How To Eat In Season: A Guinea Fowl Recipe
Photographs courtesy of The Quality Chop House
Why you should eat locally available food – including this autumnal recipe with sweetbreads, onions and tarragon from London restaurant The Quality Chop House.
The modern supermarket gives us neatly packaged access to almost whatever we want, whenever we desire it – which means we are somewhat ignorant to the concept of seasonal food. Although some restaurants (Fäviken in Sweden and The Ethicurean in Bristol spring to mind) swear by the practice, it has been a rather long time since we subsisted solely on what our surroundings provided us with. Because, after all, there is always something in season somewhere. British families can eat Floridian tomatoes in winter, should they choose. But, quite simply, they won’t taste as good as tomatoes farmed in the UK in summer. To eat in season is to eat something at the peak of its flavour that hasn’t travelled a great distance to your table. And, given the surplus, it’ll be cheaper, too. Supporting local suppliers benefits more than just your conscience.
Mr Shaun Searley is head chef at The Quality Chop House in Farringdon, London – voted 25th in the 2016 Top 100 UK Restaurants. It is known for serving traditional dishes made with locally sourced ingredients – and therefore loyal to the British seasons. Here, he explains to us why guinea fowl is one of the best in-season meats to be eating right now – and how we should be cooking it.
WHY GUINEA FOWL?
“We get guinea fowl every other week from a great farm in Wiltshire. As a meat, it has a delicate game flavour, somewhere between chicken and pheasant, however it is not as prone to drying out as pheasant. Originating in Africa, these birds are now domesticated and bred across Europe. They are available all year round, however they are at their best between September and November. Like chicken, guinea fowl is easy to handle, high in protein and versatile. Try using the legs to make a curry in place of chicken, or roast a whole bird for a Sunday roast.”
HOW TO EAT IT
“Guinea fowl has a delicate sweet flavour, and I love serving it with sweet onions – charred slightly to bring some bitterness and balance to the dish. The sweetbreads [in the recipe below] are a classic accompaniment to chicken and work brilliantly with guinea fowl, too. The Marmite sauce brings richness to round the whole dish off.”
1 small onion 1 tsp olive oil 1 tsp Maldon salt (or other good-quality sea salt) 400ml chicken stock 100ml port 5g Marmite (yeast extract spread) 100g lamb sweetbreads 1 guinea fowl breast 15g butter 5g young tarragon
Preheat the oven to 170ºC (gas mark 4). Lightly coat the onion in a little oil, season with salt and bake with the skin on for 15 minutes, then leave to rest.
Meanwhile, reduce the chicken stock with the port until it has thickened, remove from the heat and add the Marmite. This is your Marmite sauce.
Blanch the sweetbreads in seasoned water for five minutes, drain through a colander and when they are cool enough to handle, remove the thin membrane. Chill in the fridge until ready to use.
Season the guinea fowl with salt and gently pan fry it skin-side down until golden brown. Turn and add a knob of butter. Bake in the oven at 170ºC for 4–8 minutes depending on the size.
While the guinea fowl is resting, use the same pan to roast the sweetbreads. You need a high heat to get good caramelisation. Half way through the cooking, add the remaining butter. The butter will foam and start to brown, keep the sweetbreads moving until golden brown all over (be careful as they may spit). Strain off the excess butter and rest in the Marmite sauce.
Peel the baked onion and carefully cut into quarters. In a hot frying pan scorch 2 quarters of the onion using a little oil so they don't stick. Once coloured on both sides, begin to build the dish.
Place the guinea fowl to one side of the plate, the sweetbreads next to that, separate the onion into pelts and finish with some of the Marmite sauce and fresh tarragon leaves.