Louisiana Duck with Biscuits

 

Mr. Beater has had his first trip out onto the marsh and returned with a brace of mallard, which means it is time to share one of our favourite dishes. This is proper stodge! The original recipe came from a book called ‘Cajun and Creole Cooking’ by Carol Bowen. I’ve adapted it slightly (not least because we never have Vermouth in the cupboard because it’s just something we never drink)

I love this one because it’s surprisingly quick to throw together, but the end result is good enough to serve to guests. Surplus cream (you need double and single cream for this recipe) can be poured into coffee, poured over a seasonal fruit crumble, or you can whip it up and decorate your rodgrod!

What is a rodgrod? A rodgrod is something I discovered when looking through a pile of old cookery books when my mother had a cull of her books. Mum and I tend to root through charity shops in search of cookery books instead of buying magazines, but unlike magazines, they tend not to get recycled! Anyway, more of rodgrod later – back to Louisiana Duck.

Set the oven to 220 degrees.

You will need:

8oz self-raising flour

1/2 teaspoon of Cajun Spice

4oz  butter

6 floz single cream

That lot makes the biscuits. The recipe suggests you place the flour, spice and butter in a food processor and mix until it resembles breadcrumbs. If, like me, you really couldn’t be bothered lugging anything electrical out of the cupboard just for that, you can just as easily put the flour and spice in a big bowl and grater the butter into it, then roll up your sleeves and squidge it about until it goes crumby.

Next, add the cream and squidge / process again until it becomes a soft dough. Wrap the dough in foil and chill for half an hour (or as long as it takes to make the filling) in the fridge.

For the filling, you will need:

1 tablespoon of oil (really, it doesn’t matter what kind as long as it isn’t engine oil)

1 tablespoon of plain flour

1/4 pint of duck / chicken / vegetable stock (again, don’t stress – just use what’s in the cupboard)

2 tablespoons of dry Vermouth (for some reason, I have always used dry sherry because that is what was in the cupboard at home when I first made this as an intrepid teenager) Again, don’t rush out and buy a bottle of Vermouth if you don’t intend to drink it, or make shedloads of Louisiana Duck with Biscuits, or throw a 1980s party.

2 tablespoons of butter

1lb of duck (or goose, or pheasant, or chicken…) The original calls for cooked meat, but it is just as easy to start with raw breast, cut into thin strips.

2 rashers of bacon, rinded and chopped (chorizo is lovely too)

2 tablespoons of chopped red pepper (or any colour of pepper!)

6 tablespoons of double cream

3 spring onions (or shallots, or about a tablespoon of chopped normal onion)

 

To begin, make a roux. Don’t panic here: it may well go all lumpy and odd-looking at first, but once you add the rest of the liquid and stir, it will be fine.

Make the roux by heating the oil in a pan and adding the flour. Cook gently for a couple of minutes, stirring constantly with a very small whisk, if you have one. Gradually, blend in the stock and alcohol to make a smooth sauce. If you are very unlucky and your sauce is still lumpy even after lots of stirring, it doesn’t matter that much, because it’s all going to get mixed up with the meat and the cream.

Next, heat the butter in another pan and add the duck, bacon and pepper and cook until well-coloured if it’s cooked meat, or until the raw meat has changed colour and is cooked through (hence the very thin strips – think stir fry) If you have the sort of casserole dish that can sit on a ring on top of the oven too, then it’s as well to use this to cook the meat in because you can go on to assemble the whole dish in it and then pop it in the oven.

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Stir in the sauce, cream and onion and cook gently for 2-3 minutes. Either pour into a shallow pie-dish, or just remove the casserole pan from the heat.

Roll out the dough to about half an inch thick and prick all over with a fork. Cut out rounds of about 2 inches in diameter and arrange them in overlapping rows on the filling. Brush with milk to glaze and bake for about 15 minutes until the biscuits are golden.

When cooked, the biscuits puff up and look like little scones, but taste delightfully stodgy, especially with the creamy filling.

 

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Rodgrod is something I came across in a book called ‘Home Harvest’ by Pamela Westland. It was published in 1986, but it has a really 1970s feel to it, with all kinds of ideas like lemon balm hair rinse; sage and egg shampoo; angelica leaf tea and meat loaf with lovage (which conjures up some very odd images!)

Sadly, there is no explanation as to how rodgrod got its name, but we enjoyed it with this summer’s modest harvest of red currants and strawberries (and because it contains cream and chocolate flake)

9oz strawberries (hulled)

9oz redcurrants

4oz caster sugar

1/2 pint of water

1oz cornflower

2 bay leaves

1/4 pint of whipping cream

1 chocolate flake bar

Put the fruit in a blender and blend to a puree. Sieve to remove the bits.

Stir a little into the cornflower to make a smooth paste.

Put the remaining puree into a pan with the bay leaves and bring to the boil slowly. Blend the puree with the cornflower paste and stir over a moderate heat until the puree thickens and clears.

Remove from the heat and remove the bayleaves.

Pour into 4 desert dishes to cool (which may take some time)

Decorate with piped cream and flake!

What sort of person would eat rodgrod? Maybe people like this:

All together now, “Two, four, six, eight – Labrador! Pickers-up travel in convoy all the time!”

FInally, a special recipe for midges. Take a good helping of minosa hydrating facecream (which up until yesterday, I loved) and wait until the Keeper shouts ‘hold the line!’ Make a beeline for the poor beater who is standing right on the edge of a really boggy bit (yes, there are plenty of boggy bits, featuring bog aspohdel, sphagum, bog rosemary and cranberry on a well-managed grouse moor: those tempted to sign any silly petitions please take note) and feast!

The next course is Mimosa hydrating face cream and Skin So Soft – mmmm – cocktails!

Finally, wait until the beater has succumbed to spraying proper insect repellent over her entire face and hair, before divng in for pudding.

The best time to do this is when the beater has a young dog out and is trying to encourage the pup to sit and wait at the start of the drive, or when the line is stopped. You can dine and be entertained by the sight of a spaniel trying to join in with the beater’s frantic attempts to wave you away with her cap, scratch frantically at her face and neck and attempt to stand still and give a clear signal for the dog to sit and wait. As one gundog trainer of repute likes to say, bodylanguage is everything when training a dog!

That was me on the moor yesterday – lunch for hundreds of midges. Never mind – it’s good to see there’s plenty  of life in the hills.

 

 

 

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Designer Dog Breeds andElderberry Wine

 

Now is the time to make elderberry wine. The internet is littered with different methods and many of my old books also have recipes. The three constants are elderberries, water and sugar; after that, there are so many opinions as to what to do next it can be quite baffling.

Fortunately, last time we tried it, it turned out rather well. Our wine was quite heavy and more like a Port than an ordinary wine, with a quite rich, almost jammy taste. We stored it for 6 months in the garage before trying the first bottle and it really was a pleasant surprise.

My intended brief foray onto t’internet to investigate homemade wine also took me by surprise, especially the discussion fora (I found some incredibly condescending rubbish written about nettle beer, which is quite an amazing drink: one very pedantic American insisted it should be refered to as ‘hooch’ rather than beer, while another chap suggested it was little more than alcoholic, cold, herbal tea!)

I have also, on occasion, visited various internet discussion sites about dogs and in particular, working dogs and this brings me (almost) neatly to the following clip. There has been much discussion on designer crossbreeds and this morning, I stumbled upon perhaps the most insightful and intelligent piece I have encountered. I think it says it all.

 

 

The Glorious(ly easy) Grouse Dish

This has got to be the easiest and possibly one of the tastiest grouse recipes ever. It uses the breast meat, cut into strips and can be served with potatoes, rice, pasta, bread or even in a wrap.

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Begin by tossing the strips of meat in some cornflower and black pepper.

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Next, heat about a tablespoon on olive oil in a frying pan or wok and heat on high. Add the whole lot and stir quickly around until the meat changes colour on the outside but it still nice and shiny on the inside (see above) The trick is not to over-cook at this stage because it continues to cook when the special sauce is added.

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The special sauce is easy to make. Open a bottle of Port, pour in a good slug and watch it bubble!

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In a matter of seconds, the port, cornflower and meat juices will have combined to form a lovely, sticky sauce and that’s about it.

 

In Training for the Twelfth!

When the garden is bathed in sunlight, the school holidays are in full swing and the shops are still full of BBQ accessories (and jamjars with drinking straws in them: what’s that all about?) it seems strange to be rooting in the dark recesses of the garage and the wardrobe to retrieve boots, waterproofs, gaiters and caps. Our season begins on August 12th with the first day of the grouse-shooting season and every year, it comes around faster than expected.

I’ve been doing a bit of research into grouse shooting on the internet and it seems my first-hand experience is all wrong! As a beater, I am supposed to be some sort of Neanderthal rent-a-thug. If Thomas Hardy made Hammer films, I would be there. Of course, this dismissive attitude of the ‘unwashed’ who spend all year practicing the art of tugging their fetlocks with their webbed fingers amuses us beaters. Our happy group includes a Professor ; a university lecturer; a civil servant who works on conservation projects; mechanics; pest-controllers; students; teenagers and teachers.

Last year, I had the pleasure of giving a lift home to a teenage lad and I was entertained all the way home with a lecture on how woefully unrealistic zombie films are. In case you were wondering what makes this so: a zombie is already rotting and falling apart, so one could take them out with an airgun. The use of shotgun cartridges in such circumstances is most profilgate. That’s the thing about grouse days, conversation can range from the sublime to the ridiculous and back again; the only common theme is that everyone feels included.

I also love watching different breeds at work. We have springers, cockers, labs, weimeraners, vislas, GSPs and munsterlanders all enjoying their day out. Photo0421

For me, the greatest pleasure is watching my springer move through the heather with such amazing grace. It takes some power to cruise through the really dense heather with such speed and focus, but she makes it look so easy. Meanwhile, my face is usually the colour of the heather, but who cares when the views are stunning and the company is grand?

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I will write more on grouse soon, because they are the most amazing and beautiful birds. I also want to write more about the moors and how they are managed and the beguiling range of plants we have up there. It’s not just heather! Cranberry, bog rosemary, sundew, sedges, sphagnum mosses, bilberry….all small but so fascinating and pretty when viewed close-up. Looks-wise, bog rosemary is my favourite, but for practicality, bilberry wins hands-down as something to pull myself up hills with and nibble the berries too.

This week’s recipie, however, is not grouse. We’ll do grouse soon, because I think there is one way to serve it that beats all the rest.

Today’s recipie is something healthy (looking!) for all those still trying to get in shape for the season and struggling for time in the kitchen. Today I am going to write about pigeon faljitas.

They sat familiarity breeds contempt, so if you haven’t thought about it before, just think what a pretty bird the wood pigeon is and how good it tastes! Wood pigeon can taste very different depending on what it has been eating, so if your first attempt leaves you non-plussed, try again and you might be pleasantly surprised. Something else I have found is that freezing for too long, or in not-quite airtight wrapping can leave the bird with freezer burn that does spoil the flavour (a bit)

Pigeon Faljitas

Allow at least 2 good-sized pigeon breasts per person, cut into strips and tossed in

cornflower or plain flower with lots of black pepper.

1 onion, chopped

1 small punnet of mushrooms (about 12) chopped

Butter – a good knob

Olive oil

Pesto sauce

A dash of any leftover red wine / port

Method

Melt the butter in a frying pan and add the chopped mushrooms. Cook until soft.

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Heat another frying pan or wok with about a tablespoonful of olive oil and cook the chopped onion until it is soft and golden. Push the onion to one end of the pan, crank up the heat  and add the strips of pigeon that have been tossed in the flour and black pepper. Flash fry, taking care not to over-cook. As long as the outside of the strips have changed colour, they are offically done! If you have any leftover red wine, or can spare a bit from the bottle you’ve just opened, then add it now and enjoy the sizzling noise.

Turn the heat down again and add the mushrooms and a big dollop of pesto and stir.

Warm the faljitas in the microwave for a few seconds.

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You can add a bit of steamed kale or some other kind of leaf if you want a bit of green, otherwise, spoon a good dollop of the mixture in each faljita and serve at once.

 

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We tend to remove the breast meat from pigeons and freeze in batches. I take out a bag before work to defrost and I’ve got a quick and easy meal ready for the evening.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The World of Mrs. Beater

This is a blog about cooking with game for people like me. I am a beater, married to a fellow-beater and wildfowler and with a freezer full of game. We live in the Retro Palace, a little house that managed to hang on to its 1963 interiors and escape beige, open-plan modernisation to become ‘The Only Affordable Home in the Village’.

Dogs and cookery have always been my passions. Aged 15, I discovered a treasure trove of cullinary literature in my mother’s bedside locker: a full set of 1960s Cordon Bleu Cooker Course booklets. Other girls at school found copies of Riders and Lace, so although I had nothing especially racy to pass round on the school bus, I was able to come home andrustle up Soufle Monte Cristo, Chestnut Mont Blanc and even Boar’s Head with all the trimmings.

There are a lot of blogs, articles and books about game cookery that perpetuate the myth that it is something reserved for people who have an appropriately grand kitchen and apparently 24-hour access to the sort of Farmers’ Market that peddles organic everything to ladies in perpetual need of designer shades to keep their hair on. There are, if you read most books on game, only 2 ways to serve it: Old School, which involves roasting, game chips, gravy, a grand dining table and a side-helping of tweed, or New School, which offers mouthfuls of meat, accompanied by some wilted green things and a drizzle of translucent liquid (if you’re lucky) served on a huge plate where it sits folornly surrounded be a sea of glacial whiteness.

Here at the Retro Palace, we are just as likely to enjoy diced pheasant in butter chicken sauce from a jar if it’s been a long day at work. Mr. Beater is partial to my pigeon faljitas which take minutes to throw together from scratch and taste amazing. My slow cooker is used regularly, especially when we are given venison and the Retro Palace Herb Patch supplies me with enough bay leaves and rosemary to make some lovely, aromatic gravy.

My aim here, each month, is to share a Traditional and Tricky recipie; a Quick and Easy meal that can be thrown together from scratch in under half an hour and a Lazy Girl’s Special which features minimal preparation, minimal washing up and the best of the bargain buys from my local cut price supermarkets. From time to time, I will also share ideas for the less appreciated cuts of meat, like offal, pig’s trotters and braising steak with help from some of my favourite old cookery books.