Rabbit with Anchovies and Capers

submerged rabbit

I found an interesting rabbit, anchovy and caper recipe attributed to Jennifer Paterson which seems to contain elements of contrasting origins. The first part, is somewhat like an uncooked jugged hare marinade and the final part with the anchovies and capers reminds me of a Catalan picada. I can find nothing else like it and therefore assume it unique. I have made a couple of small changes, but nothing much, since everything I’ve cooked previously, by either of the sadly missed, Two Fat Ladies, has been fantastic.

jointed rabbit

Rabbit marinade:

1 wild rabbit (jointed)
1 large onion (chopped)
6 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
1 large carrot (chopped)
1 stick celery (chopped)
1 pint dry white wine
4 dessertspoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 lemon (the juice)
2 bay leaves
leaves from 2 sprigs rosemary, 10 black peppercorns, 6 juniper berries (ground with a mortar and pestle)
a dessertspoon chopped parsley

vegetable marinade

Mix up the vegetables and liquids for the marinade.


Joint the rabbit and submerge it in the liquid for at least 24 hours in the fridge.

browning rabbit

Cooking the rabbit (serves 4):

the rabbit and marinade
a good splash of extra virgin olive oil
a pinch of ground chilli
3 dessertspoons seasoned plain flour
1/4 pint game stock (chicken will suffice)

Wipe the rabbit pieces dry and dust them with plain flour, seasoned with a little sea salt and cracked black pepper. Heat the olive oil in a cast iron casserole and brown the meat with a pinch of ground chilli – remove to a plate when done.


Pour the marinade into the cast iron casserole along with the stock.


Bring the liquid to a simmer.

sunken rabbit

Return the rabbit to the pot, put the lid on and cook in a preheated oven at 170ºC for about an hour. Pierce the rabbit with a sharp knife to check that it is tender. Don’t be tempted to add salt until the end – both the anchovies and capers contain significant amounts of sodium chloride.

casseroled rabbit

When the rabbit is ready, remove about 1/4 pint of the liquid to a small saucepan.

Anchovy and Caper Picada:

1/4 pint rabbit cooking liquid
2 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
a small tin of anchovies (drained and finely chopped)
a jar of non-pareil capers (about 60g, drained and finely chopped)
2 cloves garlic (finely chopped)

anchovies and capers

Strictly speaking, this isn’t a genuine picada, because it doesn’t contain nuts or dry bread, but it functions very much like one, in that it thickens the sauce while adding a huge flavour boost.


Chop up the garlic, anchovies and capers. Warm the rabbit sauce in the saucepan and stir in the solid ingredients. Simmer for about 10 minutes.

rabbit anchovies and capers

Stir the picada back into the rabbit casserole before serving. Check the seasoning, but I doubt you’ll need any salt.

rabbit blood

Optionally, if your rabbit comes with blood (and the thought of it doesn’t make you squeamish), save it (refrigerated) in a bowl with a little red or white wine vinegar – this stops it coagulating. Stir the rabbit blood into the sauce for additional thickening just before serving. It is the traditional thing to do with coq au vin, hare and rabbit dishes.

This is quite possibly the very best rabbit recipe I’ve ever eaten!  Serve with mashed potatoes and a glass of Nauta Catalunya, a white Xarel-lo.

Other Rabbit posts

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Goose Parmentier

goose parmentier

Antoine-Augustin Parmentier (1737 – 1813) was a French pharmacist who championed the potato as food. It’s hard to imagine not eating potatoes, but when the Spanish first introduced them to Europe, the French government prohibited their ingestion, for fear that they caused leprosy! I believe the Spanish and Irish, quite sensibly, got on with eating the tuber, fearlessly.

While Parmetier was serving as an army pharmacist (during the Seven Years’ War), he was captured by the Prussians, who fed their prisoners potatoes. In France, at this time, potatoes were only considered fit for pigs. On his release, Parmentier vigorously campaigned for human consumption of potatoes, in an effort to halt French shortages. In 1772, the potato was declared edible (by the Paris Faculty of Medicine), but nevertheless, it took a year of poor harvests and a famine in the north (1785) to convince the general population.

Potato dishes named in Parmentier’s honour, include: crème Parmentier (leek and potato soup); hachis Parmentier (cottage or shepherd’s pie); brandade de morue parmentier (salt cod mashed with garlic, olive oil and potatoes); purée Parmentier (mashed potatoes); salade Parmentier (potato salad).

goosey gander

At some point over Christmas, I was watching Rick Stein’s Secret France, where he cooks a duck Parmentier – this is an upmarket version of the basic hachis Parmentier, made of minced beef and onions topped with mashed potato (known here as cottage pie). As I watched the duck confit warming in the pan, I thought of leftover goose from Christmas Day and knew it would be perfect for a Goose Parmentier. I left the roasted goose legs to an arctic repose, for a several weeks, but finally my taste buds got the better of me.

shredded goose

Goose Parmentier recipe (serves 4):

2 roast goose legs (shredded and skin removed)
1 large onion (chopped)
6 pieces garlic (finely chopped)
200g button mushrooms (chopped)
a dessertspoon parsley (chopped
3 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
1/4 pint stock
a glass red wine
a splash red wine vinegar
a dessertspoon tomato purée
a large squirt anchovy paste
6 medium désirée potatoes (boiled)
1/4 pint milk
3 knobs butter
a heaped teaspoon goose fat
a splash olive oil
150 – 200g Comté cheese (grated)
sea salt and cracked black pepper (to taste)

goose fat

Heat a heaped teaspoon of goose fat in a cast iron casserole until it dissolves.


Gently fry a chopped onion until is has softened and gone translucent.

garlic and mushrooms

Stir in the garlic and mushrooms,


followed by the shredded goose. Four duck confit legs would make a suitable substitute.


Now’s the time to add the anchovy paste, tomato purée,  parsley, thyme, bay leaf, wine, red wine vinegar, stock (I used pheasant stock, but chicken would be a good alternative) and cracked black pepper. Bring this to a simmer and adjust the seasoning as necessary. Put the lid on the casserole and remove to a preheated oven at 160ºC for 45 minutes.


After 30 minutes have elapsed, give the goose a stir and return to the oven without the lid.

parmentier filling

When the 45 minutes are up, remove the casserole from the oven, grease a baking dish with butter and fill it with the goose mixture. Allow this to cool while you cook the potatoes.

riced potato

Boil the potatoes for about 20 minutes, or until tender. I used a potato ricer to make a really fine mash with no lumps. Blend the riced potato with milk, butter, salt and pepper, before spreading on top of the goose and plowing with the tines of a fork. For an even smoother, potato purée, use an electric stick blender.


Sprinkle the grated Comté cheese evenly over the potato.

goose pie

Bake in a moderately hot oven for 30 – 45 minutes at 200ºC.


Allow the Goose Parmentier to cool for 10 minutes, before serving with seasonal vegetables or a green salad. The mashed potato and cheese goes perfectly with goose, as does a glass or two of Ô d’Yeuses, a robust red from Pays d’Oc.

Duck and goose do contain a lot of fat, but the fat in these birds has a high concentration of oleic acid – this is the main constituent of olive oil. People living in the Camargue, eat lots of duck and use duck fat for cooking – they have one of the highest life expectancies in France!

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Tourin à l’Ail

tourin à l’ail

Tourin à l’ail is a simple garlic soup from the Dordogne in France. The soup is made throughout Aquitaine with some variations known as Tourain Blanchi à l’Ail. There are also people who like to mix onion with the garlic. In Languedoc-Roussillon (on the opposite, Mediterranean coast), tourin is referred to as, Soup des Vendangeurs (grape picker’s soup) – it’s made with olive oil instead of fat and lacks flour. Thickening should take place when the garlic is heated gently in olive oil, similar to the emulsification of garlic and olive oil in ailoli. Tourin à l’ail is commonly served (for strength) to the bride and groom on their wedding night.

Tourin is said to be an ancient dish and in it’s basic form contains no stock, just water. The bread would be stale and without cheese. You can imagine it being cooked in a single pot, over a fire, perhaps in the fields at lunchtime by vegetable pickers. In many ways it’s similar to the Spanish sopa de ajo and Portuguese sopa seca – hot meals that fortified and sustained the workers. In Provence they make a very similar boiled garlic soup called Aigo Bouido (“boiled water” in Provençal) – garlic and potato soups are common in the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia.

garlic cloves

Tourin à l’ail recipe (serves 2):

20 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
1 dessertspoon goose fat
1 dessertspoon plain flour
1 pint stock
1 large free range egg
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
cheese – Cantal or Gruyère (grated)
chives (garnish)

goose fat

Heat a dessertspoon of goose fat (duck or pork fat can also be used) in a suitable saucepan.

chopped garlic

Gently fry the chopped garlic in the not too hot fat.

blonde garlic

I love the French language in some of the tourin recipes, where they say, blondir les pétales d’ail – quite literally, blonde the garlic petals, so fry the garlic gently until it is golden and not brown!


Stir a heaped tablespoonful of plain flour into the blonde garlic to make a roux.


Slowly add a pint of stock to the roux, a little bit at a time and keep stirring. I used pheasant stock (onion, carrot, celery, garlic and herbs, with 2 pheasant carcasses). The most basic recipes for tourin contain water, while the deluxe versions use chicken or vegetable stock. Cook gently for 20 – 30 minutes.

egg white

Take the soup off the heat. Separate the free range egg, and beat the white. Whisk or stir this into the soup to former des filaments – make filaments.

egg yolk

Beat the egg yolk with the white wine vinegar and a few turns of black pepper. Temper the yolk, meaning whisk it, with half a cup of the warm soup to stop it going lumpy. Beat the tempered yolk into the soup and heat gently for 5 minutes to thicken it. Adjust the seasoning if necessary.


Traditionally people add pieces of stale bread to their tourin, but with this deluxe version it deserves croutons. These can be easily made in the oven, using cubes of stale bread, a little olive oil, chopped garlic and ground herbs with salt and pepper. Croutons will keep in an air tight container (refrigerated) for several weeks, or frozen for at least a year.

garlic soup

Cover the croutons with grated Cantal cheese, then float them on top of the soup and sprinkle with chopped chives. You get a fantastic tang from the cheese and hints of onion from the chives. I swear I tasted mushrooms, though there were none at all in the turin – mushrooms are rich in umami, the fifth Japanese taste – it’s what we call savoury.

Serve with a decent glass of claret, such as Château les Martins Cotes de Blaye.

“Towards the end of your soup you can faire chabrol – a fine Dordogne custom, still observed quite unselfconsciously by many a local as he eats his soup. In a posh restaurant I do not dare faire chabrol. But usually, out of the corner of your eye, you can see someone unconsciously bold enough to do so. Instead of completely emptying the soup bowl, the custom is to pour into the dregs of the soup a little red wine. The warmth of the soup releases the flavour of the wine, which in turn enhances the flavour of the bouillon, and the diner raises the bowl to his lips and happily drinks it down. In the days of Jacqou le Croquant the practice was deemed to promote all manner of physical well-being. And a patois rhyme still sings of it’s health giving properties:

Qu’ei lou chabrol que ravicolo
Qu’ei lou pu grand tous medicis.

(‘It’s chabrol which revives your strength/Which is the finest of all medicines.’)”

Quote from “Life and Food in the Dordogne” by James Bentley.

Faire chabrol (or chabrot), refers to the way in which goats lap their water!

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Pheasant Chilli

pheasant chilli

It is said that chilli con carne (chilli with meat) comes from Texas and is most definitely not Mexican, however, if you check the history books, you’ll see that Texas was settled by the Spanish and later became part of an independent Mexico until 1836. That said, el Diccionario de Mejicanismos, describes chilli as “detestable food passing itself off as Mexican, sold in the U.S. from Texas to New York.”

There are many legends regarding the origins of chilli con carne – these are my favourites:

In 1568, Conquistador, Bernal Díaz del Castillo described in his book, Historia verdadera de la conquista de la Nueva España (True History of the Conquest of New Spain), how the Aztecs sacrificed and butcher unlucky Conquistadors and boiled them in a pot with hot chilli peppers, oregano and tomatoes. Chili con-quistadores perhaps, though probably a version of classic mole poblano.

The first written recipe for chilli comes from the 17th Century Lady in Blue, Sister María de Ágreda (who never left Spain). Apparently La Dama Azul would go into a trance for days on end, appearing to native Mexicans as a vision and teaching them about Christ. In 1629, 50 Jumano Indians walked out of the Texan desert asking to be baptised, as instructed by an ethereal blue-clad woman. It is said she also taught them how to cook a fiery red dish of venison, chilli, onions and tomatoes. Spanish priest were not impressed and referred to this chilli as soup of the devil – so of course it caught on!

In 1731, 16 families of Spanish colonists from the Canary Islands arrived in San Antonio  with the promise of becoming hidalgos (nobles) in exchange for their relocation. Spanish King Philip V wished to encourage the colonisation of Texas in order to block French expansion. People from the Canaries are well know in Spain today for their love of spicy food. These 16 families liked to cook a Spanish stew of meat, onion, garlic, cumin and chilli – this resemble today’s chlli con carne.

In the 1860s, Chili Queens set up market stalls in San Antonio’s Military Square,  selling bowls of chilli, cooked in bubbling pots over burning mesquite. Stalls also appeared in Houston and Galveston. Some of these ladies even added beans to their chilli con carne! 1880s pictures here.

Also in the 19th Century, Texan cowboys and adventurers traveled with chili bricks, comprised of dried beef, fat, chilli peppers, salt and pepper, pounded together into a rectangle. These bricks could be conveniently rehydrated with water over the campfire. Trail cooks are said to have planted chilli seeds, onions and garlic in mesquite patches, so as to have fresh ingredients on cattle drives. Lavanderas (washer women)  followed the Texan army, using their tubs by day for washing, then cooking up pots of goat, marjoram and chilli at night. These days, Chili Bricks come frozen and can be found in American supermarkets, made by several manufacturers.

As for the addition of beans, well I like them, but some would say they don’t belong:

If You Know Beans About Chili, You Know That Chili Has No Beans
by Ken Finlay, singer, songwriter, and owner of Cheatham Street Warehouse (a music hall in San Marcos), written in 1976.

You burn some mesquite and when the coals get hot, you bunk up some meat and you throw it on a pot.
While some chile pods and garlic and comino and stuff, then you add a little salt till there’s just enough.
You can throw in some onions to make it smell good.
You can even add tomatoes, if you feel like you should.
But if you know beans about chili, you know that chili has no beans

If you know beans about chili, you know it didn’t come from Mexico.
Chili was God’s gift to Texas (or maybe it came from down below).
And chili doesn’t go with macaroni, and dammed Yankee’s don’t go with chili queens; and if you know beans about chili, you know that chili has no beans.


Any meat can be used in chilli – possum, rattle snake, horse and even crow (including kangaroo down under). So I guess I’m safe with pheasant, though I’m now looking back to the night (in 1994), when I swerved to miss an armadillo, wondering what could have bean been… So in keeping, here’s a Texas Road Kill recipe.

chilli powder

Chilli Powder (recipe):

1 teaspoon ancho chilli
1 teaspoon chipotle
1 teaspoon oregano
a level teaspoon coriander seeds
a level teaspoon cumin seeds
10 black peppercorns
a large pinch coarse sea salt

My recipe does contain beans, but first the chilli powder recipe. Warm the cumin and coriander seeds to bring out their flavour, then chop up ancho and chipotle chillies (they are available whole in UK supermarkets). Ancho is dried poblano chilli (from Puebla) and chipotle is a smoke dried jalapeño. Combine all the ingredients in a mortar and grind them up with a pestle to make a powder. Dried whole chillis can be reconstituted in hot water, however, I’m making a jarful of dry chilli powder for frequent use – the above is about right to make a chilli con carne. The chipotle should give you a pleasant smokey tingle to the mouth when eating the chili.

chopped pheasant

Pheasant Chilli recipe (serves 6):

1 large pheasant – meat removed and chopped into pieces
1 hot chorizo ring (chopped)
3 slices of smoked streaky bacon (chopped)
1 large onion (chopped)
6 pieces garlic (finely chopped)
1 sweet red pepper (chopped)
5 medium tomatoes (grated)
1 courgette (chopped)
7 mushrooms (chopped)
1 jalapeño chilli pepper (chopped)
1 lb cooked red kidney beans
3 squirts anchovy paste
2 dessertspoons tomato purée
3 splashes red wine vinegar
1/2 pint pheasant stock
2 bay leaves
4 teaspoons home made chilli powder (above recipe)
a level teaspoon pimentón de la Vera picante
a level teaspoon pimentón de la Vera dulce
extra virgin olive oil (for frying)
fresh cilantro/coriander (chopped) to serve

Chop up the pheasant beforehand. Do used the carcass for stock. I used dried kidney beans, soaked for 1 hour in boiling water and then cooked for 12 minutes, using fresh water, in a pressure cooker. If using tinned beans, 2 cans should be about right.

onions, bacon and chorizo

Using a large cast iron casserole with lid, fry the onion in olive oil until it goes translucent, then caramelise the bacon and chorizo with it.

pheasant meat

Stir in the pheasant meat with a sprinkle of chilli powder

browned meat

and let it brown.


Mix in all the vegetables,


before grating on the tomatoes – cut them in half, grate the wet side and discard the skin. Squirt in the tomato puré and anchovy paste plus 3 splashes of red wine vinegar


Mix in the cooked kidney beans, with all the herbs, spices and pheasant stock.


Put the lid on the chilli and cook in the oven at 160ºC for 90 minutes. Check the seasoning when done and sprinkle on more chilli, if it has mellowed while cooking.


Scatter the surface of the pheasant chilli with freshly chopped cilantro. Serve with rice, grated cheese and sour cream. Don’t forget the Mexican beer, such as Tecate or Bohemia.

Other pheasant posts

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Tielle à la Sétoise – Octopus Pie

tielle à la sétoise

In the early 1980s I lived in the Performance house (my kitchen was in the conservatory over the front porch – now removed, much to my disappointment) on Powis Square, Notting Hill. My first taste of octopus (around that time), was in Galicia towards the top of Portobello Road and on the corner of Goldborne Road. My American friend Erin, took me there specifically for the polbo á feira, boiled octopus, served on sliced potato and liberally sprinkled with pimentón de la Vera. I didn’t realise at the time, as I sat there with the old Spaniards, smoking cigarettes, playing cards, sipping wine and chewing tentacles, but this was my introduction to Spain.


Octopus has remained a firm favourite of mine, so when I came across a recipe for a French Catalan octopus pie (Tielle à la Sétoise), I thought, “I must cook that!” From the beginning I thought that the tielle looked remarkably like an empanada de pulpo and I was inclined to believe that the tradition of making octopus pie in Sète must have come from Galician settlers to the town. Mais non! The Tielle à la Sétoise comes from Italian migrants. I looked up a lot of recipes, they all contain tomatoes, some contain sweet red peppers and most contain pimentón or cayenne. The pastry in all of them is quite bread like and very close to empanada pastry. My hypothesis was that the Italian migrants to Sète might have been descendants of Catalans who’d originally migrated to Italy, when two thirds of Italy was ruled by the Kingdom of Aragon back in the 14th and 15th Centuries and later Spain. Having spent a year or so pondering on the origins of Tielle à la Sétoise, I’ve conveniently found an explanation, at the same time as I got round to buying octopus. French Wikipedia states, “Although the migrants from Gaeta imported it (Tielle à la Sétoise) in the 19th century, it can be said that it is derived from the empanadas of Spain. Indeed, the Spanish soldiers controlled the region of Gaete between the 16th and 17th centuries.” The explanation has been within my grasp for some time – I made this tiella with mussels back in September, but didn’t notice the connection (I had octopus empanada at the back of my mind and not tiella). The word tielle comes from tiella – a round pie dish and close cousin to the dish a Paella is made in (also called a paella).

octopus starfish

I bought two small octopuses from Steve Hatt, an extremely good fishmonger in Islington. They are fresh Cornish octopus – half the price and size of a large Spanish one, but chopped up in a pie, sucker size doesn’t matter. I’m indebted to Chicago John for the cooking method. Traditionally octopuses were beaten on the rocks and cooked gently for several hours to make them tender. More recently, people have frozen octopus to break down the collagen, in place of pounding, but it still requires long cooking. Cooking the octopus in a pressure cooker, however, will cut the time down considerably to about 15 minutes. Freezing beforehand wouldn’t hurt, but it’s not necessary.

pink octopussy

Cooked Octopus recipe:

2 small octopus (650g before they were cleaned)
1 medium onion
6 pieces garlic (peeled and bruised)
2 sprigs rosemary
2 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
10 black pepper corns
a dessertspoon sea salt
2 dessertspoons olive oil
water to cover

There’s no need to dip the tentacles in boiling water 3 times to make them curl – this happens regardless in a pressure cooker. Put the lid on, bring to high pressure, then turn the heat down and cook for 15 minutes. Let the pressure release naturally. Allow the octopuses to cool before chopping into bite sized pieces. If you don’t have a pressure cooker, cook the octopus gently (with the above ingredients) for a couple of hours until tender.


Empanada Pastry recipe:

2 large eggs
1 teaspoon baking powder (fresh yeast is also common)
125ml olive oil
125ml dry white wine or dry cider (I used Albariño, Galician white wine, but the French Catalans might use Muscat de Frontignan)
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
375g plain flour

In a large bowl, beat 1 egg and the baking powder with a fork. When this is mixed together add the olive oil, wine and salt, before slowly working in the flour to make a dough. Knead the dough with both hands in/over the bowl. Sprinkle on a little more flour if it is too wet (it should be slightly tacky from the olive oil). Let the dough rest at room temperature in the bowl (covered) for one hour. This pastry is easy to make and stays elastic.

Octopus Empanada recipe:

1 large onion (chopped)
1 pimiento (charred, peeled and chopped) if in doubt use a chopped red pepper
4 large tomatoes (grated) or 2/3rds tin of chopped tomatoes
6 pieces of garlic (finely chopped)
20 good quality large pitted black olives (chopped) – I used Kalamata olives
500g cooked octopus
a squirt of anchovy paste
a dessertspoon tomato purrée
a splash of sherry vinegar
cracked black pepper (to taste)
1/2 teaspoon pimentón de la Vera dulce
1/2 teaspoon pimentón de la Vera picante
a dessertspoon chopped parsley
2 bay leaves
a large glug of olive oil

pepper burning

While the octopuses are cooking and the pastry is resting, burn a red pepper until it is black all over – on a barbecue, under the grill (broiler) or on top of a gas hob. This is a very popular method of preparing red peppers (pimientos) in Spain. When completely black, put the pepper in a paper bag, covered glass bowl or cling film and allow it to rest for 10 minutes. The pimiento will steam in the residual heat and the skin can easily be removed with the fingers or the back of a knife, with a little help from the cold tap. The seeds are removed and the flesh has a sweet and smokey flavour. You can also get these in jars from the supermarket.


Start by making a sofregit (sofrito) – fry the onion in olive oil very slowly, so that it becomes soft and sticky without burning.


When the onion has caramelised, grate in 4 tomatoes – cut them in half, grate the wet side and discard the skin. Stir the tomato in, along with the chopped garlic.

pie filling

All the remaining ingredients can go in now.


Cook for another five minutes and allow to cool. It occurred to me here that the filling would make a very good pasta sauce.

pastry base

The vraie (true) tielle sétoise is cooked in a round dish, as are many empanadas, though empanadas can also be rectangular and half moon shaped. Quite a lot of empanadas are cooked on a flat baking tray and the edges are folded up onto the pie lid to seal them.

While the empanada filling cools, divide the pastry in half. Oil a baking dish with a little olive oil. Roll out one half of the pastry to make a base and lay this out on the bottom of a baking dish. Prick the pastry all over and brush on the beaten white of the second egg. Bake the pastry blind in a preheated oven at 200º C for 10 – 15 minutes, until it’s just starting to look biscuity in colour (no baking beans needed).


When the pastry base has cooled, roll out the other half of pastry so it’s ready. Spread the filling out evenly on the base, leaving a 1cm gap all around the edge. I had intended to photograph this, but the filling was reasonably high and gravity was getting in the way. This wasn’t a big cooking problem, but I didn’t want to stand on a chair for 5 minutes, taking pictures and have it all go wrong. Beat the yolk of the second egg, with a few drops of water. Brush egg round the edge of the base, to make it sticky. Lift the pastry lid onto the filling and push it gently all around the edge with your fingers to make it stick. Make a chimney in the centre of the lid, to allow steam to escape. Decorate the pie lid with any scraps of leftover pastry. Brush the top with the egg yolk and water mixture – this will make the pastry brown nicely.

empanada de pulpo

Bake the empanada in a preheated oven at 200º C for for 30 – 45 minutes, until golden brown. Allow to stand for 10 minutes before serving.

octopussy pie

Cut the pie into 6 portions and serve with salad and a glass or two of Barbuntín Albariño.

This has crispy, biscuit like pastry, fantastic tender octopus and tastes of smokey pimentón, sticky caramelised onions, sweet pimientos and an umami kick from the olives. I think I could eat octopus empanadas every day for a week! Incidentally, empanada comes from the Spanish verb empanar, which means to wrap or envelope in bread.

Journey to the center of the Galician empanada (in Spanish).

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Woodcock – Prince of Game

the prince of game

“The wood cock is the first on the list of gastronomical indulgences of the feathered tribe denominated ‘game’ not only from its aroma, but also from the succulence of its flesh, so prized by all who are judges of gastronomical excellence.
The woodcock is The Prince of game.”
From Sport and it’s Pleasures, Physical and Gastronomical by Herbert Byng Hall (1859).

Woodcock is a small wading bird, native to Britain, whose numbers are augmented in the winter by birds arriving from Northern Europe. It’s plumage is very similar to the smaller Snipe and a mottled grey reddish brown, like that of a female duck, which keeps it well camouflaged. The bird has a long tapering bill and short legs – it’s fatter and squatter than a snipe. The woodcock is mostly nocturnal, during the day it keeps to the cover of the undergrowth in woods and heaths, coming out at night to forage for beetles, caterpillars, earthworms, fly lava, spiders and even small snails. It nests on the ground, hidden by leaves, bracken and ferns. Again, like the snipe, the woodcock is notoriously difficult to shoot – it flies in an erratic zig-zag pattern, presumably to avoid birds of prey.

raw woodcock

I haven’t eaten woodcock for a very long time and was delighted to be offered one, by the Pheasant Girl last Sunday – she saved it for me especially! I wasn’t expecting to see one this late in the season and they are rare, being totally wild and very hard to shoot. Having eaten snipe recently, the size difference was quite noticeable. Snipe are small (25 – 27 cm from tail to the tip of the bill), whereas a good sized woodcock (33 – 35 cm) is similar in size to a partridge or pigeon. These birds are best roasted quickly and I thought I’d better serve it with a few special vegetable dishes to fully compliment it. Woodcock is often served with foie gras and truffles! I cooked all the side dishes first and kept them warm in the larger, lower oven, while I cooked the bird in the top oven – time is of the essence when cooking game and a few minutes too long can result in tough meat.

sprouts with bacon

Brussels sprouts with chestnuts and bacon (serves 2):

5 large Brussels sprouts
3 slices smoked streaky bacon (chopped)
4 pieces of garlic (finely chopped)
a handful of chestnuts (peeled)
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste

Boil some Brussels sprouts for 5 minutes, before plunging them into cold water and patting them dry. Cut the sprouts into quarters and fry in olive oil with chopped smoked streaky bacon, a handful of chestnuts, chopped garlic and a sprinkling of salt and black pepper.

champiñones al ajillo

Champiñones al Ajillo (serves 2):

4 large chestnut mushrooms (chopped)
6 pieces of garlic (finely chopped)
a dessertspoon fresh parsley (finely chopped)
a teaspoon sherry vinegar
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste

Champiñones al Ajillo is a very popular Spanish tapa. Fry the chopped mushrooms in olive oil and when they start to release their juice, stir in garlic, parsley and a teaspoon of sherry vinegar (or lemon juice). Add salt and pepper to taste.


Patatas con pimentón (serves 2):

4 small potatoes (peeled and cubed)
1 teaspoon pimentón de la Vera picante
2 teaspoon goose fat
sea salt

Bring the potatoes to boiling before blanching in cold water. Pat dry and cook in smoking hot goose fat, until crispy. Sprinkle with hot smoked pimentón and sea salt while cooking.


Roast Woodcock (16 minutes total cooking time):

1 woodcock (per person)
a teaspoon goose fat
a knob of butter
a slice of fried bread (per bird)
a drizzle of truffle oil
sea salt and cracked black pepper

Fry a slice of bread beforehand. It can be done in the oven while the potatoes are cooking, just drizzle it with olive oil on both sides and keep an eye on it. 30 minutes in a tray on a lower shelf should be about right.

Woodcock, like snipe, defecate when they takeoff and therefore can be eaten whole (they can also be cleaned like other birds if you wish). However, the gizzard and tongue are bitter, so are best removed beforehand. It’s customary for the bill to go through or under the legs.


I adhere to the the rule of which says small game birds should literally fly through the oven. For perfectly cooked, slightly pink succulent meat, I recommend no more than 8 minutes in a hot cast iron frying pan containing a knob of butter and goose fat – spoon the fat over the breast to brown it, plus 8 minutes in the oven at 230º C. Sprinkle on salt an pepper while cooking. Rest the bird in foil, breast down for up to 20 minutes afterwards.



a clove of garlic (finely chopped)
a cup of pheasant stock
a splash of sherry vinegar
a knob of butter

Using the juices left in the frying pan, add the garlic and cook for a few minutes before stirring in the stock and a splash of sherry vinegar. Reduce slightly and finish with a small knob of butter.

Serve with a drizzle of Spanish truffle oil on a slice of fried bread with the above vegetables and a glass of Ramon Roqueta Tempranillo. The woodcock brain is a delicacy, being white, soft and creamy – when you’ve eaten the bird, spread the giblets on the fried bread like paté.

The texture of woodcock is soft like partridge and the taste is similar to mild wood pigeon, delicate and unctuous at the same time. It’s been 20 years since I last tasted woodcock, (January 2nd, 2000 to be precise), I had forgotten just how good this bird really is – I could see myself ordering it as my last meal. Woodcock really is the prince of game!

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Pheasant and Leek Pie

pheasant and leek pie

I got the idea for a pheasant and leek pie via Scottish Cock-a-leekie soup, or cockie leekie (circa 1598), which probably came from a French chicken and onion dish. Old recipes included beef shin and prunes, but I thought a thickened version, minus cows and fruit, with pheasant as a substitute for chicken would taste good under pastry. You will note that I also dispensed with barley, which in my humble opinion is better suited to a broth.

browned pheasant

Using a cast iron casserole, brown a large pheasant in olive oil, to caramelise the sugars in the meat and skin.

Stock recipe:

1 large pheasant
6 pieces garlic (peeled and bruised)
3 leek tops
1 large carrot
1 stick of celery
a bouquet garni of 2 bay leaves and a sprig or two of rosemary, sage and thyme
10 black peppercorns
6 crushed juniper berries
olive oil
ground sea salt
2 pints water


When the pheasant is a nice golden colour, remove the olive oil and save for later. Fill the pot with the stock ingredients listed above – use the tops of the leeks for the stock and save the lower, better parts for the pie filling. Bring to the boil, skim off any scum, put the lid on and remove to a preheated oven at 150º C for 1 hour. Turn the bird half way through.


When done, remove the pheasant and allow to cool. Strain the stock and throw away the depleted vegetables. When the bird has cooled, remove the meat from the skin and bones. Chop the pheasant up into bite sized pieces.

While the stock is cooking in the oven, make some pastry (recipe here) and allow it to chill in the fridge.

Pheasant and Leek Pie recipe (serves 4):

1 large pheasant (poached and chopped into bite sized pieces)
3 slices smoked streaky bacon (chopped)
3 leeks (sliced)
1 stick celery (chopped)
6 pieces garlic (finely chopped)
1 large carrot (chopped)
1 1/2 pints pheasant stock
2 large squirts anchovy paste
1 dessertspoon tomato purée
1 dessertspoon plain flour
2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
2 heaped teaspoons French mustard
2 bay leaves
lots of cracked black pepper (to taste)
Sea salt if required
olive oil


Using the reserved olive oil, fry the chopped bacon until it goes crispy.


Add the leeks, which I sliced quite thin (about 5mm).

softened leeks

Cook the leeks gently for 20 minutes or so, until they become soft and sticky. Attentive stirring is required.


Mix in the carrot, celery and garlic.


After 5 minutes stir in the flour to make a roux.


Pour on about 1 1/2 pints of stock and combine with all the remaining ingredients (except the pheasant) – mix well.

chopped pheasant

Finally add the meat and bring the dish up to a simmer. Put the lid on the casserole and remove to a preheated oven at 150º C for an hour.


The casserole should have thickened up well, do taste and adjust the seasoning at this point.


Allow the pie filling to cool before rolling out the pastry – this will be quicker spread out in the pie dish, but do rub it with butter first. I’m only using a pastry lid for the pie (that’s sufficient carbohydrates for me), but should you feel inclined, make twice as much pastry and make sure the filling is cold before pouring it on the bottom layer of dough. I thoroughly recommend making your own pastry – it tastes incredible in comparison to the palm oil and margarine muck they sell in supermarkets. If you have a food processor, it only takes about 2 minutes to make – it’s very easy!


Take the pastry out of the fridge and roll it out on a clean dry surface. A smooth piece of marble or granite is ideal, but a bread board or work top will work equally well. Sprinkle plain flour onto the board and rolling pin to stop it sticking. When the pastry is roughly the right size (slightly bigger is best), roll it around the rolling pin, lift it onto the pie dish and roll it back out. I’m sure listening to Bob Dylan or the Rolling Stones helps! Trim the dough to fit the dish and pinch all the way round with your fingers to make a nice crimped edge. Poke a couple of holes into the top to allow hot air to escape. Decorate with any leftover pastry. Paint the top with milk and a splash of water or use beaten egg and water – both aid in browning.


Bake the pie in a preheated oven at 200º C for 45 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool for 10 minutes and serve with seasonal vegetables, such as Brussels sprouts.

I recommend a glass or two of Els Nanos Collita with the pie, it’s a robust Catalan vi negre (red wine) made with 70% Ull de Llebre (hare’s eye), more commonly known as Tempranillo in Spanish.

Other pheasant posts

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