I came to London armed. Armed with Nigella recipes of things to cook with ingredients that I couldn't get in Australia. I had recipes such a perfect roasted potatoes made with Goose fat and Roasted Goose. What I didn't count on was Goose being out of season until December. So distressed at having a dinner party the next night I flung myself on Waitrose's meat counter (not literally) and picked up two Free range Guinea Fowls, raised for Waitrose in France's Loire Valley.
Looking at them, they looked like a chicken, with black legs. I used one of Waitrose's recipes based on the fact that it was simple and it required not too many ingredients. Lower in fat than chicken, they're tender with slightly drier meat with a gamey taste.
I am always very apprehensive trying to cook new types of food. Especially for dinner parties for people that I haven't cooked for before. There was a time when we were preparing this when I asked my husband to quarter the Guinea Fowls and when he asked "How?" to which I frantically replied "I don't know! Just quarter them!". He did a pretty good job in the end and the recipe is quite ideal for a dinner party as most of the work is in the browning of the pieces and the peeling, coring and slicing the apples. The rest is a cinch and I suggest that you make more of the sauce than specified. It's downright delicious with any sort of meat. And please know that I'm not suggesting that you try and track down a Free range Guinea Fowl, a good chicken will do.
As for the perfect roast potatoes, I've tried these using a butter and oil mix which works but but now that I've tried using Goose fat I have to confess that yes indeed, using Goose Fat does produce superior results. And interestingly, I have read that Goose Fat is, despite what one would assume, the most balanced of all animal fats because it has far less saturated fats than butter and lard and has far more heart healthy monounsaturated (55g compared to 19.8g in butter) and polyunsaturated fats (10.8g compared to 2.6g in butter), which are essential for good health. In comparison to other animal fats, it is possibly one of the reasons that cardio-vascular disease is not as prevalent in the goose rearing and consuming regions of the South West of France as in some other regions of Europe. So Goose Fat it up!
I didn't use anything close to the amount of goose fat that Nigella used though, in fact I used less than a can and even then I thought it was too much. I don't know how I'd go about finding Goose Fat in Australia. It's readily available here, and in fact, apparently around Christmas, it's impossible to get a tin due to Nigella and Delia's raves. Is it crazy to pack tins of it in my luggage?
Normandy Guinea Fowl with potatoes
This lovely, old-fashioned dish isn't as calorie-rich as it tastes. Serve with boiled potatoes, which can be mashed into the delicious, appley gravy, and a green vegetable.
6 Cox, Braeburn or other crisp, juicy eating apples
1 guinea fowl or four skinned chicken thighs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp calvados, brandy or whisky
100ml double cream or full fat crème fraîche (I only used 2 tablespoons of this)
Preheat the oven to 180°C, gas mark 4.
Peel, quarter, core and thickly slice the apples. Melt half the butter in a heavy casserole over a medium heat. Add the apples and cider, cover, and cook briskly for 10 minutes. Remove the lid and boil for 5 minutes to concentrate the juices. The apples should be tender and juicy but not overly wet.
If you're using guinea fowl, skin it and joint into four pieces, trimming away any fat. Melt the remaining butter in a frying pan, season the guinea fowl or chicken and brown briefly. Bury the meat in the apples. Tuck a piece of greaseproof paper over the pan contents to exclude air, and add the lid. Bake for 30 minutes.
Remove the meat from the dish and keep warm. Put the casserole, with the apples, over a medium heat and bring to the boil. Add the alcohol and, a couple of minutes later, the cream. Boil, stirring, to blend and reduce the sauce. Adjust the seasoning. Spoon most of the sauced apples onto a platter and top with the meat. Add the last of the apples, and serve.
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Nigella's perfect roast potatoes
Preparation time less than 30 mins
Cooking time 30 mins to 1 hour
2 tbsp semolina
2 x 320g/11oz jars goose fat (I only used 3/4 of a 340g can and found that plenty)
Step 1 - Preheat the oven to the hottest possible temperature.
Step 2 - Peel the potatoes, and cut each one into three by cutting off each end at a slant so that you are left with a wedge or triangle in the middle.
Step 3 - Place the potatoes into salted cold water in a saucepan, and bring them to a boil. Boil the potatoes for four minutes (I cooked them for 10 minutes). Drain the excess water from the potatoes using a colander and then tip the potatoes back into the empty saucepan.
Step 4 - Sprinkle the semolina over the top of the potatoes. Hold a lid firmly on top of the pan and shake the potatoes around to coat them well and so that their edges disintegrate or fuzz and blur a little: this facilitates the crunch effect later.
Step 5 - Place the goose fat into a large roasting tin and heat in the oven until very hot (I didn't do this as oil splatter at that temperature was too risky. I simply rolled the hot potatoes in the room temp goose fat and then popped it in the oven). Then carefully place the semolina-coated potatoes into the hot fat and roast the potatoes in the oven for 45 mins to an hour or until they are darkly golden and crisp, turning them over halfway through cooking. If the oven is hot enough they probably will not need more than about 25 minutes a side; and it's better to let them sit in the oven (you can always pour off most of the fat and leave them in the tin) until the very last minute.