Thursday, January 10, 2008

Pot Roast Guinea Fowl with Cabbage and Peas

Lots of people think they hate cabbage. And if their entire experience is of the boiled to sulfuric mush travesty that is served up, they have a point. ‘Cabbage’ then becomes a kind of generic term that is used disparagingly, with a little sneer of disdain, dismissing it out of hand. Myself, I love it.

In some ways cabbage is the perfect vegetable for January, especially good for the dieters and detoxers and those of us just trying to be a bit better than we are. It is fat and cholesterol free, very low in sodium, low in calories and a good source of vitamin C. Just reading about it makes you feel better. And it is versatile – steam it, braise it or stir-fry it. Use it in salads, soups and stews, or shred for coleslaws for a wonderful winter salad – carrots being abundant about now too. Positively inspirational.

I am not averse to the rock hard white balls of ordinary cabbage. Shredded and lightly steamed then buttered and seasoned it’s nice, and raw it does make very good coleslaw. I am a fan of sweetheart cabbage – just like it says on the tin it is heart-shaped and sweeter than bulk standard varieties.

But my favourite – both for flavour and for simple aesthetics – is definitely the Savoy. Crinkly, with waves of blue-green leaves, Savoy cabbage is a beautiful sight to spot in the market. It's delicate, slightly nutty flavour makes is a delight to spot in a meal. It is particularly good braised, slow cooked in a little liquid with peas and chunks of bacon, Savoy cabbage is the ideal dish to lift the January gloom.

This mellow-flavored cabbage is considered by more than just me to be one of the best of its category for cooking. A Savoy forms a loose, round head just like the usual kind, but the leaves are thinner, their color a gorgeous deep green outside and a paler green within. Their chief feature is a crinkled texture seemingly designed to hold butter or sauces more luxuriously. In fact, the Savoy has lent its name to this characteristic: A crinkled spinach, kale or lettuce leaf is one that is "savoyed." The origin of the name comes from the popularity of crinkle-leaf cabbage in the French Savoie.

It was not entirely for the cabbage that I made this dish last night. As a pot roast it meant it was a simple dinner - and very little to clean up afterwards. Guinea fowl is a well flavoured bird, also low in fat and usually smaller than chicken making it a good size for the two of us for a mid week supper.

This recipe is an adaptation of a very old one by Jeremy Lee I found in my jumble of ripped out recipes that I collect to 'try one day'. All things come to those who wait...

Roast Guinea Fowl with Cabbage and Peas

1 guinea fowl, trussed
2 small onions, peeled and finely chopped
200g piece unsmoked streaky bacon, cut into six
150g frozen peas
1 bayleaf
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 small Savoy cabbage
100g unsalted butter
50ml peanut oil
Sea salt, freshly-milled pepper and some sugar
Heat a large heavy based pot. Rub the bird all over with the peanut oil and liberally season with salt. Lay the bird in the pot, turning them every five minutes or so until are beautifully browned all over.

Reduce the heat, add the butter and, when it has melted, the chopped onion, garlic, bacon pieces, bayleaf and pepper. Cut the cabbage into four, through the root, and add to the pot. Seal the pot thoroughly with a piece of foil covered by the lid, and cook over the gentlest flame for half an hour, undisturbed. Meanwhile, cook the peas for a couple of minutes in slightly sweetened boiling water, then set aside to cool in the water - this way, they will not shrivel and die.

After half an hour, unseal the pot and add the drained peas with a little of their cooking water. Reseal the pot, cook for a further 15 minutes, then check that the bird is cooked through. Remove the fowl from the pot and let sit, covered with foil, for 20 minutes before serving. The vegetables and bacon should be beautifully cooked by now and be of a melting disposition; if they are not, simmer for a few minutes more.

Carve the guinea fowl, distribute between two deep bowls, then add the bacon-and-vegetable stew. A wonderful dinner, made rich with the use of butter. Mop up the last of it with bread - if that's allowed on your diet!

1 comment:

Antonia said...

Ooh - how delicious. I cooked pot roast pheasant last night which was great, though Savoy cabbage would have been a really nice addition. As would the peas. Great idea.