Conejo al Vino (Rabbit with Wine)

rabbit with wine

This is a simple Spanish rabbit recipe, with the ingredients kept to a minimum – probably what’s local and to hand. The flavour goes a long way to proving the old adage, that less is more!


Rabbit is not an indigenous British species, it’s thought that they were brought here by the Romans or Normans, to farm for meat and fur. Vegetable farmers have to do a considerable amount of shooting and trapping in order to protect their crops (our food). It’s all very well for rabbit lovers and vegetarians to protest, but countries like Australia have biblical plagues of rabbits, which, like locusts, eat everything in their path. I’m not suggesting eliminating rabbits, but we should be eating them instead of factory farmed chicken. Wild rabbits get culled regardless. In New Zealand they are planning to eliminate rabbit completely with a disease. To be fair to New Zealanders, the rabbit is not a native species and it probably outnumbers the 4.5 million human population by at least ten to one. Apparently 7 – 10 rabbits consume the same amount of vegetation as a ewe in a single day (though sheep arrived by boat, with the British, too!). But I digress, so on with the recipe…


Conejo al Vino recipe (serves 2 – 3 people)

1 wild rabbit (jointed)
3 slices smoked streaky bacon (chopped) or a little Spanish jamón serrano
1 large onion (chopped)
a whole head of garlic (finely chopped)
500ml dry white wine
a splash red wine vinegar
rabbit blood (optional)
a few sprigs of thyme
2 bay leaves
2 heaped dessertspoons of plain flour
1 teaspoon of rosemary, sage and thyme (a few sprigs of each), juniper berries, coarse sea salt and black peppercorns ground in a mortar and pestle
sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste
extra virgin olive oil for cooking


Save the blood to thicken the sauce later on (pour a little red wine vinegar into it to stop it coagulating).


Cut the rabbit up into about 6 pieces. Dredge the meat in seasoned flour (I mix in a teaspoon of ground herbs and juniper berries) and brown lightly (in batches, don’t overcrowd the pan) in extra virgin olive oil. When the rabbit has a little colour remove it to a plate. Do include the heart, liver and kidneys for flavour – if they are not your thing, you can remove them before serving.

bacon, onions and garlic

Using the same cast iron casserole and oil, fry the onion with the bacon. When the onion goes translucent, stir in the garlic. After a few minutes, sprinkle on any leftover flour and mix to form a roux.

thyme for wine

Pour in the wine and a splash of red wine vinegar. Return the rabbit to the pot, along with a few sprigs of thyme and 2 bay leaves. Bring the liquid to a simmer and allow it to bubble away for a few minutes to burn off the alcohol, before putting the lid on and removing the casserole to a preheated oven at 150ºC. Cook for about an hour and turn the rabbit about half way through.


After 60 minutes, taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary. Stir in the blood to thicken the sauce.

conejo al vino

Return the casserole to the oven for a final 10 to 15 minutes with the lid off. The rabbit is done when it feels tender to a fork. Serve with mashed potato and seasonal vegetables. I recommend dry white wine as an accompaniment, or better still, cava!

lead pellet

As with all game, mind your teeth – watch out for lead shot and pellets.

Posted in Drink, Food, Game, Meat, Recipes, Spanish | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

Bar Douro

bar douro

I had lunch with Oli yesterday, at a Portuguese restaurant in Southwark called Bar Douro.


Bar Douro is a bit hidden away in a railway arch off Flat Iron Square, but once inside, the traditional Portuguese tiled bar (above) is stunning, which lead me to expect authentic Portuguese food and wine – I was not disappointed.

meio queijo

Oli had arrived slightly ahead of me and had a bottle of Meio Quijo Douro, open and waiting. The restaurant is owned by Max Graham of the Graham’s Port dynasty. This hearty Douro red is from the family estate and very drinkable at £23 per bottle. The bar itself, is named after Douro, the wine region famous for port, so this is exactly the right thing to drink.

combo menu

We ordered from the 3 course Lunch Combo Menu, which costs £11.50 – drinks are extra, but the price is good for London.

pataniscas de bacalhau

I was immediately taken by the Bacalhau (Bacalao) dishes and ordered Pataniscas de Bacalhau (salt cod fritters). These were perfect – a delicious fluffy mixture of salt cod, flour, eggs, onions and parsley, deep fried, with a spicy sauce on the side.

croquetes de alheira

Oli had the beautifully presented Croquetes de Alheira – crispy croquetas containing smokey garlic Alheira sausage (a Portuguese Jewish creation, containing no pork) and served with a little lemon mayonnaise.

bacalhau à brás

I had the second salt cod dish on the menu too, Bacalhau à Brás – shredded salt cod with fried onions and potatoes, bound together with eggs and garnished with sliced olives and chopped parsley. This was quite a big plateful and extremely satisfying.

pig cheeks

Oli ordered Braised Pork cheek with Turnip Top Salsa Verde. The cheeks were melt in the mouth tender and perfect with the sauce.


Being hungry greedy boys, we went off piste in order to try the restaurant’s signature dish – Octopus (polvo) with sweet potato. By this time, we’d had a couple of bottles of wine and it was a quiet day, so we got talking with all the staff. Our chef Joderick came over to chat to us and we were discussing equivalent words and expressions between Spanish and Portuguese – the two languages are both derived from Vulgar Latin and have many words in common, but I digress. Joderick described the process of cooking the octopus – he said he always freezes the polvo beforehand to break down the tissue and make it tender. He went on to say he steams the defrosted octopus for 12 hours before charring briefly and serving. This was definitely one of the best cooked octopuses I’ve ever had – slightly caramelised and smokey from the griddle on the outside and mouthwateringly tender in the middle.

pastel de nata

For pudding, I had Portugal’s well known Pastel de Nata (custard tart) – this was every bit as good as the famous tarts made by Lisboa on Goldbourne Road and comes with cinnamon ice cream on the side. Oli had a waffer thin taste, before going off to choose the port.

churchill’s port flight

We were unable to resist the Churchill’s Port Flight, a taster of 3 family ports – White Port (normally an aperitif), a 10 Year Old Tawny and a Late Bottled Vintage. Churchill’s was founded in 1981 by John Graham, who wanted to create a new family port with it’s own individual style – it is named after his wife, Caroline Churchill.

We enjoyed a fantastic lunch here and will definitely go back. The staff were exceptionally friendly and the food was delicious.

Bar Douro is at: Flat Iron Square, 62-66 Union Street, Arch 35b, London SE1 1TD.

Posted in Drink, Eating Out, Fish, Food, Meat, Restaurants | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 28 Comments

Paloma en Escabeche

pigeon in escabeche

Escabeche is a method of food preservation, using vinegar (and sometimes citrus juice), invented by the Persians  many centuries ago. Both the Greeks and Romans used vinegar as a preservative, so escabeche might have reached Spain before the the Moorish conquest of Iberia but it certainly became popular during their reign. The Spanish added an extra taste dimension to escabeche when they discovered South America and brought pimentón (paprika) back to Europe.

Cooking and immersing food in a vinegar mixture with a pH value of 4 or lower stops food putrefaction, but it’s the time spent in the jar, post cooking, which really brings out the flavours of the ingredients. It’s common to find many foods preserved in escabeche, such as partridge, quail, mackerel, tuna, muscles, and vegetables like aubergine (berenjenas), throughout the Spanish speaking world and beyond. In Argentina they even preserve the vizcacha a raccoon sized rodent in escabeche sauce. Like many old techniques for food conservation, the cooking and pickling process imparts a deliciously distinctive flavour and has therefore survived the invention of refrigeration.

perdiz roja

Most if not all of these foods in escabeche (listed above) can be found canned in delicatessens and supermarkets across Spain (and specialty Spanish shops around the world). You may remember a post I made some time ago on the Perdiz Roca (red-legged partridge) I found at Casa Petit in Barcelona. Bought food in escabeche can be quite spectacular, but cooking at home takes it up a notch – all the way to eleven!


Paloma en Escabeche (pigeon in escabeche) recipe:

1 pigeon (per person)
1 medium onion (thinly sliced)
8 cloves garlic bruised and peeled
1 carrot sliced into batons
1 lemon (unwaxed and thinly sliced)
250ml extra virgin olive oil
125ml dry white wine
125ml red wine vinegar
a heaped teaspoon pimentón de la vera dulce
10 black peppercorns
a pinch of ground chilli
3 bay leaves
2 cloves
4 sprigs of thyme
a teaspoon of sea salt

N.B. Escabeche may contain other ingredients too, such as saffron, olives, whole chillies, oregano, etc. It is thought that the origin of South American ceviche, may have it’s roots in Spanish Conquistadors taking food preserved in escabeche to the New World, along with citrus fruits.

pigeon in oil

This recipe should provide enough liquid for any small game bird and probably enough for several quail. This is quite a simple process, there’s no brining required, just cooking, cooling and a little patience while the escabeche marinates over a few days.


Pour enough of the olive oil into a cast iron casserole to brown the pigeon all over and caramelise the sugars in the skin.


When done, remove the pigeon to a plate.


Pour in the remaining oil and fry the onion and carrot for a few minutes before stirring in the garlic, thyme, peppercorns, chilli, cloves, salt and bay leaves.


Add the white wine and red wine vinegar then bring the casserole up to a simmer.

pigeon simmering

Return the pigeon to the pan

pigeon with lemon

and position the lemon slices around the edge. Put the lid on and place the dish into a pre heated oven at 120ºC for an hour. Turn the pigeon over half way through.

paloma en escabeche

Allow the pigeon and escabeche to cool down before sealing in a glass jar. At this point the sauce will taste nice, but will improve considerably over several days. Do not put all the lemon slices in the jar, as the citrus flavour will become overpowering (I recommend using no more than 2 slices). Make sure the bird is fully covered by the sauce! Keep the escabeche refrigerated for a few days before serving. Serve, either chilled with salad or reheated, this makes for a perfect lunch or starter at supper time. In theory escabeche should last for some time, but do follow basic food preserving recommendations if you intend to keep the escabeche longer than a week. Once the pigeon is eaten, any leftover sauce can be used as a dip for good quality bread or for adding a little kick when cooking fish, pork or other meat.

Posted in Drink, Food, Game, Meat, Recipes, Spanish | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

Wood Pigeon (roasted)


From my living room window, I can see 5 common wood pigeon doing their best to eat all the new shoots on a large elderflower tree. I find it quite ridiculous that 10 town pigeons sit watching them from a neighbouring rooftop. The diet of the wood pigeon consists of plants, fruits, berries, ants, worms, etc., while it’s feral cousin seems to live on leftover fast food and cigarette butts. Such is life. However, all is not complete bliss in wood pigeon world. Since this species of dove devours seed and sprouting vegetables, it’s classified (like it’s cousins and the rabbit) as vermin, so it’s open season on pigeon all year round!

walter pigeon

I went to market on Sunday, with the intention of buying a rabbit – last week the Pheasant Girl had a big pile of them – this week there were none! Looking at my half full glass, I bought a brace of pigeon and put in a request for two rabbits next week.

Pigeon are quite small in comparison to chicken, but they are about the size of a partridge and taste similar, perhaps slightly more gamey, but not as strong as pheasant. If you like either of those birds, you’ll love pigeon and they are available almost everywhere.

Roast Wood Pigeon recipe (1 bird per person):

1 pigeon (plucked and dressed)
2 large knobs of salted butter
a sprig of thyme
4 sage leaves
1 peeled and bruised clove of garlic
sea salt and cracked black pepper


Put a little salt and pepper, along with a knob of butter, the herbs and garlic inside the pigeon. Season the outside of the bird too. Heat an oven proof frying pan on the hob and have the oven ready at a temperature of 180ºC. The other knob of butter goes into the pan until it foams and melts.


Brown the pigeon all over for 12 minutes.


A little direct heat is OK on the breast, but for the most part, spoon the hot butter over the top as opposed to burning it directly, to avoid making the meat dry. When the time has elapsed, remove the bird to the oven for a further 12 minutes.


When done, wrap the pigeon in foil and turn it breast side down for 10 minutes before serving.

roast potatoes

While I was fiddling with the bird, I roasted potatoes in goose fat

bacon, sprouts and garlic

and a few Brussels sprouts, garlic and smoked streaky bacon (with a drizzle of olive oil).


I made a gravy with bacon fat, flour, chopped garlic and pheasant stock (chicken would be a good substitute).

Serve with a glass of brut cava from Castell d’Olerdola.

Posted in Drink, Food, Game, Meat, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

Pheasant with Fennel

pheasant with fennel

Here’s my last pheasant dish of the season, an adaptation of a Clarissa Dickson Wright recipe – here’s her inspirational comment:

In my days as a pheasant farmer, I was interested to see how energetically the pheasants savaged the fennel in my garden. Game birds are, of course, potty about aniseed and this recipe is my revenge.


Pheasant and Fennel recipe (serves  2- 3 people):

1 large pheasant (jointed)
4 slices smoked streaky bacon (chopped)
1 large onion (chopped)
1 large fennel bulb (chopped)
6 pieces of garlic (finely chopped)
3 teaspoons rosemary, sage and thyme (a few sprigs of each), ground in a mortar and pestle with coarse sea salt and black peppercorns
2 dessertspoons plain flour
anchovy paste
1/2 pint pheasant stock
1/4 pint crème fraîche
a glass of dry white wine
a splash of white wine vinegar
a slug of brandy
extra virgin olive oil for frying
Sea salt and cracked black pepper (to taste)


Allow your pheasant to come to room temperature (if it’s been in the fridge) – cut the breasts off the bone and remove the legs and wings, leaving the skin on. Do cut off any additional meat from the rear and save the carcass for stock.


Chop the bacon up and fry it first, with a little extra virgin olive oil, in a cast iron casserole.


Remove the bacon from the pan, season the flour with a teaspoon of ground herbs and dust the pheasant before browning it in the bacon infused oil. Once browned (not cooked) all over, take the pheasant out and cook the onion until it goes translucent. The bacon can go back in, but hold back the equivalent of one rasher, for garnish, at the end.


Remove the fennel branches (save the little green fronds for later), cut off the bottom where the root was attached and any dry outer layers. Chop the fennel into little cubes and add it to the onions with the garlic. You may like a glass of Pastis, to go with the smell of aniseed coming from the fennel (a common ingredient in the drink, along with liquorice and star anise).

vegetables and bacon

Fry for  few minutes until the vegetables have taken some colour and softened a little.

vegetables and flour

Sprinkle on the leftover flour and remaining ground herbs then stir to make a roux.


Pour in the brandy, dry white wine and stock, stirring to make a rich sauce.

alcohol and stock

Let the liquid bubble away for a few minutes to burn off the alcohol. Blend in a generous squirt of anchovy paste and taste the sauce to see if it needs further seasoning – mine wanted a little splash of white wine vinegar, another squirt of anchovy paste and some cracked black pepper.

saucy pheasant

Return the pheasant to the casserole, put the lid on and remove to a pre heated oven at 150ºC, turn the pheasant after 30 minutes. At one hour, remove from the oven and put the pheasant pieces onto a warm plate.

crème fraîche

Mix in 1/4 pint crème fraîche, Van Gogh style before checking the seasoning. When satisfied, submerge the pheasant in the sauce.


To finish off, finely chop the fennel fronds and sprinkle on top, along with the remaining bacon pieces. Serve with dauphin potatoes and fried Brussels sprouts.

I enjoyed a couple of glasses of the remaining dry white wine, Montpierre, Reserve, Sauvignon Blanc, with my supper.

Posted in Drink, Food, Game, Meat, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Pollen Street Social

pollen street social

I had lunch yesterday at the Pollen Street Social with Rabina, Rick and Su. The restaurant is situated in a tiny little road, parallel to Regent Street and just below Hanover Square.

service bar

Pollen Street Social is a Michelin starred restaurant, which opened in 2011. It is run and co-owned by executive chef Jason Atherton. He previously worked with Pierre Koffmann, Marco Pierre White, Ferran Adria and others, before launching his own restaurant Maze in 2001. On the website, it states:

The best produce from across the British Isles brought to London. We follow the seasons and take inspiration from the suppliers who put their heart and soul into producing fantastic ingredients for us.


The restaurant is quite spacious and divided into two halves, as you go through the front door (not pictured) there’s a reception, bar and lounge, which lead through to the dining area (above).


We were attracted by the set 3 course lunch menu, which costs £37, excluding wine. Many of the top restaurants offer this kind of deal, where one gets to sample some of their very best dishes, at an affordable price.


After we’d made our selections from the menu, our waiter brought us a little tray of amuse-bouche – these are single bite sized hors d’oeuvre designed to tempt the palate, while your food is being prepared. On the top shelf there were little tarts containing salmon roe then below left, brioche with cream cheese and right, blackberry and beetroot tarts.

tea time

As if the amuse-bouche were not enough, our waiter arrived with a pot of tea!

mushroom and parmesan tea

This turned out to be a fantastic mushroom and parmesan broth.


I had a little Alice in Wonderland moment next, when I looked up and noticed a mushroom in the alcove behind Rick’s head.

guinea fowl terrine

The starters arrived when we’d finished our last drop of tea. The pressed terrine of Guinea fowl and smoked pork knuckle, port and bacon jam and root vegetables proved popular. The tiny little vegetables (at the top of the picture) gave off a heady scent of truffle.

fried bread

To accompany the terrine, they brought us individual pieces of fried bread wrapped in a napkin to keep them warm.

artichoke starter

Su had an alternative artichoke starter, not mentioned on the menu.

ox cheek

Braised West Country ox cheek, celeriac, parsley and anchovy purée with a bone marrow crumb was the popular main course choice. It was so tender, it literally melted in the mouth.

border pheasant

Su ordered breast of pheasant from the Borders, almond and pistachio crumb, turnip braised in orange with quince and pommegranité. I had a little taste of the pheasant, which was deliciously succulent, from a long slow cooking.

pear with crémant ice

Before pudding, our waiter arrived with tiny slices of pear

crémant ice

and if I remember correctly, an iced crémant, palate cleanser.

forced yorkshire rhubarb

For pudding, I had a stunningly beautiful forced Yorkshire rhubarb tart with crème fraiche mousse and rose petals. The pastry was wafer thin and it tasted every bit as good as it looks.


Rabina had a sorbet – I think I tasted it, but with all the other delicious food sensations, I’ve forgotten which flavour it was.

bakewell tart

Following the desserts came a selection of petit foursBakewell tart, complete with Opinel knife to cut it into four,


tiny little meringues, with a slice of white chocolate on top (on a bed of bitter chocolate crumbs)


and finally little mussel shaped chocolates with a crisp biscuit inside.

petali rosata

We drank a Tuscan Petali Di Rose, Catalici with our starters and mains and I had a glass of French Juançon, La Magendia de Lapeyre with pudding – both complemented the respective courses perfectly. Rabina had a dessert wine like Ice Cider, Leduc-Piedmonte from Quebec in Canada, which aside from apple, had a slight truffley, earthy note. It sounds odd, but the apple and truffle make for good bed fellows.


Throughout the savoury courses we were constantly supplied with warm, fresh baked French and sourdough bread (not pictured). I chose sourdough and was impressed by it’s crunchy, nutty crust. The bread came with fantastic home made butter which tasted slightly cheesy. Speaking of which, there is an £8 supplement for the cheese course – I caught a glimpse the board and it was an excellent selection.

meat fridges

On a trip downstairs I was delighted by the glass walled fridges full of mallard, pheasant, duck and other meats.

I’m sure you can tell by the pictures that we thoroughly enjoyed the food. Service here is impeccable. Our waiters were friendly, attentive and helpful, whilst being completely discreet at the same time. It is not stuffy here. The set menu is worth every penny and more!

The Pollen Street Social is at: 8-10 Pollen Street, London, W1S 1NQ.

Posted in Drink, Eating Out, Food, Game, Meat, Restaurants | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

Pheasant Meatballs


As the pheasant season is coming to a close and a brace of large birds is down to £6 in the market, I decided to experiment. Pheasant and other game can take a lot of spice without their own flavour being lost, so I made some fiery meatballs. No doubt this would be equally delicious with rabbit or chicken.


Pheasant Meatballs recipe (serves 2 or 3 greedy people):

1 large pheasant (about 2 1/2 lb)
1/2 lb pork belly
1 medium onion (finely chopped)
6 pieces of garlic (finely chopped)
2 tablespoons of homemade breadcrumbs
2 teaspoons rosemary, sage and thyme (a few sprigs of each), ground in a mortar and pestle with course sea salt and black peppercorns
1 heaped teaspoon of hot, smoked, pimenton
1 heaped teaspoon of mild, smoked, pimenton
2 pinches of crushed chilli
1 level teaspoon of ground cumin
1 level teaspoon of ground coriander seeds
1 beaten egg
2 dessertspoons of olive oil
Sea salt and cracked black pepper (to taste)

pheasant meat

Skin the pheasant and remove all the meat – save the carcass for stock (freeze it if necessary).

pork belly slices

Game is generally quite lean, so it’s important to add some fatty meat, such as pork belly slices. If the belly comes with skin, cut it off and fry it until it’s crispy – it makes a tasty snack. You definitely don’t want skin in the meatballs.


Warm the cumin and coriander seeds until they start to give off a delicate aroma. Grind them up in a mortar and pestle, while still warm.


Put all the meat through a mincer.


Mix all the ingredients together with your hands.

taste test

Before doing anything else, roll up a little ball of the mixture and fry it to check the taste. I added a couple more pinches of salt and pepper after testing.

golden balls

When you are happy with the taste, roll the mixture into balls with the palms of your hands. I got about 14 meatballs. Put these in the fridge for at least half an hour before cooking – it helps them bind together. In the meantime, make some marinara sauce.

Marinara Sauce recipe:


10 blanched and peeled medium tomatoes (or 2 tins)
1 large onion (chopped)
6 pieces of garlic (finely chopped)
2 or 3 squirts of tomato purée
a pinch of crushed chilli (optional)
a splash of red wine vinegar
half a glass of red wine
1 teaspoon rosemary, sage and thyme (a few sprigs of each), ground in a mortar and pestle with course sea salt and black peppercorns
a few bruised and torn basil leaves
a splash of olive oil for frying
sea salt and cracked black pepper (to taste)

In a large cast iron casserole, fry the onions until they go translucent, then add the garlic and chilli. Chop up the peeled tomatoes (or squash them in the pan with a potato masher) and put them into the pot with all the other ingredients. Cook gently for about 20 minutes.

meatballs cooked

Once the sauce is right (do taste it), preheat the oven to 140ºC. Drop the meatballs gently into the bubbling sauce (don’t move them aeound or they will break up), put the lid on and transfer them to the oven. Using the oven like this will allow for gentle cooking and no sticking (which is likely on the hob). The meatballs will take about 40 – 60 minutes to cook and should be turned over about halfway through.

sunken balls

I had my pheasant meatballs with spaghetti and parmesan, but to be honest the pasta wasn’t necessary – next time I will just serve meatballs and marinara with crusty bread. I recommend a robust Spanish red, like Carta Roja Monastrell to accompany this.

spaghetti and meatballs

I only managed to fit 10 meatballs into the sauce, so I saved the remaining four, for lunch today. They were absolutely fantastic fried and sliced, served inside a sourdough baguette with sriracha sauce.

Posted in Drink, Food, Game, Meat, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments