting them in the wood oven with the effect of having meat so tender that you could carve it with a cazuela. The meat is so young that the flavour is still milky and totally delicious.

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Before I arrived West in Herefordshire I managed to spend a good bit of time researching on the Internet tips and techniques on cooking suckling pigs (there was nothing on wild boar piglets having said that) though surprisingly there wasn’t that much. There were quite a few Spanish videos that involved drinking cerveza whilst watching the stuffed piglet on a charcoal pit and an excellent one by the formidable Fanny Cradock (who I could happily watch regardless of what she was actually cooking) jollily rubbing the piglets in oil, roasting them then once cooked decorating them with garlands and poking flowers in their eyes. I didn’t particularly go down either of these routes.

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Wild boar have been absent from the wilds of Britain for a good few hundred years (research tells me anything from 300 – 700 years). It wasn’t until the 1980s that it was officially recognised they were back. This was due to boar farms having a few ‘escapees’ and breeding rather well. The reestablishment of wild boar seems to not without its debate, as does the culling of them. Their numbers were probably dramatically reduced to nothing due to overhunting by humans but recent reintroduction has not been without its controversies.

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Wild boar have started to cause agricultural damage (mostly to fences and crops) and although they prefer to forage the woodland floor for food they have also started to enjoy, particularly when natural food is scarce, foraging in people’s allotments and gardens. They can be rather boisterous toward humans and dogs especially when with their young. There is also a possible risk of passing on diseases to farm animals. As they are wild it is hard to give exact numbers but numbers are certainly increasing. This helped soothe the guilt as I sprinkled the cute creatures with salt and massaged olive oil over their little bodies before popping them in the oven.

This Week,

I’m loving: Fanny Cradock videos.
Every home should have: some woods.
Mince Pie clementine ratio in grams : 3:2
I’m traveling: by train (West).
Butter cooked with : 12 packs
Eggs used : 91

Slow roast suckling wild boar with roasted quince.

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Feeds 8 -12 depending on hunger levels and size of piglet.

Although ours were tiny they yielded a fair bit of meat, there is something spectacular about cooking and serving a whole animal so I would seriously consider adding a piglet to your Christmas feasting table.

2 wild boar piglets (about 2 – 3 kilo each in weight).
20g thyme on the stalk
6 stalks of rosemary
4 heads of garlic cut horizontally in half.
1 small handful of parsley stalks
4 apples cut into quarters
6 banana shallots peeled and roughly chopped
4 tbs olive oil
3 tbs crushed juniper berries
½ bottle red wine
300ml light meat stock (could be game / beef / or chicken).

5 quince
2 tbs honey
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp crushed cardamom seeds.

Pre heat the oven to 200° C

For the quinces
Wash the fluff off the quinces and cut into ¼ ‘s.
Toss with the spices and honey then lay them on a roasting tin with the wine.
Cover with parchment and foil and place in the oven.
Bake for about an hour then once just soft remove the foil and parchment and let them caramelise on the top shelf for a further 15 – 20 mins.

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For the piglets
Make sure the wild boar piglets have their entrails removed and the cavity looks clean – with wild meat I often give it a wipe with a damp clean cloth. Stuff with the apple, shallots, thyme, parsley stalks and rosemary.
Lie them belly down in a roasting tin like an Egyptian jackal with their legs all stretching forward (sadly ours had no head but if yours do and you want to stuff an apple in it at the end place a ball of foil in its mouth whilst cooking then remove and replace with an apple when about to serve).

Sprinkle with salt then rub all over with olive oil then with the juniper berries.
Place in the oven for 30 mins on high then remove. Lower the oven to 160 ° C add the stock and wine , lightly cover with baking parchment and foil and return to the oven for 2 – 3 hours or until the meat is super tender.

Leave the meat to rest for 20 mins then shred from the bone, serve with the warm quinces . This goes really well with lots of lovely roasted veggies and greens or you could do a winter coleslaw, potato wedges and brioche buns.

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(Sunday morning survivors party)

Next postcard from … The West Highlands (yes I am sure in what direction I am heading)

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Recipe | Pheasant au Vin

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 Fun and Game

At this stage in the game season I have noticed it is definitely the keen beans, the obsessed and the hardy that do most of the shooting in Scotland. It is of course still incredibly beautiful up there and yes there should still be a good bag of game to be had BUT it can also be bloody cold.

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So those that really love it and have a certain amount of experience at the climate are still game to don their tweeds and Barbours, be up and out at a reasonable hour and spend all the light the day gives standing in the great outdoors battling wind, rain and the cold in order pursue their love of field sports. I am always impressed (and possibly slightly smug as I get to spend the day in the toasty warm kitchen).

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Food, being an integral part of the weekend, needs to be plentiful, delicious, regular and warming. It was mentioned on the third day however of the long weekend that one of the guests began to feel like a fois gras duck as they pretended to waddle back out into the cold after lunch.

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We had designed the menus so firstly guests could help themselves which seems to be the most popular way these days especially when eating over a couple of days and people’s appetites vary and secondly that they contained lots of interesting vegetable dishes and winter salads to keep a healthy balance.

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It definitely should be noted that due to the tremendous energy needed all round for a shoot weekend, a lot of food is required. Long sociable dinners, early (ish) mornings, 5 to 6 hours out shooting (this in itself is impressive as lifting a gun to your shoulder at regular intervals requires  certain degree of  stamina and fitness) and of course the weather all make it a fun but full on weekend.  From a chef’s perspective, it is of course also rather full on and from a gun dog’s… well the excitement is exhausting!

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This week:

Eggs consumed: 91

Every home should have: T. Goodge China

Butter consumed: 13 blocks

Dogs ‘helping’ cook: 5

Mince pies verses clementines personally consumed: 2:1

I’m listening to: John Tavenor

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Recipe

Cooking with game at this stage in the season can require a little more love and attention. Often the meat is slightly tougher as it has been cajoled into flying about the place and had to start to contend with cooler weather.

For this dish it simply means cooking the breasts and legs separately or adding the breasts to the casserole dish at a later stage this is so they get a shorter amount of cooking time and the legs can slowly cook so everything becomes tender.

Chips of course are irresistible but I have noticed many people prefer not to be deep-frying things in their home due to the smell it can create. Homemade oven chips are a great solution and are very delicious (though if I am being honest, I would not win a chip battle against some duck fat triple fried chips).

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Pheasant au vin with confit garlic oven baked chips.

Serves 4

1 brace of pheasants plucked and cleaned

3 tbs butter

3 tbs olive oil plus

4 banana shallots peeled and chopped in half lengthways

6 bay leaves

1 small bunch of thyme

12 sage leaves

8 slices of streaky smoked bacon (Heston is currently selling a range in Waitrose which is top notch)

2 leeks washed and chopped into 2 cm chunks

1/3 bottle of good red wine (don’t cook with wine you wouldn’t drink)

12 chestnut mushrooms

400ml game stock (can be made out of the pheasant carcasses)

Confit garlic

2 heads of garlic

2 tbs olive oil

Chips

100ml veg oil

600g waxy potatoes

Pre heat the oven to 180 °C.

Peel the garlic cloves and mix with the 2 tbs olive oil. Roast in a baking dish for about 10 – 15 mins or golden and soft. Keep to one side.

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Wash and cut the potatoes into chip shape.

Bring a large pan of salted boiling water to the boil and blanch the chips in 2 batches for a couple of minutes  (you want the water to come back to a boil and bubble for a minute). Drain.

Lay them flat on a tray lined with baking paper and let them steam for a couple of minutes.

Drizzle with the veg oil then roast at the top of the oven for about 1 hour, turning occasionally.

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For the pheasant au vin

Separate the breast and leg meat

In a large frying pan, heat the 1 tbs oil and 1 tbs butter then gently sear the meat till golden.

Season with salt and pepper and remove to 2 casserole dishes (breasts in one and legs in another).

In the same pan, gently sauté the shallots in another 1 tbs of butter and olive oil, when golden, split between the casserole dishes.

Finally in the frying pan, add the last of the butter and olive oil and sauté the leeks, bacon and herbs for about 10 minutes, split between the two casserole dishes.

Deglaze the frying pan with a splash of red wine and add to a casserole dish then split the stock and red wine between the two, and lightly cover with baking paper then foil.

Bake the legs in the oven for about 1 – 1 ½ hours, the meat should be tender and the breasts for about ½ hour, they should be just cooked through.

Bring out of the oven, combine the two casserole dishes and stir through the confit garlic. Check for seasoning then serve hot with a sprinkling of parsley and the chips.

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Next postcard from party central W11 London…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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