Moorish Chicken Soup

moorish chicken soup

I was vaccinated earlier his week and a couple of friends warned me that I might have flu like symptoms, so being prepared, I bought a chicken to make chicken soup. I didn’t expected to blog anything, particularly since I’ve blogged chicken soup before. Several days past, with no symptoms whatsoever, so I got on with making soup regardless. It commenced normally, but while making the stock, el Duende sat on my shoulder and convinced me to change course …it all started with whispers of cumin – the result being a Moorish Chicken Soup, which tasted so good, it had to be posted. For a description on what makes something Moorish, see my post here.

Chicken Stock recipe:

a 3lb chicken
1 large onion (cut into 12 pieces)
6 cloves garlic (squashed and peeled)
1 stick celery (chopped)
1 large carrot (chopped)
cilantro/coriander stalks
a few sprigs rosemary, thyme, sage
2 bay leaves
sea salt and cracked black pepper (to taste)
3 pints water
extra virgin olive oil

Brown a medium chicken in olive oil and once it has taken some colour, add the chopped onion, followed by the other vegetables. Give them a few minutes in the hot oil before pouring on about 3 pints of water, with the herbs and seasoning.

Bring the stock to a simmer and skim off any foam floating on top of the liquid. Cover and cook gently for an hour in a preheated oven at 160ºC.  Turn the chicken over half way through to cook it evenly. When done, remove the chicken and allow it to cool. Pick out the vegetables and herbs (discard them), then sieve the liquid to remove any impurities. When the bird is cool enough, chop the meat into bite sized pieces, after removing all the skin and bones.


Chicken Soup recipe (serves 6):

the meat from a poached 3lb chicken
3 rashers smoked streaky bacon (chopped)
1 large Spanish onion (chopped)
6 cloves garlic (chopped)
1 large carrot (chopped)
1 large stick celery (chopped)
1 large green capsicum pepper (chopped)
1 preserved lemon (chopped)
1 dessertspoon tomato purée
2 large squirts anchovy paste
a pinch of ancho chilli (chopped)
a pinch of chipotle (chopped)
1/2 teaspoon pimentón de la Vera picante
1/2 teaspoon pimetón de la Vera dulce
1/4 bunch coriander (chopped)
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin seeds
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 dessertspoon plain flour
2 bay leaves
3 pints chicken stock
extra virgin olive oil

preserved lemons

While I was cooking the stock, I started to think I should add cumin to the soup. Chilli seemed to go with that and I’d seen Karen’s Mexican Chicken Soup earlier in the week along with a fabulous documentary on Diana Kennedy. I was intending to squeeze the juice of a lemon over the finished dish (just before serving), but once the  turmeric went in, preserved lemon was a must!

Start by frying the chopped onion in olive oil, until it becomes translucent. Add the bacon and cook until it has changed colour. Stir in the carrot, celery and garlic followed by the green pepper (after a few minutes). Sprinkle on the dry herbs, chilli, pimentón and flour. Mix to make a roux. Pour in half a pint of stock to make a paste. Chop the preserved lemon (removing any pips) – this goes into the casserole along with the tomato purée, anchovy paste, coriander and bay leaves.


Add the remaining stock and stir well. Simmer and cover the casserole, then remove to a preheated oven at 160ºC for a couple of hours. Check the soup every 30 minutes or so – above I added  pimentón de la Vera later (but it would normally go in before all the stock – I was making things up as I went along, according to taste). Do adjust the seasoning as you see fit. I left the lid off for the final 30 minutes, so that a skin formed on top.

sopa de pollo

This is a wonderful restorative soup, which will leave you with a pleasant rosy glow. Aside from the obvious Moorish flavours, the citrus taste had a beautiful hint of orange blossom to it. Serve with toasted sourdough bread and butter with a glass of Gall Negre (Black Cockerel) from the Penedès.

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Conejo en Salmorejo

conejo en salmorejo

Conejo en Salmorejo is a rabbit dish that comes from las Islas Canarias (the Canary Islands), a Spanish archipelago, about 62 miles off the coast of Morocco, in the Atlantic Ocean. Norman explorers began the Castilian conquest of the Canaries in 1402, but the Spanish didn’t take full possession until 1496.


Conejo en Salmorejo is one of the most popular dishes in the Canaries, but it has definitely evolved since the Spanish arrived, because they are responsible for introducing rabbits. This is unsurprising, as rabbit has always been a staple of Spanish cuisine. The Romans arriving in Iberia (during the Second Punic Wars, around 218 BC), named the peninsular Hispania (after the Phoenician ispanihad) – land of rabbits.

Interestingly, Conejo en Salmorejo bears not relation whatsoever to Salmorejo Cordobés, a cold tomato soup from Adalucía. I discovered a likely origin for Conejo en Salmorejo via a Wikipedia article in Spanish on Salamis, which it says, is known in Spanish as salmorejo, coming from the French Salmigondis, a ragout of game, which has previously been sautéed or roasted (“a disparate mixture or assembly”). Salmigondis is known in English as Salmagundi, a popular dish with pirates, which also relates to Solomon Gundi from the Caribbean. Larousse Gastronomique describes Salamis as a sauce thick enough to coat pieces of previously roasted and jointed game. This reminds me of the Louisianan technique of smothering – more on that at a later date. I also came across a Salamì of Rabbit from Lombardi (no, not a sausage!) – I suspect Vindaloo may be a relative …and then there’s Jugged Hare.


Conejo en Salmorejo recipe (serves 2):

1 rabbit (jointed) or 4 chicken legs
6 cloves garlic
1 hot red chilli pepper (de seeded)
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds (ground)
1/2 teaspoon pimentón de la Vera picante
1/2 teaspoon pimentón de la Vera dulce
3 bay leaves
a handful fresh coriander cilantro (chopped)
200ml dry white wine (preferably Spanish)
5 dessertspoons red wine vinegar
5 dessertspoons extra virgin olive oil

1 red pepper (capsicum)
extra virgin olive oil to brown the rabbit
sea salt and cracked black pepper (to taste)

Chop the rabbit up into pieces and place it in a non reactive container (glass or plastic).


Brown the rabbit’s liver and kidneys – allow to cool.

pimiento picante

Remove the seeds from a red hot chilli pepper – people in the Canaries like their food spicy!


Put all the marinade ingredients into a liquidiser, including the offal. Traditionally this would have been done with a mortar and pestle. Everything in the above recipe list goes in, except the rabbit pieces, sweet red pepper, salt and pepper. If you don’t fancy the liver and kidneys, leave them out!




Pour the marinade over the rabbit, cover and refrigerate for 24 hours.


Take the rabbit pieces out an hour before cooking, wipe them dry and allow to come to room temperature.


While the rabbit is warming up, blacken the sweet red pepper all over – on top of the hob, under the grill (broiler) or on a barbecue.


When done, put it in a paper bag or sealed container to steam in it’s own juice. Once cool, it will keep in the fridge like this for 24 hours or so, if necessary. The black skin will peel off easily and you can rinse the pepper under the tap to clean it off. You can buy these in jars, but they taste much better when home made. The sweet smokey flavour is delicious!

pimiento pelado

Remove the stalk and the seeds, then cut into pieces.


Turn the pimiento into pulp with a mortar and pestle.


Brown the rabbit in batches. Don’t overcrowd the pan or it will poach instead of brown. Even when frying, the smell of the marinade is exquisite!

trozos de conejo

When all the pieces have taken some colour, return to the pan.

caimanes en el pantano

Pour the marinade over the top. If using a terracotta cazuela, make sure you warm the marinade first – putting cold liquid into a hot terracotta dish will crack it!

pimiento en salmorejo

Mix in the pimiento (smoked red pepper). Cook for 20 minutes on a medium heat – add some water if the salmorejo reduces too much. By this time the rabbit should be tender, but continue to cook on low while the accompanying potatoes boil. In the Canary Islands Conejo en Salmorejo is commonly served with Pappas Arrugadas (wrinkled potatoes) and Mojo Verde.

papas arrugadas

Cook some small new potatoes (with their skins on) in seawater – or use tap water with 2 heaped dessertspoons coarse sea salt. I know this sounds extreme, but it’s replicating the sea. In the Mediterranean it’s common to cook shellfish in seawater and these days you can buy it purified, in casks – Agua de Mar. I’ve bought it myself in Barcelona (you wouldn’t want to use the stuff in the harbour). After 15 minutes (or when tender) pour off the water and allow the potatoes to steam in the hot saucepan. The skin should wrinkle and a little salt should precipitate all over. You can produce a similar wrinkled potato effect in the oven, by cooking on low for a couple of hours in olive oil, sprinkled with sea salt and a couple of sprigs of rosemary. Serve with Mojo Verde or Mojo Picon.

mojo verde

Mojo Verde recipe:

4 handfuls fresh coriander (cilantro)
3 cloves garlic
a large pinch of coarse sea salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
3 dessertspoons extra virgin olive oil (add more if necessary)
3 teaspoons sherry vinegar
2 dessertspoons water

Warm the cumin seeds in a frying pan until you can smell them (don’t let them burn). Grind the cumin and salt with a mortar and pestle. Chop the garlic and add it to the mortar, keep grinding to make a paste. Chop the coriander and mix in to the garlic paste. Drizzle in some of the oil and keep working it with the pestle, drizzling in a little more every minute or so. Pour in the sherry vinegar and taste. Use the water to thin the mojo – not necessarily all of it and again to taste. Sprinkle on a little salt if necessary. This can be done in a food processor if you wish and substitute parsley if you don’t like coriander! Mojo Verde will keep in the fridge for a couple of days. Spoon the Mojo Verde over the Pappas Arrugadas.

rabbit in salmorejo

This is probably the most tender wild rabbit I’ve ever cooked and eaten – no doubt due to the marinade. No salt was added – it tasted prefect as it was (and there was definitely enough in the potatoes). The chilli pepper in Conejo en Salmorejo had my mouth tingling and then the Mojo Verde on the potatoes bit my tongue, by way of the raw garlic. This is a perfect combination of flavour with fire, but not blow your head off like Vindaloo! Serve with a chilled Er Boqueron – a sea water beer.

Other Rabbit posts

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Arroz Caldoso

arroz caldoso

Arroz Caldoso is a meat or seafood broth (bouillon) containing rice. Arroz is the Spanish word for rice and caldo means stock (broth). Arroz caldoso is almost certainly a precursor to paella, which is a relatively modern dish, invented in the 18th Century. The Moors began cultivating rice in Spain, perhaps as far back as the 8th and 9th Centuries and the marshes and lagoon of L’Albufera, (in the south of Valencia) proved to be a perfect place for paddy fields (though rice is cultivated all over Spain). Originally rice dishes would have been cooked in cauldrons or terracotta cazuelas – soupy stews of fish or meat, such as a Caldero Murciano or oven baked meat and rice with beaten eggs on top like Arroz con Costra.


Saffron flavoured fish soups and stews were popular with the Ancient Greeks, who cooked them in a cauldron over an open fire. The Greeks colonised the Mediterranean coast of Spain, 500 years or so, before the Romans arrived. The remains of Greek fish salting factories (along with a modern museum) can be see at Empúries on the Costa Brava, dating back to 575 BC.

white wine broth

To do arroz caldoso justice it needs a decent stock – ideally this should be home made, but good fishmongers and Spanish delicatessens sell bottles of the stuff. I wanted a dozen or so raw mussels for the recipe, but they come by the kilo, so I thought I’d cook some, add them to the dish and make good use of the broth.

Mussels and broth:

1/2 kg raw mussels
1 small onion (chopped)
3 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
4 teaspoons fresh parsley (chopped)
a large glass of dry white wine
a pinch ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil


This is a very quick and easy way of cooking mussels. Rinse the molluscs under a cold tap, just before cooking – remove their beards and scrape off anything on the outside of the shell. Don’t soak them in water beforehand, it kills them! Tap the mussels and discard any that refuse to close.

Using a large saucepan with lid, fry the onion and garlic in olive oil until soft. Sprinkle on the chopped parsley and a little black pepper before pouring on a glass of dry white wine. Bring to a simmer, add the mussels, put the lid on, agitate and turn the heat down. The mussels will steam and open when done (from 2 – 5 minutes).

caldo de mejillones

Save the mussels (not the shells) and broth for later. You will certainly need a bit more fish stock – up to 3 pints in total. I cooked up the bones from 3 sea bass (donated by the fishmonger) – see my recipe for fish stock here. The broth and stock can be mixed when cool.


Arroz Caldoso recipe (serves 4):

2 small to medium squid (cleaned and sliced)
1 medium sea bass filleted (diced)
12 large raw prawns
1/2 kg cooked mussels (shelled)
12 raw mussels in shells
500g Spanish Bomba or Senia rice
1 Spanish onion
6 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
1 red pepper (chopped)
4 tomatoes (grated)
3 pints fish stock
a large glass of dry white wine
1 teaspoon pimentón de la Vera dulce
a pinch of saffron
4 teaspoons fresh parsley (chopped) – save a little for garnish
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and cracked black pepper
lemon wedges (to serve)

There is no set recipe for arroz caldoso – this is the type of Spanish recipe, where one uses the fish that are available – some shellfish (mariscos) and firm fleshed white fish (sea bass, hake, monkfish, etc.) are ideal.

First flash fry the prawns in hot oil until they go pink. Remove them immediately and save for later. Incidentally, the Spanish word for prawn is gamba, which relates to the French jambe (leg), jambon (ham), Spanish jamón (ham), Italian gamba (leg) and English ham. If you look closely at a prawn, you will notice that the tail looks leg shaped!


Sofregir (underfry or poach) the chopped onion until it goes soft and sticky.


Move the onion to the edge of the pan and cook the red pepper (capsicum) in the centre for a few minutes.

calamar y lubina

When the pepper has softened, move it back with the onion and add the squid. After the squid has had a few minutes the chopped sea bass fillets can go in with it.

ajo y perejil

The fish doesn’t need to be cooked for very long, before the parsley and garlic can be stirred in.


Grate 4 tomatoes (cut them in half, shred the wet side and throw away the skin) into the middle.


Sprinkle on 1 teaspoon pimentón de la Vera dulce (sweet).


Mix the dry rice (do not wash it!) into the dish – allow it to soak up some of the juices for a couple of minutes.


Pour on a glass of dry white wine and 2 pints of stock (more can be added as necessary). Unlike paella, this dish can be stirred to stop the rice sticking.


Once the stock and wine has been added cook for about 10 minutes.


Grind up a pinch of saffron and pour on hot water – this goes into the soupy rice, just before the prawns.


Stir in the cooked mussels and arrange the raw ones, along with the cooked prawns on top. The mussels will steam and open in about 5 – 10 minutes.

arroz con mariscos

When you notice the rice swelling, it’s almost ready. Bomba (and other short grain Spanish rice) is extremely thirsty, so add more stock if it starts to look dry. Serve as soon as the rice is al dente and don’t leave it too long as it will continue to suck up all the broth. Sprinkle a little chopped parsley on top. The arroz caldoso gave off a fabulous aroma of smoke and fish reminiscent of smoked haddock – the smokiness comes from the pimentón.


Serve with wedges of lemon, crusty sourdough bread and allioli. A glass or two of El Rubio Infante Albariño will go well with this – in the dish and the glass!

N.B. there’s a very similar dish to Arroz Caldoso, called Arroz Meloso. Arroz Meloso has a thicker broth and I believe meloso comes from the word miel, (mel in Catalan) meaning honey – this is sticky, as opposed to honey flavoured. I have seen a reference which suggests that meloso is related to the smell being like molasses, but since the Spanish for molasses is melaza, I’m not convinced.

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Estofado de Corzo

venison stew

I bought a kilo of wild venison at the farmer’s market on Sunday, to make an Estofado de Corzo – venison stew. While researching recipes beforehand, I was delighted to discover that the indigenous deer in Spain are the same as the UK’s common species – Roe and Red deer (there are other species in both countries). In the UK all deer meat is called venison and even farmed deer live in parks, leading an almost completely wild life.

While people do go out to shoot trophies, deer have no natural predators in the UK and therefore are culled, or they breed like rabbits and eat themselves out of house and home. Male deer (Bucks) are not normally shot in the rutting season because their excitable male hormones make the meat too gamey. Female deer (Does) are culled in the winter so that they’re not accidentally killed when they have offspring to look after in late spring.

Venison is a very lean meat, with far less fat and cholesterol than beef. It also contains more iron, high levels of Omega 3 and no antibiotics. This is the meat our ancestors ate as hunter gatherers, it’s cheaper than organic beef and currently prices are low!


Make a marinade for the venison – mine didn’t smell especially gamey, but a soak with wine and herbs adds flavour and tenderises the meat. My marinade is a little elaborate in comparison to some Spanish recipes, where the meat is just soaked in wine. The venison was pre-cut, but some of the pieces needed adjustment to make them bite sized.


1Kg wild venison (cut into bite sized pieces)
6 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
a few sprigs thyme
6 juniper berries (squashed)
a few black peppercorns
1/2 bottle of Tempranillo (or other Spanish red wine)
a splash of sherry vinegar
a couple of generous slugs Brandy de Jerez (or other brandy)


Put the venison in the marinade for 24 – 48 hours and refrigerate. Keep it covered by the liquid and turn it around occasionally.


Drain the venison but save the marinade liquid – discard the the thyme, peppercorns and juniper.

Estofado de Corzo recipe (serves 4):

1kg marinated wild venison
3 slices smoked streaky bacon (chopped)
1 large Spanish onion (chopped)
6 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
1 stick of celery (chopped)
1 large carrot (chopped)
1 red pepper (chopped)
4 medium tomatoes (grated)
8 closed cap mushrooms (chopped)
a couple of squirts anchovy paste
2 teaspoons rosemary and thyme (ground up with coarse sea salt and black peppercorns)
a handful fresh parsley (chopped) save a little to garnish
a heaped teaspoon pimentón de la Vera (dulce)
2 bay leaves
2 dessertspoon seasoned plain flour
a couple of splashes sherry vinegar (to taste)
the marinade liquid (remove the thyme, peppercorns and juniper)
1/2 pint of pheasant stock (or chicken stock)
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and cracked black pepper (if required)


Pat the venison dry, dust in seasoned plain flour and brown with hot olive oil in batches. If you crowd the pan you’ll loose heat and the meat will poach (instead of browning) in a floury mess. Remove to a plate.


Fry the onion in the same pan as the venison – add more olive oil if necessary. Don’t worry about any flour stuck to the bottom of the casserole, stir and it will eventually become part of and thicken the stew.


When the onions become translucent, add the chopped bacon. I can’t find any Spanish recipes for venison which include bacon, or even jamón, but deer meat is quite lean and will benefit from the fat in the pork.


When the bacon has taken some colour, grate in the tomatoes.


Stir in the carrot, celery, garlic and red pepper. They will start to release moisture and the flour in the casserole will make a natural roux – when this happens, add the mushrooms. If you live outside of town and like foraging, wild mushrooms would be fantastic, but regular mushrooms will do.


When the mushrooms have had a few minutes, return the venison to the pan.


Sprinkle on the rosemary and thyme, followed by two squirts of anchovy paste, a heaped teaspoon of pimentón dulce and 2 bay leaves.


Pour on the marinade, a couple more splashes of sherry vinegar and 1/2 pint of pheasant (or chicken) stock.


Sprinkle on a handful of chopped parsley. Mix well, put the lid on and remove to a preheated oven at 160ºC for 2 – 3 hours, until tender.


Stir occasionally and test the meat with a fork around two hours. When the venison feels like tender steak, it’s ready.

estofado de corzo

Garnish with chopped parsley and serve with mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts and a glass of Monte Corzo Tempranillo.

Every mouthful was special and very tender – there’s a suitable vulgar expression for this in Spanish – “¡De puta madre!

Other venison posts

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marmitako servido

Marmitako is a simple fishman’s stew from país Vasco (the Basque Country) which takes it’s name from the pot it’s cooked in – a marmita, coming from the French marmite (also where the English spread gets it’s name). According to Larousse Gastronomique, a marmite is, “A metal or earthenware covered pot, with or without feet” – unusual, since the Basques were probably the original inhabitants of Western Europe, before the Celts arrived. The Basque language is not similar in any way to Celtic or Latin and it does not seem to be related to any other language, so you’d think that French would have borrowed marmite from Basque and not the other way round – I’m quite certain that covered pots existed before the Romans. The subject is further complicated by the fact that these days, the Basque Country exists across the borders of both France and Spain.

…but I digress – marmitako was originally a fish stew cooked on board Basque fishing boats, in covered metal pots. Over time the marmitako found it’s way into the home and from there to restaurants, probably via Txokos (Basque gastronomic societies).


I went to buy some hake from the fish stall in the market about two months ago and was surprised to see a bonito (meaning, good looking in Spanish) taking pride of place. Bonito is a relative of mackerel and tuna – it’s a fast swimmer and likes to eat other fish. Bonito is quite popular in Spain and tastes very similar to tuna, but in the UK it’s practically unknown. I immediately thought of making marmitako because bonito is the fish associated with it, though tuna is a common substitute. I assumed the fish was by-catch, since it’s not sought after here, so asked the fishmonger if he’d have more in the future – he said that he’d try to get me one the following week.

choricero peppers

Why the hesitation you ask? Well, an important ingredient in marmitako is the dried choricero pepper, so I need to find some in order to make the dish. Choriceros are not easy to come by outside of país Vasco, but one can buy Carne de Pimiento Choricero (choricero flesh) in a jar online. I nearly bought some, for a reasonable price, but balked at paying double the price in postage. So instead, I went to see the Spanish butcher in Camden – he’d never heard of them (being from Andalucia) so I continued to R. Garcia & Sons on Portobello Road. I looked around for a jar of choriceros, without much luck, but when I asked at the counter, the helpful assistant handed me a paper bag and pointed at a wooden box in front of me. They sell dried choriceros for 35p each – amazing, just what I really wanted!

I went back to see the fishmonger the following week and of course he had no bonito. He did, however, say he’d keep his eyes peeled. Two months later, I went to buy some prawns and the fishmonger said, “I’ve got some nice tuna for you today!” I replied, “No, it’s bonito I’m looking for.” He held up a bonito and said, “This is the first one I’ve seen in Billingsgate, since you asked me two months ago!” I immediately bought the bonito and left the prawns for another day!

My bonito weighed just under a kilo and measured 42 cm – they can grow up to 75 cm in length.

making stock

Before proceeding, I consulted my Basque friend Amaia for expert advise.
She said, “I always cook a very simple marmitako recipe, as in the Basque country everything is about simplicity. My mum would say that the key is in the ingredients, so she always buys very good tomatoes, incredible leeks, etc. for the fish stock.”
I know this to be true, because when Amaia’s mum comes to London from Bilbao, she brings all her cooking ingredients with her – even the leeks!

Fish Stock:

Bonito bones, head and skin
1 onion (cut in half)
6 cloves garlic (bruised)
1 carrot (quartered)
1 stick celery (quartered)
2 leek tops
a large tomato (halved)
2 bay leaves
a heaped teaspoon of fennel seeds
a few sprigs thyme
a handful of fresh parsley
a level teaspoon black peppercorns
sea salt (to taste)
a glass of white wine
1 1/2 pints water
2 dessertspoons extra virgin olive oil


First of all, scale and filet the bonito, then cut off the skin. A fishmonger will do this for you if asked. Chop the flesh into bite sized pieces and keep chilled. Remove the gills and stomach contents. Rinse the fish head and bones then combine with the above ingredients to make fish stock.

fish stock

Bring the ingredients to a simmer and skim off any foam on the surface of the liquid. Cook gently for an hour.

caldo de pescado

When the stock has cooled, strain and remove all the depleted vegetables, bones etc.

soaking choriceros

Ideally choricero peppers should be soaked overnight, but a one hour soak in boiling water will suffice. Put a small bowl or plate on top of the peppers to keep them submerged.


Marmitako recipe (serves 4):

1 Bonito 800g – 1Kg (filleted, skinned and cut into chunks)
6 medium potatoes (peeled)
1 large onion (sliced)
6 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
1 green pepper (chopped)
2 tomatoes (grated)
2 pimientos choriceros
1 1/2 pints fish stock
1 glass Txakoli (dry white wine)
1 1/2 heaped teaspoons pimentón de la Vera (dulce)
2 small cayenne peppers
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and cracked black pepper
a teaspoon fresh chopped parsley

Cut the onion in half and then into thin slices. Fry the onion gently with plenty of extra virgin olive oil in a cast iron casserole, until soft.

pimiento verde

Add the chopped green pepper,


followed by two grated tomatoes. Tomato would appear to be optional and it’s omitted in some recipes that I’ve seen. The chopped garlic can go in now too.


Peel and cut the potatoes into chunks – ideally cut and twisted (with a pairing knife) at the same time. This create unevenly shaped potatoes which release more starch to thicken the broth.


Fry everything for a few minutes before sprinkling on 1 1/2 heaped teaspoons pimentón de la Vera (dulce).


Mix the pimentón into the vegetables.


Pour on the fish stock and a glass of Txakoli – any dry white wine that’s not fruity would be a good substitute, along the lines of Muscadet, as opposed to a modern Chardonnay.

choricero con cayena

Bring the liquid to a simmer. Gently open up each choricero pepper and remove the seeds. Place these peppers on top of the stew, along with two small cayenne peppers. Put the lid on the casserole and simmer on the hob, or place in a preheated oven at 160º C for 1 hour.

carne de pimiento choricero

Remove the choricero peppers, scrape out the inner flesh (carne – meat in Spanish) and stir it into the casserole. Discard the skin. Return to the oven for a further 30 minutes uncovered to thicken the sauce.

pescado crudo

Drop the bonito pieces on top of the sauce, season with salt and pepper, then cover and cook for a further 5 minutes.


Rest for a couple of minutes, then stir the bonito into the sauce and sprinkle with parsley. Serve with good sourdough bread and a glass or two of Txakoli.

On egin!

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Keeper’s Pie

keeper’s pie

I came across a recipe for Keeper’s Pie recently – the pie is made with pheasant and venison, in the manner of Cottage or Shepherd’s Pie, with mashed potatoes and cheese on top – something that’s right up my street! I’d never heard of Keeper’s Pie before, but when I looked there are a few variations out there – this is my take on the dish.

venison mince

I went straight to the game stall on Sunday, for the usual brace of pheasants and a pack of venison mince. Farmed venison meat is available throughout the year – the deer are kept in large open spaces and for the most part allowed to do as they please. All game has less fat than farmed meat and considerably more flavour. Venison in particular, is the kind of food hunter gatherers would have eaten millions of years ago.

browned pheasant

I made my own pheasant stock, but chicken stock would make a good alternative. Using a cast iron casserole, brown a pheasant in olive oil, to caramelise the sugars in the meat and skin. When the pheasant is a nice golden colour, remove the olive oil and save for later.

stock vegetables

Pheasant Stock recipe:

1 pheasant
6 pieces garlic (peeled and bruised)
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
sea salt (4 or 5 turns)
2 pints water

Fill the pot with the stock ingredients listed above.


Bring to a simmer, 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. This pheasant was quite big (1.25 Kg), so I used half the meat for the pie and saved the rest for a rainy day.

Keeper’s Pie recipe (serves 4):

350g minced venison
1/2 the meat of the previously poached pheasant chopped into bite sized pieces
1 large onion (chopped)
6 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
1 large carrot (chopped)
1 large stick of celery (chopped)
8 medium mushrooms (chopped)
1 heaped dessertspoon plain four
1 glass red wine
a splash or two red wine vinegar (to taste)
a splash mushroom ketchup
2 large squirts anchovy paste
a dessertspoon tomato purée
1 beef stock cube
1 pint pheasant, game or chicken stock
2 bay leaves
cracked black pepper (to taste)
the olive oil from browning the pheasant
a knob of goose fat


Poach the chopped onion in a knob of goose fat and the leftover olive oil.

venison browning

When the onion looks soft stir in the venison mince and turn the heat up to brown it.


When the meat has taken some colour, stir in the carrot, celery and garlic – add the mushrooms after a few minutes.

pheasant meat

When the mushrooms look shiny, mix in the chopped pheasant.


Follow the bird with anchovy paste, tomato purée and a dessertspoon plain flour. Stir to create a roux.


Pour on the red wine, vinegar and stock to make a rich sauce. Sprinkle on the black pepper and add the bay leaves. Turn the heat up, stir and taste. A little splash of mushroom ketchup and half a beef stock cube will bring out the umami (savoury) in the sauce. Add the rest of the beef cube later (if you feel it’s necessary). You will notice that I only added half my pheasant stock – the pie filling should be reasonably thick, but it’s good to have a little extra stock on hand just in case it gets too dry.


Put a lid on the casserole and remove to a preheated oven at 160º C for 1 1/2 – 2 hours – stir occasionally. I left the lid off for the last 30 minutes to enhance the viscosity.

pie filling

Check the seasoning and allow the pie filling to cool – it will lose heat more quickly if spread out into the cold pie dish.

In the meantime, make some mashed or riced potatoes. I used a potato ricer, which gets rid of all the lumps, but plain mash would be fine.

Riced potatoes:

8 medium red potatoes (peeled and cut in half)
3 knobs of butter
sea salt and cracked black pepper (to taste)
200g grated cheddar
a splash or two of cream or milk

riced potato

Rice or mash the potatoes with butter, salt, pepper, milk (or cream) to taste. Spread the potato out on top of the now cooled pie filling. Get out the ox and plough (fork) to make nice neat furrows in the potato – or create peaks if you prefer.


Grate some cheese of your choosing (mine was mature English cheddar) onto the potato.

keeper’s pie

Bake in a hot oven at 200º C for 30 – 45 minutes, until golden. Allow the pie to rest for 10 minutes before serving with seasonal vegetables, e.g. Brussels sprouts and cauliflower. Drink a robust red wine with the Keeper’s Pie, such as Heredad Mestral crianza a Priorat from Catalunya.

I love the smell of toasty cheese and potatoes – it’s wonderfully earthy and reminds me of cooking jacket potatoes on a bonfire in the cub scouts many moons ago. Combine that cheese and potatoes with game and you have a sensational supper!

Other pheasant posts
Other venison posts

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Ginger Wine

ginger wine

Ginger Wine is a very popular, warming alcoholic drink, first produced in London, by Stone’s of Finsbury in 1740. The drink’s popularity rose during a 19th Century cholera epidemic, people mistakenly thought that ginger offered protection against the disease – it didn’t, but sales increased regardless. In the UK, ginger wine is exceptionally popular in winter, especially when mixed with blended Scottish Whisky to make a Whisky Mac (said to have been invented by Sir Hector MacDonald) – very popular when out shooting or playing golf. I know this sounds like a reckless combination, but when you are standing in a frosty field, waiting for a pheasant, a little nip to keep the cold out makes all the difference! Just like a St. Bernard with brandy in the alps.


I came across a recipe for ginger wine a few years ago and have been meaning to make it for some time. It’s relatively cheap and easy – all that’s really needed is a little patience, while it ferments.

Ginger Wine recipe (1 gallon):

6 inches (250g) fresh ginger root
1 gallon water
1.5kg Demerara sugar (or honey)
a few cloves
juice of 2 lemons
juice of 2 oranges
zest of 1 lemon
zest of 1 orange
500g sultanas (or raisins), squashed
1 sachet of white wine yeast
yeast nutrient

Do sterilise all equipment before commencing! I use Campden tablets for this – 6 to 1 pint of hot water, but other products would work just as well.


Grate the ginger into a saucepan, add the sugar and cloves, plus the water. If you like a fiery ginger taste, double the quantity of ginger.

add water

Heat until almost boiling, stir to dissolve the sugar, put the lid on and leave for 30 minutes. I turned the heat and let it steep.


My large saucepan could only manage 6 pints plus sugar and ginger. That’s OK, it can be topped up to 8 pints when adding to the fruit.


Squash the sultanas with a rolling pin (or similar) and add them to a bucket with the zest, juice and flesh of the lemons and oranges. Only zest 1 lemon and orange or the taste will be too strong in the finished wine. Raisins are traditional, but sultanas will produce a more golden colour.

combined ingredients

Pour on the warm ginger and sugar water. Top up with cold liquid now – it helps in temperature reduction. Top up to 7 1/2 pints – allow an additional 1/2 a pint for the yeast.

Allow to cool to 25ºC before stirring in the yeast and nutrient (you can buy a sachet of white wine yeast and nutrient combined – look online, as most home brew shops have left the high street). Beware, temperatures above 40.6ºC will kill the yeast! Some yeasts need to be activated first – they should be stirred into lukewarm water and allowed to sit for half an hour before adding to the ginger wine. If in doubt activate the yeast.

Throughout, the smell of the fruit and ginger is just like Christmas.


Cover the bucket (I used a large plate), stir daily while the yeast starts fermentation (within a few days). Ideally, use a fermentation bag inside the bucket and tie it at the top (putting the bucket and lid inside a large dustbin bag will suffice). Ginger wine is quite attractive to fruit flies and if they get in, they’ll turn it to vinegar! You will know when the wine is fermenting – there will be bubbles and a fizzing sound.


After 10 – 12 days, strain the ginger wine into a demijohn with airlock and leave for a month or two, until fermentation stops. The airlock will stop bubbling (carbon dioxide is a product of fermentation) and the wine will look clear – there will be sediment in the bottom of the demijohn. Expect fermentation to take 6 to 8 weeks.

Decant the ginger wine to a clean (sterilised) bucket using a siphon – leave the dregs and sediment in the bottom of the demijohn – this way the wine will be clear without filtering. You will find that the yeast will have eaten most of the sugar and the ginger wine will be somewhat tart. This can be rectified by adding more sugar or honey (to taste) – I added 20 level dessertspoons of Demerara sugar. Bottle in green or brown bottles and leave to mature in a dark cupboard – it is drinkable straight away, but the taste improves with age.

whisky mac

Ginger Wine can be drunk neat, with lemonade, brandy, or my favourite, with whisky. I recommend mixing a Whisky Mac with 1 measure of blended Scotch to an inch and a half (4cm) of ginger wine.

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Bones Festes 2020

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Cançó de Nadal:
L’escola és tancada,
hi ha llum al carrer,
la senyora Pepa
saluda el carter.
“Que tingui bon dia,
avui és Nadal,
estigui contenta,
Jesús ha nascut;
per dur-nos la joia,
al món ha vingut”
Bon nadal a tothom!

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Devilled Pheasant

devilled pheasant

Devilled meats became very popular in Victorian England – possibly to disguise poor quality food. The process involves marinating the meat with hot spices before cooking and typically includes cayenne pepper, English mustard and Worcestershire sauce. Devilled kidneys were a very common breakfast, still served today, though they’ve since been elevated to the supper menu.

Devilling can be traced back to the Romans, who served spiced boiled eggs as a starter (recorded in Apicius). The more modern deviled egg, where the boiled yolk is mashed and mixed with spices, before being reunited in the hollow of the white, dates back to an anonymous Andalusian recipe book from 13th Century – pound boiled egg yolks with cilantro, onion juice, and pepper, then beat them with murri (a sauce made of fermented barley or fish), oil and salt. Today we might be more inclined to mash the yolk with mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar, paprika or Tabasco, but the principle remains the same.


Deviled pheasant legs used to be very common at a shooting party lunches and I’ve had them a few times at Christmas barbecue breakfasts, but in order to make large numbers of legs, one needs a lot of birds – you don’t find pheasant legs in the butcher’s shop. So instead, I’ve devilled a whole pheasant for supper. Incidentally, if you do cook devilled legs, make sure you remove the sinews first. This is best done while the pheasant still has feet. Snap the foot at the joint and put it into a purposely designed hook on the wall or door jamb and pull very hard. The sinews and foot will come away together. Otherwise, chicken legs are the next best thing and they don’t have the annoying sinews!

First of all, spatchcock the pheasant (see pictures here for spatchcocking) – press down hard on the bird (breast facing down), to flatten it a bit – you should hear a crack. Cut out the back bone with sturdy scissors. Dislocate the leg and wing joints. Turn it breast up and cut a few slits in the flesh with a sharp knife. If cooking on a barbecue, soak some skewers in cold water for 30 minutes and crisscross them through the bird to keep it flat. When cooking in an oven tray skewers aren’t really necessary.

Devilled Pheasant recipe (serves 2 people):

1 pheasant, backbone removed and flattened as per spatchcocking
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1⁄2 teaspoon curry powder
1⁄2 teaspoon Colman’s mustard powder
1 dessertspoon extra virgin olive oil
2 dessertspoon Lea and Perrins Worcestershire sauce
1 dessertspoon soy sauce
A little pheasant (or chicken) stock (added before going into the oven)


Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl

devil paste

before stirring in the liquids to make a marinade.


Rub the mixture into the peasant, on both sides. Leave for a couple of hours so the devil can take hold. The longer you leave it the more flavour there will be in the bird – obviously it should be in the fridge if left for a long time or overnight. I don’t know what Jesus would say, but the Devil smells like Christmas!

Pour in a little pheasant or chicken stock and cook for 30 minutes in the oven at 200º C – 220º C, until golden brown.

devilled gravy

Allow the bird to rest in loose foil, while you make a gravy with the juices and a little more stock. Mix in a splash of Lea & Perrins and Soy Sauce to taste. For a little more heat add a couple of drops of Tabasco Sauce.

rested pheasant

The devilled pheasant should be beautifully succulent and tender – it will leave a pleasant fiery tingle in your mouth. Serve with basmati rice, aloo gobi or roasted cauliflower and a glass of Diablo tinto from the Maule Valley in Chile.

Other pheasant posts

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Squid with ‘Nduja

squid and ‘nduja with clams

I saw a Balearic recipe for Sobrasada and Cuttlefish some time ago and thought, “Ooh, that would be fantastic with ‘Nuduja!” The butcher had ‘nduja this week, he sells a whole one (about 450g) for about £7.50 – being cured it lasts for a long time in the fridge and a 2cm slice will cheer up most meat and fish dishes, along with making pizza taste spectacular!


‘Nduja is a soft, spreadable salumi from Calabria and looks a lot like sobrasada from the Balearic Islands, however, the taste is completely different. ‘Nuduja  is made with pork, salt, roasted red chilli peppers and spices, tied up in a pig’s intestine, which is then smoked and left to cure. This salumi takes it’s name from Andouille sausage (relative to previous French rulers of Calabria), but the peppers it contains relate to the Aragonese (sponsors of Columbus’ voyage to the New World) rule over two thirds Italy, from 1442 onwards (and later Spain, when the Kingdoms of Aragon and Castile became joined by marriage). ‘Nduja has an umami smokey hot chilli taste that builds up slowly in the mouth – it gets pleasantly fiery without quite blowing your head off.


The fishmonger didn’t have cuttlefish, but he did have some cheap squid. The squid is a cephalopod, from the Greek word κεφαλόποδες, kephalópodes, meaning head-feet. Cephalopods are closely related to the snail (gastropods). Like octopuses, the squid has an elongated head like body with tentacles. They produce a black ink which can be squirted at predators, in order to confuse and escape from them. Cephalopods catch their prey with tentacles and take bites out of it with a two part beak, located in-between the eyes, at the body end of the tentacles. Squid can change colour in order to camouflage themselves and to attract a mate.

Squid with ‘nduja and clams recipe (serves 4):

5 medium sized squid
a handful of clams (optional)
a 2cm slice of ‘nduja
1 large Spanish onion (chopped)
6 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
2 tomatoes (grated)
2 baby courgettes (Sliced)
1 red pepper (chopped)
1 dessertspoon tomato purée
1 large squirt anchovy paste
2 teaspoon parsley (chopped)
1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 bay leaves
a glass dry white wine
1/2 pint fish stock
the juice of half a lemon

caramelised squid

Clean the squid, removing it’s inner organs and the beak – a good fishmonger will do this for you if you don’t fancy the job. Open up the squid tube and dry it with a paper towel. Score it gently with a sharp knife – don’t press to hard or it will fall apart! Caramelise the squid (brown slightly, both sides) on a smoking hot griddle or a barbecue. You may need a fish slice to stop it curling up. Cut the browned squid into chunks and save for later. I kept the tentacles whole.


Gently poach (sofreír) the chopped onion, until it is soft. This will take 20 minutes or so.


When the onion becomes sticky, grate in 2 tomatoes – cut them in half, shred the wet side and discard the skin.


Add the rest of the vegetables.

‘nduja crumbled

Crumble the slice of ‘nduja into the dish. If you can’t get ‘nduja, sobrasada is the next best thing, but the flavour is completely different. Semicured chorizo could also be used.

‘nduja with vegetables

The ‘nduja will melt into the sauce.


Mix in the anchovy paste, tomato purée, wine, fish stock and herbs, followed by the squid. Save a little fresh parsley for dressing, later. Cover the cazuela or casserole and cook on the lowest hob setting for an hour, stirring occasionally.


Make some allioli while the ragu cooks – chill it in the fridge for half an hour or so.

squid and ‘nduja ragu

When the sauce is done, scatter a handful of small clams on top and cover for 5 minutes, or until they open. Squeeze on the juice of half  lemon and a sprinkle of parsley. Serve with pasta and allioli (on the side). Season with salt and pepper, as required. I recommend drinking a glass or two of Camino del Peregrino (an Albariño from Galicia) with the squid and ‘nduja.

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