Red Wine And Rabbit Stew With Polenta, And Leftovers

I know rabbit might not be for everyone, and many of you will be thinking of this:

And not of this:

But I can assure you that rabbit meat is delicious… a bit like chicken (looks exactly like it…) but gamier. I recently spent a week at my parents’ house in Paris where rabbit meat is as common as chicken’s and was presented with two rabbits to cook for dinner. I had never cooked it and did not have many ingredients so decided to go for something I know how to do well: a wine stew. I mean you can never go wrong with wine and meat… add some butter and it’s heaven!

For this recipe you will need (enough for five people)

Two rabbits cut in smallish pieces (ask your butcher to do it, it’s usually in six pieces)

– Two carrots, minced.

– An onion, chopped.

– 300 grams of mushrooms, roughly chopped (preferably a mix of nutty mushrooms).

– Two bunches of thyme.

– Half a bottle of wine (pour the rest into a glass and drink it to get over the fact you’re eating a cute bunny).

– A lot of butter

Start by adding a knob of butter to a pan and brown the rabbit pieces. Reserve and do the same with the mushrooms in batches so they brown but don’t become mushy. Put them aside with the rabbit and add more butter to the pan. Add the onion and carrots and sweat them for 5-10 minutes. When they become soft, turn up the heat and add the wine and the thyme. You can also add a bay leaf at this point.

Amazingly fresh thyme from my French greengrocer’s

Let the wine reduce to half and then add the rabbit and the mushrooms. Make sure they are covered and add water if needed. Season with salt and pepper and let cook for at least 45 minutes on very low heat, with a lid on. When the meat looks like it’s cooked and almost falling off the bone take the lid off to let it reduce. Right now is the time to prepare the polenta. If you are experienced you can have a go at polenta flour which has too cook for 45 minutes with constant turning and gives you an arm ache and possibly some burns. If you are not an experienced Italian grandma, grab a good quality semi-ready polenta and follow the instructions. When the polenta is almost cooked add some cream or ricotta cheese and some parmesan. Season with salt and pepper and serve the stew over it.

The next day, if you are lucky to have some stew and polenta left, serve them together. If like me all you had is polenta, fry it in a pan with some butter until it’s crispy. For the courgette, slice it really thinly (with a peeler or a mandolin) fry it for 2-3 minutes in some butter and sprinkle it with salt, pepper, good olive oil and goat’s cheese. And there you go: a really easy and healthy second meal after the indulgence of rabbit and wine.

(Sorry for the low quality pictures, I only had my phone)

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Peppe’s courgette and parmigiano soup

I live with a dramatic Sicilian, and predictably, everything he touches turns into kitchen gold. I’ve stopped taking pride in my home cooking, as everything I make pales in comparison to the humble little dishes Peppe throws together. My favourite soup of his so far is very simple: it has courgettes, potato, onion and garlic. The secret is that it is thickened and made savoury with parmigiano, and has tons of aroma thanks to Peppe’s mother’s own olive oil.

I’m somewhat of an olive oil skeptic, as I feel it’s being used and abused all the time where it doesn’t quite belong. You need look no longer than Jamie Oliver for examples of that, and to illustrate my point I’ll just point you to this hilarious, simple montage from his shows. However, if strong olive oil belongs anywhere surely it is in Sicilian cooking. Of course, sourcing home-made Italian olive oil might be near impossible, but as long as you invest in a very good quality bottle, you should be on the right way. And spending a bit on the parmigiano and olive oil is worth it: coming home to this after a long night at the office and a damp walk home in uncomfortable shoes feels like the most wholesome experience ever.

You need:

  • 3 large potatoes
  • 3 courgettes
  • 2 yellow onions
  • 1 garlic clove
  • half a cube of vegetable stock
  • Good quality olive oil
  • Grated parmigiano
  • Water
  • A blender to blitz the soup in the end

Start by slicing the onions, and then fry them with a generous splash of olive oil in a deep-bottomed pan. Add the whole, peeled garlic clove after a few minutes, and fry on medium heat whilst you peel and chop the potatoes, and chop the courgettes (keep the peel on). Add the courgettes and potatoes together with the stock cube, and add just enough water to make sure everything is covered. Boil for about 20 minutes or until all the vegetables have softened considerably, then take off the heat and spoon out a little bit more than a coffee mug’s worth of water (you can save and freeze this as stock to use on some other occasion). Take to the side and blitz with a blender for about a minute, or until you have a smooth, rather thick soup. Add salt and pepper to taste. When done, serve in bowls with a generous sprinkle of parmigiano and a few additional drops of olive oil, as well as some crusty bread.


(Non-Mexican) Quesadillas

I know Quesadillas are technically Mexican, but the whole idea is simply cheese and some other ingredients trapped inside a tortilla to create melted awesomeness. I took this idea really liberally and made quesadillas with goat’s cheese, feta, beetroot and chopped herbs. Yes I am probably as far as I could be from real quesadillas, but it was really good and sometimes you just have to use what’s left in the fridge.

This can hardly be called a recipe but you will need:

  • Goat’s cheese (the crumbly kind)
  • Feta cheese (blue cheese would be amazing too now that I think of it…)
  • Beetroot
  • Chopped herbs (I had chives, parsley and wild rocket).
  • Tortillas (fresh corn ones if you can, it tastes nothing like the Old El Paso/Sainsbury’s/Discovery flour tortillas – sadly I only had that kind this time).

Start by heating up a non-stick frying pan. Throw a tortilla in there (no oil or butter!) and leave it until golden. Turn it around and start adding the cheeses. On top of the cheese add the beetroot and the chopped herbs. Fold the tortilla in two and make sure it is gold on both sides. To serve, I like to cut the quesadillas in triangles and dip them in some kind of salsa/sour cream. Voila, easy, healthy lunch in 10 minutes or less (I am competing with Mr Oliver here!).


Recipe – My New Go-To Meal

These have been three very busy weeks which saw me travelling to three different countries in too little time and left me with no time to think about food or even cook it. When I finally had one whole day at home I craved some easy, simple food. And with this came the discovery that my new flat comes attached with a neighbourhood herb garden…yes that exists in real life!

This amazing herb patch is full of parsley, rocket, coriander and any other herbs you can imagine. It got me longing for really simple and flavourful dishes, full of chopped herbs and butter. I combined all this with the available ingredients in my kitchen: chicken thighs, avocado, baby potatoes and bread. Out of this was born chicken with warm ‘salad’.

All you need for this dish is:

  • Chicken Thighs (also works with other parts of the chicken but I find the thighs tastier)
  • Baby potatoes (or any other good salad potato)
  • Old bread, torn in small pieces (optional)
  • French Mustard
  • Avocado, chopped
  • A handful of chopped herbs (I had fresh rosemary, fresh thyme and parsley)
  • Chopped rocket (the spiciest the better)
  • Butter
  • Salt and Pepper

Begin by parboiling the potatoes in salted water. Then combine half of the chopped herbs with the mustard and marinate the chicken in that mixture for an hour or so (you can also do without the marinade if you are in a hurry, just brush the chicken with the mixture and cook straightaway) and then fry it in butter, just to crisp up the skin. Combine the potatoes, the bread and the chicken in an oven proof dish (I use a dutch oven, its quicker), season it, and mix the ingredients well so all the flavours really combine. Cook in the oven until the chicken falls off the bone and then mix everything with the avocado and the rest of the fresh herbs and the chopped rocket. Taste and season if needed. Voila!


Breakfast Fetishism pt. 3: Kedgeree

Kedgeree is a slightly odd Anglo-Indian dish stemming from the Colonial era, encapsulating smoked haddock, curry powder, rice and milk. I know those taste combinations sound odd, but it is actually really nice: imagine a lemony and fresh biryani with smoked fish. The oddness of the dish, married with the fact that it is a breakfast classic (indeed so much of a classic people don’t make it much anymore), meant that it was predestined to end up as a Breakfast Fetishism item on the blog. I made my first attempt at making it this morning. This was brought on by Mr Meatball’s grandmother’s reminiscing about the dish the other day: born in Shanghai in 1928, she recalls this dish being served on silver plates in houses that had butlers!

The end result was very tasty: savoury and mellow through the smokiness of the fish but refreshing with the spices and the lemons. Admittedly it would perhaps not be the first thing I’d think to eat in the morning, but rice and fish are good ingredients to last you through the day so I may have to reconsider that. You need:

  • 400g smoked haddock (I bought frozen dyed haddock from Waitrose – theirs is sustainable and good quality but much cheaper than the stuff you get in the fresh section)
  • 450 g basmati rice (preferably good quality as rice is central to the dish)
  • 2 green chillies, chopped into rings with their seeds
  • 1 large onion (a sweet Spanish variety would work nicely)
  • 1 large tablespoon mild curry powder
  • 2 crushed cardamom pods
  • A handful of chopped coriander and chives
  • 3 hardboiled eggs
  • 1 lemon, cut into slices
  • 140 g butter (this is important, I did perhaps not use quite enough in my first attempt)
  • Nutmeg (optional, to sprinkle on top in the end)

Start by putting the rice in cold water and let it stand for up to half an hour. There’s a whole school on being able to cook basmati rice properly and I’m still a novice, which explains why I use Mr Meatball’s coffee brewer to rinse the rice (some people have an angel’s patience with my kitchen experiments…). While the rice soaks, poach the defrosted fish gently by putting it in a pan on low heat, and cover it with 50/50 cold milk and water. After ten minutes (or until the fish is done, you want to be careful not to over-cook it), take it off the heat. Preserve the liquid milk/water is was cooking in.

Now, depending on if you want your kedgeree to be dry and fluffy, or wet and buttery you proceed through the next two steps differently. I made mine dry and fluffy, but Delia’s wetter version sounds quite nice and I think I might go along that next time.

For a wet kedgeree, you fry the butter in the pan, add your onions to soften for a few minutes and then add the curry powder, green chili and cardamom pods to fry for a few seconds. Then add your rinsed rice, and pour in 450 ml of the milk/water liquid. Bring to boil, and give a brisk stir before putting on a tight-fitting lid and cooking on low heat for 20 minutes.

If you want a fluffier kedgeree, you fry the onion and spices in the butter separately to the rice, and cook the rice with a tight-fitting lid on according to your harshest basmati-instructions (these are usually on the packet: for me it included not opening the lid of the pan for 25 minutes and then letting it rest on a wet towel, still with the lid on, for five minutes).

Once the rice cooking is done, for both methods, you add the flaked fish (which you remove the skin from whilst the rice is cooking), boiled eggs and lemon juice. Serve with mango chutney and scatter coriander across the top.

(If possible, find some silver in the house, stream Downton Abbey from itv player and pretend your name is Phyllis or Marguerite, and the butler just brought this to your table.)


Comforting potato and leek soup

Since I’ve been struck with the season’s first cold, I’ve perked myself up with soup. When I was living with eight other students in Birmingham, I used to get the biggest pan in our house, loads of leek and some leftover potatoes and try make enough of this soup to last me a week. But since there were eight of us, and because this soup is so moorish, all was usually gone by the end of the day. Preparing a weekly radio show with my friend Ella, we used to get too impatient to heat up the leftovers and just eat it cold and thick in mugs (admittedly, that could have to do with the amount of wine being involved with weekly radio planning, but I’d rather blame the deliciousness of the soup).

You need:

  • 2-4 leeks, depending on size. If possible, get whole ones that aren’t trimmed because the green part of the leeks is perfectly tasty and its more economical using all of them.
  • 2 large potatoes (The leek gives most of the flavour for this soup, and even if the nutmeg helps bringing out the best of the potato flavours, think of it as a thickening agent rather than main component. If in doubt, always add more leek than potato)
  • 2 cubes of veal stock (this can be exchanged for vegetarian to make the soup a veggie dish, or chicken if you’re struggling to find veal. But veal is ace.)
  • 1 tub of creme fraiche (to taste, one half is also enough)
  • Cumin seeds
  • Nutmeg
  • Worcestershire sauce (or Henderson’s Relish, which is what I always used in Brum)
  • Salt
  • Chili flakes
  • Cheese-grilled bread (optional)
  • Butter

Trim your leeks by cutting off any shabby-lookig bits on the tops, slicing them lengthwise and rinsing in cold water. Then slice them thinly all the way up to the dark green bits. Fry in a large, wide bottomed pan in a generous chunk of butter on medium heat whilst you peel and roughly chop your potatoes. Put your kettle on and boil about 1 litre of water. Add the potatoes into the softened leeks, stir an let fry for a minute or so. Then add your boiling water and the crushed stock cubes. Let simmer under a lid for about 20 minutes, until the potatoes has softened entirely and can be crushed easily with a potato masher. An english-style potato masher is best tool for this, as it gives you a rougher texture than a blender.

Once you’ve crushed away for a minute or so, add the creme fraiche and start seasoning (whilst still on a low heat). Add a few chili flakes, a few generous splashes of Worcestershire sauce, a few sprinklings of ground nutmeg and some cumin seeds. Also add some salt if the stock hasn’t done that job for you. Take the soup off to cool a bit whilst you put your bread under the grill (if you sprinkle the cheese with paprika it starts grilling quicker and looks nicer). Enjoy.


Toffee soaked rhubarb and apple crumble

Crumble is in many ways the best dessert ever, for it’s so easy to make and you usually have the necessary stuff for it at home. Most fruits or berries will do, and then you just need butter, flour and sugar in the base recipe (and oats if you fancy a bit of crunch). This is a slightly fancier version, called smulpaj in Swedish, with a toffee sauce in the base and rhubarb mixed in with the apple. It is sweet, sticky and very, very scrumptious. If you’ve planned to spoil someone with dinner this is a good dessert – you can prepare it hours before, and just leave it in the fridge for when you want to bake it. It is of course very unhealthy, but it doesn’t feel too heavy since the apple and rhubarb gives some freshness to it all. Served really hot with ice cream is the best, but this is also nice cold as the toffee gets a bit chewy then.

You need:

  • 2 large sticks of rhubarb
  • 1 large bramley apple
  • 2 decilitres light brown sugar
  • 1 decilitre light sirup
  • 125g sugar, at room temperature
  • 2 decilitres plain flour
  • 1 decilitre oats
  • 2 tsp vanilla sugar

Start by peeling your rhubarb (carefully unpick the thin skin off from bottom and pull it down in slithers) and cut it in smaller bits. Also peel and cut your apple. If you were given an incredibly unnecessary apple peeler for christmas present a few years back, this is the time to get it out.

Set your oven to 220 degrees. Place the fruit in the bottom of an oven-proof dish, and make the crumble through mixing half of the sugar, all the flour, the oats and the butter in a bowl. If the butter is at room temperature you can just tear it off bit by bit into the dough mixture. If it’s still a bit hard then cut into little squares with a knife and rub into the dough mixture until you’ve got a grainy mixture.

Then make the toffee sauce in a pan: melt a small knob of butter, and mix in the sirup together with the rest of the sugar and well as the vanilla sugar. Bring to the boil carefully and then pour it over the apple and rhubarb. Be careful with tasting the toffee – it’s delicious at this stage, but it may also burn your finger terribly (…speaking from experience).

Apple the grainy mixture evenly on top of the toffeed apple and rhubarb, and place in the middle of the oven (at 220 degrees) for about 25 minutes or until the top layer has gone golden and stiffened up a little. Serve hot with vanilla ice cream. Indulge and await sugar rush.