Mediterranean Partridge

keith partridge

While the Red-legged Partridge is native to some Mediterranean countries (particularly France, Spain and Northern Italy), the one above most definitely lived and died in Colchester. I know this because I bought it from the Pheasant Girl on Sunday and all her game is sourced locally (to the family business). So what do I mean by Mediterranean Partridge…

chestnut tree

I was out foraging for sweet chestnuts last week in Hyde Park, which seems to have the best concentration of chestnut trees in London. I have looked elsewhere, but most other trees seem to have quite tiny nuts. It’s not a great year – the nuts are half the size of previous autumns, but I suppose that’s down to an exceptionally and persistently dry summer. Never mind though, the trees did have a plentiful supply and I came away with a decent harvest.

The chestnut tree originally came to Europe from Sardis, in Asia Minor, apparently and they were very popular with Greeks and the Romans. The nut itself is a good source of carbohydrates and can be made into bread, cakes and even beer! They are very popular in France and Italy as marron glacé, candied in sugar syrup and glazed. Chestnuts have less calories than a lot of other nuts, lots of vitamin C and no cholesterol. The downside to this is that they take a bit of peeling.

roasted chestnuts

Having picked some chestnuts, getting to the edible part of the nut is a bit of a challenge. The outer green capsule is exceptionally prickly – thick gloves are a good idea for picking and opening. Once open, roasting or boiling the nuts helps to soften the hard “wooden” shell. Cut a cross into the shell before roasting, since chestnuts are otherwise likely to explode in the oven! 10 – 12 minutes at about 200º C should warm the nuts sufficiently to allow peeling. Peel when the nuts are sill quite hot, the shell hardens as it cools – I got half way through and put them back in the oven for 5 minutes to re soften the remaining shells. Once peeled, chestnuts can be used straight away, or kept in the refrigerator for a few days. They freeze well and can be divided up in small containers for future use.

peeled chestnuts

So having bought a partridge and foraged chestnuts, I thought I’d make a stuffing, using typical Northern Mediterranean ingredients, as opposed to an English chestnut stuffing with sausage meat.

Mediterranean stuffed Partridge recipe:

1 partridge (per person)
3 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
1 medium tomato (chopped)
10 Kalamata olives (chopped)
a 50g slice of feta cheese (chopped)
8 small chestnuts (chopped)
8 large basil leaves (torn)
a sprig of thyme (torn)
sea salt and cracked black pepper
4 or 5 potatoes (cut into quarters)
olive oil

Before you prepare the stuffing, cut up 4 or 5 medium potatoes into quarters and put them in an oven dish with a generous splash of olive oil.  Cook the potatoes in a preheated, moderately hot oven (200º C) for 90 minutes in the middle of the oven, turning occasionally.

basil

Chop up the garlic, tomato, olives, feta, chestnuts, basil and thyme.

farce

Stir the stuffing in a bowl and sprinkle with a little olive oil, salt and pepper.

stuffed

Fill the partridge with the farce or dressing as it’s sometimes called in America.

skewered

Since the stuffing is a bit crumbly, use a skewer to close the cavity (or tie the legs together). My partridge had been cut open to one side (not uncommon on small birds), so it was easier to use a skewer.

breast down

Place the partridge breast down on the potatoes, after they have had 90 minutes of roasting. This keeps the meat moist and stops the breasts drying out.

mediterranean partridge

Cook the bird for 20 – 30 minutes, turning upright for the last 10 – 15, so the skin takes a little colour. Raising the dish higher for the last part helps with the browning. Do not be tempted to cook a partridge for longer, because it will dry out. One of the fantastic things about this bird is the succulence, of the meat when it is cooked correctly. There is no need to cook game until it is well done – less is more! Rest the partridge in foil for 10 minutes before serving.

extra stuffing

As I had some leftover farce, I put it into an oven dish and gave it 10 minutes at the top of the oven while the partridge had it’s nap. The roasted stuffing was so good that next time, I will make a large amount as a specific side dish, instead of cooking additional vegetables.

Wine suggestion: Spanish red, Atalaya Almansa Laya.

A note on partridge cooking time. Partridges are beautifully moist and tender when cooked to perfection, but too much cooking and the breast dries out very quickly. Ideally, unstuffed partridges should be cooked at 200º C for 20 minutes maximum. If your bird is wrapped in bacon, cooked upside down and or stuffed, 30 minutes will be OK. If your partridge misbehaves and refuses to brown, put a cast iron skillet on the hob and heat it until it’s almost smoking. Scorch the breast for no more than 2 minutes and allow to rest in tinfoil for 10 minutes before serving. One can also prescorch partridges for 2 minutes before cooking. If you use a cast iron skillet, the pan can go straight into the oven from browning. A third option would be to use a blow torch (sparingly). It’s quite safe to eat game birds rare.

Other Partridge posts

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Dirty Rice

dirty rice

…following on from my last post, pig’s liver rice, Michelle of Gourmandistan said it reminded her of dirty rice. While I was contemplating supper this morning, dirty rice did spring to mind and when Karen mentioned it again, I went out and bought the ingredients. Sadly this is not an authentic recipe as taught to me by Paul Prudhomme in the French Quarter, but it does perhaps, contain the correct seasoning and vegetables to be a dish from Louisiana.

First of all, a word on the two types of cooking in Louisiana – Creole (from the original French and Spanish colonists in New Orleans), containing tomatoes and Cajun (from the Cajun people of South Louisiana who were originally French colonists of Canada, who’d been expelled by the British), without tomatoes. Both Cajun and Creole styles of cooking use a trinity of celery, onions and sweet peppers for flavour. When garlic is used, it becomes a  holy trinity.

Creole Dirty Rice recipe (serves 4):

1 lb pig’s (or chicken) liver (chopped)
4 slices of smoked streaky bacon (chopped)
1 pork chop, bone and skin removed (cubed)
1 large onion (chopped)
2 sticks of celery (chopped)
6 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
4 large tomatoes (grated)
1 large red pepper (chopped)
8 mushroom (chopped)
2 cups brown Basmati rice (soaked for 1 hour)
2 dessertspoonfuls of tomato purée
a squirt anchovy paste
a pint of warm beef stock
a glass of red wine
a splash red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons of herbs (rosemary, sage and thyme – ground in a mortar and pestle with coarse sea salt and black peppercorns)
3 teaspoons cajun seasoning
a good splash of Lea and Perrins Worcestershire Sauce (for Justin Wilson)
8 torn basil leaves
2 bay leaves
a splash of Tabasco Sauce
2 dessertspoons plain flour
extra virgin olive oil
the juice of half a lemon

Before you start, put on Gris-Gris Gumbo Ya Ya by Dr. John – this will help with the cooking!

I won’t bore you with a complete step by step process – it’s the same as for pig’s liver rice, but you’ll notice some different ingredients above.

creole dirty rice

Soak the brown basmati rice for an hour. Using a cast iron casserole, brown the liver (dusted in seasoned flour) in olive oil and reserve. Fry the onion, followed by the bacon and pork. Stir in in the other vegetables and grated tomato. Return the liver to the casserole, along with all the seasoning, vinegar, wine, etc. and half the stock. Allow this to come to a simmer and taste – adjust the seasoning as required. Drain, rinse and mix in the rice. Cover the casserole with a lid and remove to a preheated oven at 150ºC for one hour. After 30 minutes check the dish and stir in the rest of the stock. At one hour the dirty rice should be done. Check that the rice is tender and allow it to rest for 10 minutes with the lid on. Squeeze on the juice of half a lemon, a sprinkle of chopped parsley and serve with home made allioli.

Drink a Dixie beer or even a Sazerac and get out the box set of Tremé.

Jock-a-mo fee na-né.

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Pig’s Liver Rice

pig’s liver and rice

Back in the early 80s I used to make a pig’s liver rice to stuff red or green peppers, which were baked in the oven. When a friend gave me 10 kilos of brown rice, the cooking time became so long, I turned the rice dish into a main meal and the peppers went inside it instead of being the container. I was in the butchers this week and notice pig’s liver on sale and nostalgia had me cooking something I hadn’t made for at least a decade.

pig’s liver

Pig’s liver is the poor cousin to goose, duck, calf, lamb or chicken livers, but cooked properly, it’s full of flavour and incredibly cheap – personally, I prefer it to lamb’s liver, which I find too crumbly. Pork liver is one of the main ingredient in most rustic pâtés and is full of iron and vitamins. It makes a perfect simple pâté when fried with bacon and blended with caramelised, onion, garlic, herbs and clarified butter.

Pig’s Liver Rice recipe (serves 4):

1 lb pig’s liver (chopped)
4 slices of smoked streaky bacon (chopped)
1 large onion (chopped)
6 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
4 large tomatoes (grated)
1 medium courgette (chopped)
1 red or green pepper (chopped)
8 mushroom (chopped)
2 cups brown Basmati rice (soaked for 1 hour)
2 dessertspoonfuls of tomato purée
a squirt anchovy paste
1 pint of warm beef stock
a large glass of red wine
a splash red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons of herbs (rosemary, sage and thyme – ground in a mortar and pestle with coarse sea salt and black peppercorns)
8 torn basil leaves
2 bay leaves
2 dessertspoons plain flour
extra virgin olive oil

liver browning

If using brown Basmati rice, do soak it for an hour before cooking!

Trim the liver of any sinews, ventricles, etc, and chop into bite sized pieces. Mix the ground herbs with the flour in a bowl and dust the liver before browning in olive oil. Using a cast iron casserole, fry in batches, don’t overcrowd the pan or you will be cooking in a flour porridge. You only want to brown the outside – there’s no need to cook the liver to death, it will get tough if you do so. Remove the browned liver to a plate.

bacon and vegetables

Using the same casserole, fry the onion in extra virgin olive oil until it goes translucent and stir in the bacon. When the bacon has taken some colour, mix in the pepper, courgette, mushrooms and crushed garlic.

tomato

Grate in the fresh tomatoes (chop in half, grate the wet side and discard the skin).

basil

Tear up some fresh basil leaves to commingle with the tomatoes.

liver and stock

Squirt in the tomato purée and anchovy paste, pour on a glass of wine, a splash of vinegar, half the stock and stir in the browned liver and bay leaves.

rice

Rinse the soaked Basmati rice before mixing it into the dish. At this stage the pig’s liver rice should be wet like stew, but not runny like soup. More stock goes in later.

pig’s liver rice

Bring the casserole up to a simmer, stir, cover with a lid and cook for one hour in a preheated oven at 150ºC, or until the rice is tender and the stock has been absorbed. Check the pig’s liver rice after half an hour and add more stock and seasoning as required. Don’t over cook it or the rice will disintegrate. This can be cooked on the hob, but it’s far less likely to burn in the oven.

Serve with a drizzle of truffle oil and some grated Parmesan cheese.

N.B. If cooking with risotto rice (on the hob), cooking time would be reduced to about 20 minutes, with additional stock being added as needed. Constant stirring required throughout and never rinse risotto rice.

Wine suggestion: Baron de Ley Gran Reserva Rioja.

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Merguez stuffed Partridge

laurie partridge

On Sunday, I went to buy a brace of partridge, from the Pheasant Girl on the Layer Marney Lamb stall at the Farmers’ Market.

merguez

While I was choosing my birds, I noticed some merguez on the same stall. Merguez are a spicy sausage from the Maghreb (North Africa), typically made from mutton or beef, with cumin, chilli or harissa. I was intending to buy some pork sausages from another stall, but I thought partridge would be really good stuffed with a spicy mutton sausage.

Partridge stuffed with meguez recipe:

1 partridge per person (plucked and dressed)
1 merguez sausage (per bird)
3 slices smoked streaky bacon (per bird)
butter to grease the roasting dish
1/4 pint game stock
a splash of red wine vinegar
sea salt and cracked black pepper

stuffed

Grease a small baking dish with butter (save paper wrappers from packs of butter specifically for this). Gently cut down the length of a merguez sausage with a sharp knife and peel off the casing. Take your partridge and push the sausage meat into the cavity.

wrapped

Sprinkle a little sea salt and black pepper onto the partridge and wrap it with 3 slices of smoked streaky bacon. There’s very little fat on a game bird, so the bacon will help to keep it moist. Add a little game stock (chicken is a good substitute) and red wine vinegar to the pan and put the bird into a preheated oven at 200º C.

crispy bacon

A partridge is normally done in 20 – 30 minutes, but since this one was stuffed, I gave it an hour in the oven. When the bacon looks crispy, remove it, baste the bird with the juices in the pan and give it another 10 minutes for the skin to brown. Do keep the bacon and chop it up – serve it with your vegetables.

bronzed

There’s no need to overcook a partridge – it doesn’t need to be burnt to a crisp. Both lamb and game should be served pink.

stuffing

If you have any doubts, use a digital thermometer for an anal probe – 62º C is good, but do rest the bird for 10 minutes (preferably breast down and in foil to keep it warm), while you make some gravy.

gravy

Use the pan juices and additional stock for the gravy.

roast potatoes

Serve with seasonal vegetables and roast potatoes cooked in goose fat.

I drank a glass of of El Santu Asturian sidra (cider) with my supper – it was a good match.

See here for instructions on how to pluck a partridge.

Other Partridge posts

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Partridge with Harissa

partridge, aubergine and harissa

The Red-legged Partridge is a small game bird introduced to Britain from mainland Europe (particularly common in France and Spain) in the 18th Century . It’s estimated that there are between 72,000 and 200,000 breeding pairs in the UK. The shooting season for partridge is a month longer than for pheasant and runs from Sept 1 – Feb 1. See my post here for plucking and dressing.

partridge

Having roasted and pot roasted large numbers of partridge in the past, I thought I’d try something a little different today.

Partridge and Harissa Recipe (serves 1):

1 partridge per person
1 medium onion (chopped)
6 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
2 medium tomatoes (grated)
1/2 aubergine (cubed)
1 preserved lemon (chopped)
1/2 pint game stock (chicken is a good substitute)
2 dessertspoons harissa
1 level teaspoon ground cumin seeds
1 level teaspoon ground coriander seeds
14 kalamata olives
2 Bay leaves
2 or 3 splashes of sherry vinegar
olive oil
a pinch of crushed chilli
sea salt and cracked black pepper

coriander and cumin

First of all, warm a level teaspoon of coriander and cumin seeds until they give off a pleasant aroma. Do not let them get too hot and burn. Grind the warm seeds up with a mortar and pestle.

browned

Season the partridge and brown it (using a metal casserole or similar cooking vessel) in some olive oil to caramelise the sugars in the skin. Don’t overdo it, the intention is not to cook the bird at this stage, but to add flavour. When the partridge has taken a little colour, remove it to a plate.

aubergine, garlic and onion

Continue by cooking the onions, using the same casserole and oil, until they go translucent. Sprinkle on a pinch of crushed chilli and add the aubergine and garlic. Cook gently for 5 minutes or so, until the aubergine changes colour.

grated tomato

Grate in the pulp of two medium tomatoes and discard the skin.

preserved lemons

Chop up and add a preserved lemon (you can buy jars of these quite cheaply in London or make your own), along with 2/3 of the ground coriander and cumin (save the rest for later).

harissa

Squirt in the equivalent of a dessertspoon of harissa. – a fiery chilli paste from Tunisia, available in most supermarkets. I try to buy Le Phare du Cap Bon Harissa, which is imported direct, as opposed to being a watered down supermarket brand. In point of fact, it is quite simple to make it at home, but it’s handy to have a tube in the fridge.

kalamata olives

The olives go in next, with a splash of sherry vinegar and two bay leaves.

partridge in stock

Pour on half a pint of game stock (chicken will do) and return the partridge to the pot. Put the lid on and place the casserole in a preheated oven at 180º C for an hour. Turn the bird over, taste and adjust the flavours after 30 minutes. I used another spoonful of harissa and a splash more of sherry vinegar. Harissa tends to dissipate a little with cooking, so don’t put it all in at once.

Rough Houmous recipe:

125g dried chickpeas (soaked and cooked in a pressure cooker)
2 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
1/2 teaspoon tahini
the juice of half a lemon
ground cumin and coriander seeds
sea salt (to taste)

chickpeas

In the meantime and in keeping with the Moorish theme, I cooked some chickpeas in a pressure cooker.

chunky houmous

I fried a couple of finely chopped garlic cloves in olive oil and mixed in the chickpeas, the remaining cumin and coriander, along with half a teaspoon of tahini. I poured on a little cooking liquid from the chickpeas, squirted on the juice of half a lemon (fresh this time) and roughly mashed this up with a potato masher to make a chunky houmous. Sprinkle on sea salt to taste. Serve with the partridge, as per mashed potato.

partridge and harissa

The partridge, aubergine and harissa tasted amazing and the rough houmous made the perfect accompaniment, even though I do say so myself.

I recommend drinking a Spanish red with the partridge, such as Can Feixes Tradició Crianza.

Other Partridge posts

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Goose and Rabbit Pie

goose and rabbit pie

A couple of months ago, I read that goose and rabbit go well together in a pie – goose being fatty and rabbit being lean. I had some leftover goose in the freezer, so I’ve been awaiting the return of rabbits at the farmers’ market. This week I was in luck! I came across this combination in Food in England by Dorothy Hartley, (“a comprehensive survey of an Englishman’s food throughout the ages”) where it’s under, Harvest or Michaelmas Goose – quite specific to this time of year, Michaelmas being on 29th September.

In the book it says:

The Michaelmas goose was fattened up on the stubble and gleanings left by the reapers. Young rabbits were fat from stolen corn at the same time, and, synchronising, there were also the first windfalls of apples for the apple sauce and the new corn for the “fermety puddings” and the “scallion onions” that must be eaten quickly. It is not by accident, but design, that arranges such things as goose and rabbit pudding, sage-and-onion stuffings, apple sauce and dumplings.

I haven’t followed the Medieval “Goos in a Hogepotte” recipe (included in the scroll, The Forme of Cury from 1390), but it did give me inspiration.

First of  all, I poached the rabbit with stock vegetables, as it makes removing all the tiny bones easier and the resulting liquid is good for the pie filling.

rabbit stock

Rabbit Stock recipe:

1 wild rabbit
1 onion
2 carrots
2 sticks of celery
6 pieces of garlic
2 sprigs thyme
2 sprigs rosemary
2 sprigs sage
2 bay leaves
6 bruised juniper berries
8 black peppercorns
a pinch of salt
1 1/2 pints water (to almost cover)

Put all the ingredients into a cast iron casserole, bring to a simmer and skim off any scum from the liquid. Put the lid on and remove to a preheated oven at 150º C for an hour. Once cooked, allow the rabbit to cool, before removing the meat from the bones (the liver and kidneys are perfect for the pie too – don’t throw them away). Discard the vegetables and bones, but keep the stock.

Goose and Rabbit Pie recipe (serves 4-6 people):

1 wild rabbit (poached and chopped up, bones removed)
1 lb goose (chopped)
4 slices streaky bacon (chopped)
1 1/2 pints of home made rabbit stock (you could substitute chicken stock)
1 large onion (chopped)
2 carrots (chopped)
2 sticks of celery (chopped)
6 mushrooms (chopped)
4 large tomatoes (grated)
6 pieces of garlic (finely chopped)
1 heaped dessertspoon of plain flour
1 teaspoons of herbs (rosemary, sage and thyme – ground in a mortar and pestle with coarse sea salt and black peppercorns)
2 bay leaves
2 pinches of crushed chilli
a glass of red wine
a splash of red wine vinegar
a splash of Geo Watkins Mushroom Ketchup
2 dessertspoons of tomato purée
a large squeeze of anchovy paste
1 heaped teaspoon of hot smoked Pimentón de la Vera
olive oil for frying
sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste

1 lb home made pastry
1 beaten egg

mirepoix

Fry the onion in extra virgin olive oil until it goes translucent. Stir in the bacon and two large pinches of dry crushed chilli. Follow that with the carrot, celery and garlic, after the bacon has taken some colour.

grated tomato

Add the mushrooms and after a minute or two, grate in the fresh tomatoes (chop in half, grate the wet side, discarding the skin) – this Spanish technique is much quicker and easier than blanching!

vegetables

Sprinkle on the ground herbs, plus a heaped dessertspoonful of plain flour and stir in, like making a roux.

meat and stock

Pour in half the stock and red wine, mixing in all the cooked meat. Add more stock as necessary – the consistence should look like the above picture. The hot smoked pimentón goes in now, squirt in the purée and anchovy paste along with the Geo Watkins Mushroom Ketchup and 2 bay leaves. Bring the casserole to a simmer and remove to a preheated oven at 150ºC for two hours.

Make the pastry while the pie filling is cooking in the oven. Pastry is very easy to make if you have a food processor – it takes less than 2 minutes! I encourage all of you to try this, it tastes much better than shop bought, which I notice contains; palm oil, fatty acids, colouring, preservatives and other chemicals. Shop bought pastry contains no butter or egg (great for dieting and vegans)! So, having made your own pastry, allow it to chill in the refrigerator for half an hour or so.

braised

Stir and taste the casserole every 30 minutes or so and adjust the seasoning to taste. When the meat is tender and it tastes perfect, allow to cool.

pie filling

Spread the pie filling into a large dish when cold. Buttering the dish helps to prevent sticking – save the paper wrapping from butter for this purpose.

pastry

Roll out the pastry to the correct size – slightly larger than the pie dish. Use the rolling pin to ease the pastry over the top and fold it in before crimping round the edges with your fingers. Make some holes in the dough to allow steam to get out and wash with beaten egg and a splash of cold water to make it brown nicely. Bake in a preheated oven at 200ºC for about 35-40 minutes, or until it looks golden brown.

cut pie

Allow the pie to rest for 10 minutes before serving with mashed potatoes or celeriac and seasonal vegetables. Once again, a robust red wine is perfect for a game pie, such as Baron de las Viñas Rioja Reserva.

Other Rabbit posts

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Pork with Black-Eyed Peas

pork with black-eyed peas

I had some leftover roast pork and summer vegetables (courgettes and peppers) in the fridge and thought the pork would go well with black-eyed peas. In America smoked ham hock and black-eyed peas are often cooked together – they are served as a popular dish on New Year’s Day called Hoppin’ John, which is supposed to bring good luck and prosperity in the coming year.

black-eyed peas

Black-eyed peas are actually beans, originally coming from West Africa, unlike most other dried beans we eat, which come from the New World. They are low in fat, high in fiber, rich in minerals and contain no cholesterol.

It is thought that black-eyed peas were first taken to Virginia in the 17th Century, where they were cultivated. As a crop, the beans like heat and are drought resistant, which has made them popular in the Southern States.

Pork with Black-Eyed Peas recipe (serves 4):

1 lb leftover roast pork (chopped)
3 rashers of streaky bacon (chopped)
1 large onion (chopped)
1 stick of celery (chopped)
1 carrot (chopped)
1 small red pepper (chopped)
1 small green pepper (chopped)
1 medium courgette (chopped)
6 pieces of garlic (finely chopped)
4 medium tomatoes (grated)
250g dry black-eyed peas (soaked and cooked) or use a 400g tin
a large squirt of tomato purée
a large squirt of anchovy paste
2 bay leaves
a large pinch of crushed chilli
a heaped teaspoon of hot smoked Pimentón de la Vera
a splash of sherry vinegar
a pint of homemade pork stock
extra virgin olive oil for frying
sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste

If using dry black-eyed peas, remember to soak them overnight before use, or if you have a pressure cooker, soak in boiling water for an hour and cook under pressure for 3 – 5 minutes.

vegetables and bacon

Fry the onion in extra virgin olive oil until it goes translucent. Stir in the bacon and a large pinch of dry crushed chilli. Follow that with the carrot and celery, after the bacon has taken some colour. After about five minutes stir in the peppers, courgette and crushed garlic. Grate in the fresh tomatoes (chop in half, grate the wet side and discard the skin) – this Spanish technique is much quicker and easier than blanching! Sprinkle on the hot smoked pimentón, squirt in the purée and anchovy paste plus a splash of sherry vinegar.

stock and beans

Add the pork, black-eyed peas, two bay leaves and stir in the stock. Bring the heat up and season to taste.

pork and black eyed-pea stew

Cover the cooking vessel and simmer gently for about 90 minutes. Check the seasoning and cook for a further 30 minutes uncovered.

Serve with rice, boiled potatoes or a hunk of sourdough bread and butter. This will go well with a robust Catalan red wine, such as Vinyes Velles Autòcton Celler.

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