The roast with the most
PUBLISHED: 18:04 14 December 2015 | UPDATED: 18:55 14 December 2015
Cooking a full-on Christmas dinner can be a bit of a nightmare. Do you get up at the crack of dawn to put the dratted bird in the oven? Will it even fit in the oven? Will it be overcooked? Undercooked?
Most of us have had some kind of Christmas cooking crisis. I once muddled the conventional oven temperature with the hotter fan temperature and produced something so overdone that we didn’t have to carve the legs – they fell off by themselves. Thank goodness for turkey roasting bags, at least it was still moist. My mother-in-law once forgot to turn the oven on at all, resulting in a very late Christmas dinner and some extremely squiffy guests. So if you want to take time off from the tyranny of turkey you might like to try this recipe instead - guinea fowl pot-roasted for maximum juiciness.
I’m a huge fan of guinea fowl, delicate and deeply flavoursome, closer in taste and texture to a good chicken than to gamebirds like pheasant. The birds I buy from Chris Mobbs in Cratfield (www.pamobbsandsons.co.uk) are much bigger than the ones in supermarkets. Some weigh around three kilos. They will feed up to six people and are competitively priced, at about £15 each, compared to upmarket chickens.
If you want to keep it simple, serve the guinea fowl with its sauce and some roast potatoes and green veg. Bread sauce would be good, but if you want to add some Christmassy colour without spending hours in the kitchen, I’d suggest an easy cranberry and orange sauce. Put 350g of fresh cranberries in a food processor with the juice and thinly-pared rind of one orange. Whizz until it’s finely chopped. Transfer to a bowl and stir in 150g caster sugar. Job done.
Pot-roast Guinea Fowl
(For a large family do)
2 plump guinea fowl, oil and butter, 1 large onion, peeled and roughly chopped, a whole head of garlic, cut in half horizontally, 2-3 good sprigs of rosemary, 6 sprigs of thyme, 2 bay leaves, 200ml dry Marsala (or dry sherry), 200ml chicken or guinea fowl stock (use the giblets), salt and freshly ground pepper
Pre-heat the oven to 160C/320F/Gas Mark 3. Season the birds well with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Heat two tablespoons of olive oil with a good knob of butter in a flameproof casserole with a lid. Brown the birds all over, remove and keep warm. Using the same pan, add the onion, garlic and herbs and cook until the onion is soft and translucent. Pour in the wine and let it bubble for a minute or so. Add the stock, put the birds back in the pan, cover with a lid and cook in the pre-heated oven for around two hours, or until they are thoroughly cooked and the juices run clear if you poke a knife into the thickest part of the leg. Take out of the oven, remove the birds and keep them warm while you skim the fat from the sauce, strain it and let it reduce and intensify on the hob. Check the seasoning. Serve it as it is, or thicken with a little cornflour dissolved in cold water.Carve the birds and serve with the sauce and your chosen accompaniments.