#131 Devonshire Junket

No I’d never heard of one either. A junket is made by mixing milk with rennet and letting it curdle, adding whatever flavour you wish. Essentially, it is Little Miss Muffet’s curds and whey. These sorts of puddings were very popular – and still are in France. The English version being different in that the curds and whey aren’t separated, whereas other nations usually do. This is a very old recipe going way back – the earliest Griggers found was in a book from 1653. In fact the term ‘junket’ comes from the Norman French, jonquet, which was a basket made from rushes (jonques) to drain cheeses, says Jane. The junket has fallen out of favour, but is hanging on as a speciality of Devonshire, south-west England. The trickiest bit of the recipe, is finding somewhere that sells rennet – if there’s any Mancunians reading this, I got mine from Barbakan in Chorlton.

FYI: Rennet is an enzyme that used to be extracted from the stomachs of calves to curdle milk. Although still used, most manufacturers used vegetarian rennet to make their cheeses etc. I think the veggie-friendly rennet is produced using bacteria with the rennet gene inserted.

For 4 to 6:

Warm a pint of Channel Island milk slowly until it reaches 37°C. If you can’t get Channel Island milk, use whole milk – do not be tempted to use skimmed or semi-skimmed, it will not work. Whilst it’s warming, mix a dessert spoon of sugar with 2 tablespoons of brandy in the serving dish that you want to set your junket. When at temperature, pour the milk into the dish and carefully stir in a dessertspoon of rennet (follow the instructions on the bottle in case this is different). Now leave the milk to set at room temperature. I went back and checked it after an hour and it was done – it had essentially become fromage fraise. Now slacken off ¼ pint of clotted cream with a little double cream and pour or spread it over the junket, being careful not to let it split. Lastly sprinkle some nutmeg or cinnamon over the top and you are done.

#131 Devonshire Junket – 5/10. This was ok, but sugar and cream always tastes good. I think the brandy should be replaced with some stewed fruit or vanilla extract, because I loved the texture of it. I think with a little playing around, the junket could have a come-back. I am dreaming up variants as I type…

#130 Boiled Wild Rabbit with Onion Sauce

Tis the end of the game season here in Old Blighty; though any game fans out there needn’t panic as rabbit is available all year round. This is due to the fact that they are evil vermin and should be ‘disappeared’. They were introduced by the Romans and by the Normans as farm animals, the little critters escaped and we were overrun. I am assuming they outcompeted the hares, causing their numbers to drop. So shoot away – even if you don’t want to eat them. You will be doing a service to the country.

FYI: Easter bunnies do not refer to rabbits, but hares, as it is they who display their ‘mad’ March behaviour. Rabbits are similar and much more common and so have been mis-named. If you spot anyone making this minor error, be annoying and pull them up on it and then do your best smug face to infuriate them further

Anyway, I’d never eaten wild rabbit and had had farmed only the once and totally cocked it up, but since I am loving the game thus far in English Food I knew I’d like this one. Only wild rabbit will do here, people, if you can’t get wild rabbit use duck instead. What also interested me was the huge amount of onions required for this recipe – it’s very rare that onions are used as a vegetable. It’s another Eighteenth Century dish. If you got your rabbit whole and intact, you should use the jaw bones and stick them in the rabbit’s eyes and fill its mouth with myrtle or barberries. Whatever they are.

Here goes…

For 4.

Truss your wild rabbit (or duck) with string, place it in a pan, cover with water, add a bouquet garni (I used parsley, bay, thyme, rosemary and some pared orange rind) and some salt and pepper then bring it to the boil and simmer ‘until done’. Having no frame of reference here, meant checking every now and again. Apparently, younger lithe rabbits cook quicker than old gnarly ones, so check every half an hour after the first hour is up. Once simmering, get to work on peeling 2 to 3 pounds of onions. Pop them in whole along with the rabbit after half an hour and take them out after another half an hour. Now chop them up – a boiled onion is a slippery customer, so be careful with them knife. Fry the onions in 4 ounces of butter until golden in colour, add 4 tablespoons of double cream and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.

Remove the cooked rabbit and let it rest for a little while and then cut up into serving pieces – two rear legs, two fore legs and the saddle cut into 3 pieces. Arrange on a serving dish and smother with the sauce. Serve with spinach and potatoes as instructed by Griggers herself (I did mash).

#130 Boiled Wild Rabbit with Onion Sauce – 5/10. Not sure if I liked this. It wasn’t vile, as I finished my meal, but wild rabbit has an unusual flavour that is pungent and slightly unappetising. Butters said it tasted like sewage. Weirdly, he wasn’t far away with that description. In fact reading ahead to other rabbit recipes, Griggers herself says that rabbit needs strong flavours to balance its ‘rank flavour.’ This begs the question: if I don’t like it, should I cook the other recipes? They all ask for wild rabbit, however, it is only this recipe that absolutely requires wild, so maybe I should try farmed next time. Not sure. Slightly disappointed that I dislike something – I pride myself in not being a fussy eater. Anyways, the onion sauce was lovely and rich and creamy – loved that. Perhaps using a duck would have been better all round.

#129 Dartmouth Pie

It was British Pie Week the other week – and I admit I was a bit tardy making a pie in time but better late than never, innit. The trouble was choosing a pie to make, after a quick flick through I went for this Dartmouth Pie (FYI: Dartmouth is in Devon, SW England). There’s two reasons for this; the meat in it is mutton and after the mutton broth and Lancashire hotpot I made I’ve really got into cooking with it. Secondly, the pie itself is interesting. It’s one of the very few survivors of medieval cuisine; they loved their meat mixed with fruit, sugar and spices. Traditionally, minced mutton is used, but you can use venison or chuck steak. The recipe in English Food is an updated version of this dish containing cubed mutton rather than minced – apart from that is not too far from the proper original one as far as I can see.

This pie serves four, but is quite rich so you could get away with five or six:

Trim some cubed shoulder of mutton well so that you end up with a pound of it in weight. Next, make a spice mix using a teaspoon each of black peppercorns and coriander seed, ½ a teaspoon each of ground mace and ground allspice and an inch length of cinnamon stick. Grind all the spices down – I use a coffee grinder for such things, if you don’t have one use a pestle and mortar. Salt the meat and brown it using 2 ounces of beef dripping in a pan that is ovenproof. Add the spices and fry them gently for a couple of minutes. Add 8 ounces of sliced onions and 1 ½ teaspoons of flour and give it good mix around. Add ½ pint of beef stock (Griggers says you can also use veal or venison stock; oh la-dee-dah!). Now the sweet element – stir in 2 ounces each of dried prunes, apricots and raisins; and to counteract the sweetness the juice and rind of a Seville orange (or, alternatively, a sweet orange plus lemon juice). She doesn’t say whether you chop up the rind or just add it to take out later. I chopped it up like you would for marmalade, but it did make the resulting sauce slightly too bitter; this was resolved by the addition of some sugar to taste later. Bring the mixture a simmer, cover and bake in a low oven – 140°C – for 2 hours (or more if you like). Taste and check for seasoning, transfer to a small pie dish and allow to cool; skimming any fat away that may appear.

Make a shortcrust pastry using 8 ounces of flour, 4 ounces of fat (I used half-lard, half-butter), salt and milk to bind. Cover the dish as normal and decorate the pie with the trimmings. Butters and I had fun making apricots, leaves and a wee sheep to go on it. Brush with beaten egg as a glaze and bake for 25-40 minutes at 220°C until the pastry is cooked and golden brown.

Check out the artwork

#129 Dartmouth Pie – 7.5/10. A very good pie indeed. Very sweet and rich but went brilliantly with some relatively bland mash and minty peas. The medieval flavours were not alien – I can see why this one survived (and others where fish is used instead of mutton didn’t). As I’ve mentioned before, the secret is the slow-cooking; the resulting meat was so tender, you hardly had to chew and the fruit had become a dark bitter-sweet mush. Lovely. If I owned a restaurant, I’d have it on the menu!

#128 Woodcock

Here’s something I wasn’t sure I’d ever actually get to cook! The woodcock is Britain’s smallest game bird – it’s very well camouflaged and hides away in scrub and hedgerows, and is quite uncommon. All this adds up to a meat you don’t see everyday. However, I was the Frost the Butcher in Chorlton buying some mutton for a pie, when I saw a huge standing freezer full of game saw the typical stuff – venison, rabbit, pigeon and there – tucked away on the bottom shelf – a brace of woodcock. Obviously I snapped them up, only to find they were 15 quid each! I bought just the one, natch.

Finding the woodcock was exciting, as I am now officially a food geek – however I was feeling a little trepidation; this is definitely the first really extreme thing I’ve made from the cook book. Woodcock is considered a delicacy not just because it’s so hard to get hold of, but also because pretty much the whole thing is eaten. Essentially, the bird is roasted rare, whole and completely intact (except the eyes are removed and it is plucked) and trussed with its own beak. The trail of the bird (i.e. the guts, liver etc) is spread on fried bread and the head is split in two so that you can use the beak of one half to prize out the brain from the other.

Woodcock trussed with its own beak

Here’s what to do if you happen upon this little birdie:

Preheat your oven to 220°C. Start off by trussing the bird with it’s beak by spearing the thighs to keep them closed up together. Season the breasts and cover liberally with butter so it doesn’t dry out. Place on a small roasting tin and cook for 18-20 minutes. Whilst that is happening, fry one slice of white bread per bird gently in butter, placing it under the woodcock(s) for the final 5 minutes of cooking. When the time is up, remove the bread and place on a warmed plate and allow the bird to rest for 5 or 10 minutes in the pan. Next, using a knife and/or spoon scoop out the trail (everything except the gizzard – which is actually hard to get to, so it’s unlikely you’ll accidently scoop it out). Spread the trail on the toast. Cut off the head and cut it in half lengthways so that you can use the beak to remove the brain from the halves. You can serve the bird whole or remove the breasts if you like.

The final dish

#128 Woodcock. How on Earth am I going to score this one!? Eating the innards of a bird wasn’t something I was going to relish – but I did relish the idea of eating something very traditional but very out-of-favour. From that point of view – an excitement rating – 10/10. Flavour-wise, the breast meat was very gamey indeed – the smaller the bird, the stronger the flavour – it was so rich that it would have been more than enough for one person. The thigh meat was horrible though – just tasted of dead animal. Bizarrely, the best bit was the trail on toast. The intestines were very soft and there was nothing chewy, though it took some courage to make the first bite. Turns out it tastes a bit like Marmite. Very nice. The brain didn’t really taste as strong as the trail, but was soft and slightly greasy in texture; it appealed to my sudden manly bloodlust though. So overall, it is a high scorer, but not too high – I don’t want to give it loads of marks because of the novelty, so on flavour alone, I reckon it’s worthy of 6/10.

#127 Banana Chutney

Thus far I have enjoyed making the preserves in English Food and was very much in the mood to make a new one – the Banana Chutney was selected as I had all the ingredients other than the masses of bananas in already, plus it seemed like a no-brainer; no faffing about with pectin and sugar thermometers here!

Begin by slicing up 12 bananas and simmering them in ½ a pint of cider (or white wine) vinegar until the bananas are cooked and mushy. Stir in 8 ounces of sugar and allow to cool. Next stir in 2 medium onions that have been finely sliced, 4 ounces of finely chopped sultanas, an ounce of curry powder (whatever strength you like), ½ teaspoon of cinnamon, a pinch of Cayenne pepper, and salt – and salt well; chutneys should be salty, add up to 3 teaspoons. Cover the bowl or pan with Clingfilm and allow to stand for 12 hours. Taste and check for seasoning again before potting in sterilised jars and store somewhere cool.

#127 Banana Chutney – 5.5/10. Nice and sweet; Griggers says to serve with ham, salt pork and chicken, but I had it in a cheese sandwich and it was very nice, though it was quite dry – I prefer chutneys to have a bit of sauce to them. If I were to make itagain, I would add more vinegar and sugar and would also cook the curry powder out too in a little oil before adding the bananas and vinegar at the start (but what do I know).

Pheasant and Celery Broth

There was no way I was throwing out the carcasses of the roast pheasants, so I did my research and came up with this soup which used up all the celery trimmings and unused potatoes from the game chips too. I also found pigeon carcasses in the freezer, so I added them in. The idea here is that you can use any poultry or game bird carcasses as long as you’ve got enough of them. The point is to use whatever left over vegetables you’ve got, so I’ve not given amounts – I even chucked in the leftover cooked peas and beans that hadn’t been eaten right at the end.

You will need…
Carcasses of 2 pheasant, cut up (or 1 chicken, turkey or several smaller game birds, etc, etc)
4 pints of water
Bouquet garni
5 peppercorns
1 teaspoon salt
Stock vegetables/trimmings – i.e. celery, onion, leek etc. all roughly chopped
1 pint of light beef stock
4 ounces of pearl barley
Sliced/cubed broth vegetables – potatoes, carrots, etc
4 or 5 sticks of celery, sliced or cubed

What to do…
Place the carcasses into a large saucepan or stockpot with the water, the bouquet garni, the peppercorns, salt and the stock vegetables. Bring to the boil, cover tightly and simmer for 2 to 2 ½ hours. Strain the stock and return it to the pan and add the barley, beef stock, celery and the other stock vegetables and simmer for a further hour. Whilst you are waiting, pick any meat from the carcasses and put them in with broth at the end. Check the seasoning. Serve with buttered brown bread.

#126 Kickshaws

As we are being constantly reminded of Global Recessions and Credit Crunches in the news, I thought it’s best to get as thrifty as possible and make some meals out of leftovers. I’ve managed to get two extra things out of the feast I made – one of which is a recipe from English Food, the other one of my own devising.

I made the Kickshaws from the leftover puff pastry trimmings. They are very easy to make – good one to make with kids if you’ve got any and don’t mind getting their filthy little paws in you food.

Roll out your puff pastry trimmings thinly and cut out circles of around 3 inches in diameter. Next, place a scant teaspoon of jelly or jam in the centre and use milk or beaten egg to make little parcels or turnovers; I used bramble jelly, quince jelly and apricot jam. Deep fry at around 160°C for a few minutes until the pastry has puffed up and golden brown. Sprinkle some sugar over them and eat warm. I poured some double cream over them that was also left over from big feast.

FYI: the name “Kickshaws” comes from an Anglicisation of the French quelque chose. I don’t know any French, but Griggers says it means “some odd thing or other”.

#126 Kickshaws – 8/10. Kickshaws go right back to Medieval times, though survived until the Eighteenth Century, though we don’t really make them now. We should definitely bring them back though as they are delicious. They are definitely being made every time there are trimmings to be used up!