Category Archives: Cooking

Oh My Hare!

Note: This entry has been restored from old archives.

Hares have been associated with gods, goddesses, witches, fertility, and all manner of other myth and legend. For me, from this night onwards, hares are associated first and foremost with the best animal flesh I have ever eaten. Seriously, I should just give up on the whole food thing now as I don’t think I’ll ever cook myself something this good again. I’ve had grouse, considered by some the best thing on two legs; I’ve had wagyu beef, considered by some the best thing on four legs… Hare is, I suppose, somewhere between the two and four legged and fittingly, in flavour it is much like grouse, yet in tenderness and absolute melt-in-the mouth divinity it is much like wagyu. Admittedly I probably haven’t had the best grouse there is, and never having been in Japan I’ve certainly never had the best wagyu there is. Though, my first hare ever, bought from the local butcher, have I had the best hare there is?

I’ll write up the full details of my roast hare experience in time, it’ll probably take a week or two given how little “spare” time I tend to have. It was quite a production as well, so isn’t going to be simple to get into words. In the meantime the following photo will have to suffice.

Ready to serve

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna
Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama
Rama Rama Hare Hare

Harey Weekend

Note: This entry has been restored from old archives.

It’s been a pretty terrible week for me. On Tuesday evening I lay down to sleep and suddenly had a sore throat, very strange. Seriously, there wasn’t a hint of a problem until I lied down and then within minutes it felt like I’d swallowed a caltrop. I’ve had the throat all week, progressively getting better while my head got worse. I tried to describe how I felt to Kat and came up with “it feels like I have a nest of insane, woolly ferrets running around in circles in my head.” All great fun, I assure you! sigh I never used to get colds and their ilk, must have stronger bugs here in the UK (admittedly this is just the second cold I’ve had in two years, so it could be worse.) Anyway, enough whinging, pathetic, weak human!

I’ve been looking forward to the weekend. In the preamble to my latest lamb shank casserole recipe I mentioned that I’d ordered a hare. Well, this morning we picked up our hare from Hamblings, it was only 10 quid! An animal fit for roasting that’d had at least a good 5 days hanging. Unfortunately we don’t know exactly how long it was hung for, the butcher said 5 days was the worst-case. Ideally a hare should hang for at least 7 to 10 days, and it’s pretty cool at the moment so longer would be better. The butcher got it in on Tuesday (it’d been hung prior to this), hung it for another couple of days and it was skinned and paunched on Thursday. I picked up some unsmoked streaky bacon from him too. I tried to get caul fat but he told me it’s “like gold-dust”, and said that’s the way it’s been since abattoir work became piece-work. Things that take too much time to do (and don’t yield much money) just aren’t done any more.

The butcher separated the hare’s legs from its saddle for me, then we wandered back home, via the veggie shop, to admire the goods. The first thing to hit me was the smell, this is one pretty pungent beast! Not a bad smell, not to my nose, but I think some might find it a bit nauseas. Anyway, you can admire the goods without the smell, as usual I’m taking plenty of photos!

Mr Hare

The meaty back legs I’m reserving for a casserole tomorrow. The saddle I’ve trimmed up and will roast tonight. The front legs and trimmings have gone into a pot with vegetables and herbs to make a game stock that’ll be used for both the roast and the casserole.

In other news, I put an order in with a catering company called Nisbets on Thursday. It was time for a new frypan, my old one I brought over from Sydney has reached the end of its non-stick life. Based on a recommendation from the much worshipped “Hugh book” I went for the Bourgeat brand (Nisbets was also recommended by the book.) Hugh described Bourgeat as the “current chef’s favourite” (in 2004), that seems a pretty good rating. I went all-out and ordered three different sizes! (20cm, 28cm, 3-eff’n-huge-6cm) I also got a nice big and heavy cleaver for butchering, well, anything really. Plus a length of muslin (something I’ve had trouble finding anywhere else), and a good solid muffin tray since we didn’t have one (it’s not generally going to be used for muffins though!) I can report that Nisbets’s “next day delivery” (their cheapest delivery option) really is next day! Here’s the loot:

Nisbets Goodies

I’ll be writing entries about the making of the stock, the roasting of the saddle, and the casseroling of the legs. Though, as usual, it will probably take a week or two for me to get the entries done, spare time is a rare commodity.

Slow Cooked Lamb Shanks with Puy Lentils

Note: This entry has been restored from old archives.

Preamble, or random chatter before the recipe

Lamb Shanks

The weekend of Feb 2nd was an interesting one in the kitchen, alas it wasn’t quite high enough standard to write about. In brief, we visited our favourite local butcher on the Saturday and picked up some very fresh English lamb liver and a bag of “stewing venison.” The liver I treated as simply as it deserved, sliced about 1cm thick, flash-fried for about 2 minutes a side in a very hot cast iron pan, and served with fried onions, sweet potato mash and a pita bread. I’m now a solid fan of lamb liver, this was a simple yet 100% delicious feed. I’ll try to cover something like it in more detail in the future.

The venison was very strong in flavour, a well hung beast I’d judge. I got extremely experimental on it’s ass, in chocolate style! As an accompaniment I cooked up my first ever mole (no, not a small rodent dug up from the local common), it worked pretty well but I’ll need to give it some more practice. I think I’ll have to pick up some of the fancy chillies from the chilli-dude at Borough Market (or grow them!) The venison itself was browned with some lardons then stewed for just 1.5 hours in lots of red wine with some carrots, onions, and celery. The venison was removed and the juices and veges passed through a food mill a couple of times then boiled hard, until it got too salty and I gave in and thickened it up a little more with some cornflour. Finally some 80% dark chocolate was grated into it. This was a very rich meal, very satisfying. The idea needs more work and a couple more tries before I can write it up.


After such an experimental weekend I decided to stick to more familiar territory on the following one. Lamb shank casserole is something I can do in my sleep! We picked up some pancetta and two very juicy looking English lamb shanks from the butcher on Saturday and everything else in this recipe came from the cupboard or vegetable bowl. I decided to twist my usual flavourings a little, throwing out the usual rosemary or cinnamon and adding instead juniper berries, star anise, cardamom, and cassia bark (almost the same thing as cinnamon really.) This flavour change worked well, especially in the surplus lentil soup.

I should add some sad news. Our preferred local butcher is Hamblings, since they’re Guild-of-Q and are a BASC Game’s On supporter. We only discovered them a little while ago, we considered finding a great butcher within walking distance of home an excellent bit of luck! (If you recall, when asked for rabbit the High Street butcher could offer only Chinese rabbits, ick. Meanwhile, Hamblings knows a local guy who shoots local rabbits … it really is a much more inspiring place!) One of the local councillors provides the surprisingly modern convenience of an RSS feed of monthly council news, including summaries of planning applications and their resolutions. It was from this that I learnt of an application to turn the Hamblings site into a “hot food shop.” Shock! Misery! I confirmed this with the butcher last weekend, they’ll be around for another handful of months and when they close they won’t be opening up elsewhere. The current butcher’s father started the business in 1969! Alas, of nearly 40 years we only get to know them for their final year, oh well.

We’ll be making the best use we can of Hamblings while it’s still around. We picked up more lambs liver (dinner last night) and a couple of very nice looking sirloin steaks (dinner tonight) today. Plus we ordered a fresh hare for next weekend, that’s going to be fun!

Anyway, enough chatter, I’ve got a recipe to write up…



Serves: 2 Large Dinners, plus 8 “leftover” 280g serves of lentils.

To serve more people simply add more shanks, the limit depends on the size of your casserole! I could add two more shanks to mine without a problem. This means you’ll add less water later and will probably want to make up the difference after the shanks are removed, otherwise the lentils will be too dry in the end.

lamb shanks (these shanks were 450g each)
1 tbsp
light olive oil (about 10g)
cubed pancetta (lardons or streaky bacon will suffice)
1 large
diced brown onion (225g prepared, 260g before)
3 sticks
halved and sliced celery (180g prepared, 190g before)
2 small
roughly cubed carrots (100g prepared, 110g before)
1 small
roughly cubed eggplant (270g prepared, 280g before)
4 cloves
sliced garlic (20g prepared, 22g before)
Puy Lentils
decent dry red wine (a cask of Banrock Station!)
organic chopped tomatos in rich juice
light beef stock
2 stars
star anise
5 small
pieces of cassia bark
cardamom pods
crushed juniper berries
small bay leaves
puy lentils (soaked for 10 mins, then rinsed and drained)
Prepared Ingredients

I’m not going to detail the, minimal, preparation any further. The basic descriptions above combined with the photo to the left should provide all the detail required.

The first thing to do it pull out a heavy casserole, I own and love a blue 24cm Chasseur which is the vehicle for almost all my slow cooked recipes. For years I tried this sort of thing with lesser stockpots and saucepans and, while they can do the job, they just aren’t as easy to work with. Stick the casserole on a medium heat and add the olive oil, heat until it runs freely (but not so hot that it smokes) then toss in the pancetta. This should merrily sizzle and pop but not smoke, toss the sizzling pig until golden brown. Now the lamb shanks, ideally at room temperature and patted dry with a paper-towel, make some space amongst the pancetta pieces and place the shanks fat-end down. Let them sit and brown for a couple of minutes, then put them onto their sides and do the same, turn and repeat until the shanks have a good all-round browning (except where the curve of the meat/bone make this impossible of course!) The browning probably takes about 15 minutes all up. With this done put the shanks aside in a dish but keep the lardons in the casserole.

Ready for liquids

The vegetables come next. Toss the onion, celery, and carrot into the pot. This should be sizzling quietly, like quiet radio static (“What’s that!?” Says the digital radio generation.) Keep the veggies on the move so that they’re evenly heated and keep at it until they’re translucent and just beginning to brown. At this point the eggplant and garlic goes in. Again, keep things on the move until the eggplant has absorbed any excess oil and is starting to soften up, this should only be about 5 minutes. Add all the spices, toss, and then nestle the shanks into the vegetables, shifting veggies out of the way so the shanks are as low as possible.

Just Level

In with 250ml of wine! Note, keep 100ml for later. In with the stock! In with the tomato! Now top the casserole up with water until the liquid level is just level with the tops of the shanks (photo left.) This took a litre of water for me, but will depend on the size of your shanks and your pot. Give everything a good stir, making sure the shanks stay low in the water. Don’t worry that the liquid is rather watery, we’ll deal with this later.

Bring the liquid to just barely simmering, put the lid on the pot, and leave for 30 minutes. I suggest checking every five minutes three times to ensure the simmer is maintained. If it gets too eager you must reduce the heat. After the first thirty minutes are up give the casserole a good stir and turn the shanks. Do the same thing twice more at 30 minute intervals then after the next 30 minutes (so 2 hours all up) we’re done.


Pull the shanks out of the casserole and put them aside in a bowl. Now push the flame under the casserole right up and in with the lentils! We want the liquid in the casserole bubbling pretty furiously, but not so much that it’s making a mess of your stove. Keep it like this until the liquid reaches a nice soupy texture, this is achieved by reduction and also by starches from the lentils. My casserole had lost about 1 inch (2.5cm) or liquid by this stage. Now stir in the extra 100ml of wine, this adds a desirable piquancy to the soup. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and keep on this until the lentils are done as you prefer, I gave them another 15 minutes. I like my lentils al-dente, especially puy lentils which will retain some of their lovely mottling if you don’t over-cook them. That’s really up to your own tastes though, stop the heat when the lentils have reached whatever you consider to be their perfect texture. Taste and add salt if desired, carefully.

Warming Shanks

We’re almost done now. The last thing to do is sink the shanks back into the lentils for about 10 minutes. This will re-heat the shanks and let the lentils cool a bit.

Serve by dropping a shank into a good sized bowl, ladling over as much lentil soup as desired, and topping off with some good EVOO and fresh ground pepper. A generous sprinkle of chopped parsley would go well I think, or even a gremolata, alas we didn’t have any parsley. Enjoy with a rich, dry red, maybe the one you cooked with — you do cook with a wine that is good enough to drink, right? I’m actually using a Banrock Station cask red for cooking at the moment, but prefer a richer wine to go with this meal. (Banrock Station was my preferred cooking plonk back in Sydney and a wine I’m quite happy to have a glass of. The price here compared to Sydney is scary, but that’s just London for you and the wine has travelled half way around the globe after all, bad “food mile” karma.)

Ready to Serve


In the end the lentil “soup” came to 2.9kg and per 300g serve has ~310 Calories. That’s taking into account all the ingredients above, assuming not much alcohol was lost from the wine, and that the lamb shanks added about 50g of fat to the soup (all erring on the greater side I think.) The other caveat is the pancetta, from one piece to another the fat content can vary wildly. So as usual, the nutritional details are a rough estimate (as you must realise these things always are!)

Lentil Soup: 300g
Thing Value
Energy 310 kcal
Carbohydrate 34.5g
Protein 16.8g
Fat 9.2g
  Sat 2.0g
  Mono 4.4g
  Poly 0.7g
Dietry Fibre 8.0g

I’ll leave it up to the reader to decide how many calories a lamb shank has, it’s simply too variable! After portioning out 300g of lentils for each shank we had leftovers to make 8 280g serves of soup, so 290 kcal per serve (+44 with a 5g drizzle of EVOO.)

There’s a few more photos of the cooking and ingredients in the
Lamb Shanks with Lentils photo album.

Duckflower Salad

Note: This entry has been restored from old archives.


Duckflower Salad
All along the backwater,
Through the rushes tall,
Ducks are a-dabbling,
Up tails all!

Ducks’ tails, drakes’ tails,
Yellow feet a-quiver,
Yellow bills all out of sight
Busy in the river!

Wind In the Willows, Ratty’s “Ducks’ Ditty”… Actually, it brings Tom Bombadil into the fore of my mind, there’s a parallel I’ve not considered before; Tom and Ratty… Hmm, very literary, very picturesque, now let’s shoot a few of the damn ducks and get on with the show.

In actual fact the duck I’ve used in this recipe is neither wild or shot. Duck isn’t all that uncommon and in the UK you can find it in many supermarkets, even Tesco, and most butchers. Duck farming is smaller business than chickens, but is big enough that there are intensive duck rearers — poor ducks that never see the sky, let alone any kind of pond. If you’re going to buy duck please try and stick to “free range”, especially if also “organic” (nothing more unappetising than a silicon duck!).

For this recipe I found a nice looking pair of breast fillets at a local butcher. Large, fatty, luxurious breasts. On first sight of a duck breast fillet the you’re likely to note that it looks like there’s more fat than meat, and by volume there sometimes is! Don’t worry though, the breasts will transform into meaty nuggets once cooked and the layer of fat all but vanish (into a puddle in the pan). Compare the photo of the raw breasts to the one of the cooked one and you’ll get the idea.



Salad Ingredients
Rabbit Food
  • 2 x 200g Duck Breast Fillets
  • 10g Chestnut Honey[1] (or other honey)
  • 10g good thick Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1tsp fresh ground Black Pepper
  • 2 cloves (6g) Garlic
  • 100ml dry Red Wine


  • Reduced marinade (see below)
  • 10g (~1 tbsp) Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 10g (~1 tbsp) dry Red Wine


  • 2 small (~100g each) lettuce, like “baby Cos”
  • 100g Red Radishes
  • 100g Cherry Tomatoes


Ducks are a-marinating
Ducks are a-marinating

We start by marinating the breasts, at least an hour before cooking by preference. In my case about 6 hours, longer shouldn’t hurt (for example: start them marinating before you go to work in the morning so you can cook as soon as you get back).

Crush the garlic cloves into a bowl big enough to hold the duck. Add the chestnut honey[1], vinegar, wine and pepper and ensure the marinade is well blended. Slice into the fat-side of the fillets, about 6 slashes stopping short of slicing into the meat. Plonk the duck breasts into the marinade fat-side-up, cover, and into the fridge with the lot. Ideally you should flip the breasts every 1.5 to 2 hours, but this can be skipped.


Remove breast fillets from the marinade and pat dry with paper towels. Set marinade aside for later.

Frying Duck Breasts

Pull out your heavy cast-iron pan, in my case a nice heavy square grill-pan, and very lightly oil the surface with a peanut or canola oil (for the high smoke-point). The oil is just to gauge the pan temperature, the duck will provide loads of fat of it’s own. Now put your pan on a high flame and heat until the oil just starts to smoke, at this point drop the temperature of the flame about 30%. In goes the duck! Quaaaaaacccck! Fat side-down for 5 minutes. Beware, it’ll hiss, spit, and smoke like anything. This is all normal, if it isn’t making a mess of your kitchen your pan isn’t hot enough.

While the duck gets it’s 5 minute sizzle you can separate the lettuce leaves. (If you need to wash your lettuce you should have done this earlier and washed the leaves so they can drain, soaking leaves make a mess of salad.) There’s no hurry though, the duck will need some resting and cooling time. Don’t rush yourself. Clean and slice the radishes, and quarter the baby tomatoes. The salad ingredient’s can be whatever you like. I think some avocado and blanched snow peas (mangetouts) would go very well with the duck.

Reduced Marinade
Reduced Marinade

With 5 minutes passed flip the duck over and give two minutes on the meaty side. Done! Set the fillets aside on a plate somewhere out of the way.

Turn off the heat and pour the fat off the pan (to be discarded), be careful. Give the pan a couple of minutes to cool then dump in the marinade. Hiss! Give the pan a good scrape and then put the liquid back on the heat bubbling vigorously until it’s reduced to about 10% of the original volume (see photo right). In my case I poured and scraped the liquid out of the pan into a small saucepan. Reducing a sauce in a grill-pan is a path to much difficulty.

Salad Arranged
Base Salad

Strain the reduced liquid into a small pouring jug, helping it through a fine strainer with the back of a spoon, this gets rid of lumps of garlic and any errant chunks of crispy duck skin. Add the extra dash of red wine and the EVOO and mix it up a bit.

Now lay out the lettuce, tomatoes, and radish in a couple of shallow bowls (see left). At this time the duck should have had about 10 minutes to rest since coming out of the pan, if not then pour yourself a bit of wine to make up the time. Notice that the fat layer has reduced to a thin and crispy veneer, you’ll have poured away the majority of it’s volume from the pan. Now, you might want to remove the skin layer at this point, it’ll pull away easily, but note that it’s beautifully tasty! Get your sharpest knife and cut each fillet, across the grain, into slices no more than 5mm thick.

Arrange the duck slices on top of each salad in a double-circle, forming the titular “flower”. Give the dressing a good stir and drizzle over the salads. Add a couple of grinds of pepper.

Quack! With some wine!


Using non-mainstream meats is always a bit of a conundrum when it comes to calculating the nutritional profile of a meal. Duck is isn’t too bad on this front but free-range ducks can vary a fair bit from one critter to another and tend to be much leaner than intensively reared quackers, wild ducks even more so. With this in mind note that the calculated nutritional information will be even more “approximate” than usual (OK, there aren’t typically grades of approximation, in truth I should say “less accurate”).

Cooked Breast
Almost Done
Thing Value
Energy 432 kcal
Carbohydrate 17.5g
Protein 42.1g
Fat 23.1g
  Saturated 5.4g
Dietry Fibre 3.5g


A very enjoyable meal, light and tasty. The duck was a little on the sinewey side but had excellent flavour. Next time I’ll try it with an Asian twist, some ginger, coriander, soy, and normal honey in the marinade. The salad would have worked better with some avocado, can’t go wrong with avo.

[1] Chestnut honey? I bought a jar of this a while back and the flavour is far too strong and bitter to use on porridge (our usual use for honey), you could even say the flavour is gamey. So this honey is only used for the occasional marinade where I think the flavour is going to work. In this case it worked really well I think! The recipe should be fine with normal honey though, but the flavour will certainly not be the same.

Roast Wood Pigeon with Braised Vegetables

Note: This entry has been restored from old archives.


Roast Wood Pigeon with Braised Vegetables
Coo coo — bang!

I’ve decided to try cooking game with greater variance and frequency. My motivation stems from The River Cottage Meat Book and was recently reinforced by the surprising range of game available at a new local supermarket. To-date my game cooking experience has been rather limited, just venison and rabbit. The former possibly farmed, the latter certainly farmed (so the link to “game” is tenuous at best). If you’re unfamillar with game then the Hugh book is a great start, but game is just a small part of it’s coverage and I can recommend Clarissa Dickson Wright’s (one of the “Two Fat Ladies“) & Johnny Scott’s “The Game Cookbook” as an alternative starting point that is also a great read.

I fear that the supermarket-with-game situation will be short lived due to a lack of demand, will enough locals buy game? Anyway, Waitrose is not the be-all-and-end-all of game, far from it! While the High Street butcher showed little promise on the game front (admittedly I’ve only tried asking for rabbit, in which case all they had to offer was farmed rabbit from China!) I recently found out about a different butcher nearby that ticks all the right boxes, I picked up some tasty duck breast there on Thursday and went back today for a couple of wild rabbits. Wabbit stoo tomorrow!

So, on Tuesday I decided to give a bird, or two, a whirl. I trundled over the tracks to the supermarket intending to get a couple of partridges. Alas, there were none! Luckily there was Wood Pigeon, the other birds available were far too large for one each (pheasant, mallard, goose!). Don’t fear, Wood Pigeons are not the same thing as the greasy rats-of-the-sky very familiar in Sydney (and London). I think that city-pigeons might be Rock Dove’s (Columba livia) or maybe just some sort of mongrel, Wood Pigeons (Columba palumbus) are related though.

Let us get on with the recipe.


Main Ingredients
Coo coo — bang!
  • 2 Wood Pigeons (~280g each, marked on packet as 250g)
  • 6 rashers of Streaky Bacon (120g)
  • 1 small Zucchini (90g after tidying & chopping)
  • 1 medium Onion (200g after tidying & chopping)
  • 12 White Mushrooms (410g after tidying & chopping)
  • 1 tbsp Maple Syrup (10g)
  • 150ml Dry Red Wine
  • 2 cloves of Garlic
  • 6 Juniper Berries
  • 1 heaped tsp of dried Oregano
  • 2 tsp fresh ground Black Pepper
  • 2 tbsp Spiced Mead, or Port, or Sherry
  • Salt


Chopped Vegetables
Chopped Vegetables

Determining the right baking parameters for the birdies was a little difficult. The packaging recommended 40 minutes at 160 degrees, while Hugh’s Meat Book suggests up to 25 minutes at 230 degrees. I stuck to the latter, since the Meat Book is well on it’s way to becoming my preferred deity. If anything I think that critters of this size could have done better with 20 minutes rather than 25 (25 was the upper threshold for a “large” pigeon, but I don’t know what “large” is for a pigeon!). So, first step, preheat oven to 230 degrees.

Next heat the spiced mead, just bung it in a teacup and microwave it. Crush and halve the garlic cloves, crush the juniper berries, and throw both into the heated mead along with a teaspoon of pepper and a couple of grinds of salt.

Now prepare the vegetables. Trim mushroom stems, if necessary, and slice. Top and tail zucchini, halve lengthwise, and slice. Halve, top, and tail the onion and slice. (Photo right.)

Pigeons ready to bake
Oven Ready

Rub the birds with some olive oil, not dripping with oil, just glistening. Now place them breast-up in a roasting pan and get out the bacon. The bacon is to be wrapped over the breast of the bird, the idea is to provide a steady stream of fat to reduce moisture loss, this is known as barding. No special technique is required, the image on the left shows the barded birds. With this done spoon the mead mixture, which should have been sitting for at least 5 minutes, into the cavities of the bird sharing out the garlic and berries evenly. Whack it in the oven! Make a note of the time, they’ll be ready in 25 minutes.

Use a large heavy based pan to deal with the veggies. Add a tablespoon of light olive oil and get it nice and hot, the oil should shimmer and run like water but not be smoking. Toss in the veggies! Keep tossing them around and let them brown a little. After about 5 minutes of this push the temperature right down and add the wine, maple syrup, remaining pepper, and about 50ml of water (or stock if you have some handy). Put a lid on the pan and let it lightly sizzle for about 10 minutes, stirring on occasion. Turn off the heat and have a quick peek at your birds to make sure nothing untoward has happened.

If there’s some time remaining for the birds pour some wine and marinate the

Braised Vegetables
Braised Vegetables

Remove birds from the oven, turn it off and place a couple of plates in it to warm. Get a medium flame going under the vegetables again, and then continue self-marination for 5 minutes. Remove birds to a temporary holding dish (probably best to have warmed this in the oven too) and pour juices from the pan into the vegetable pan, add about 50ml of water to the pan scrape, swirl, and tip into vegetables. Now push the vegetables to high heat and boil away liquid until vegetable mix resembles that shown in the photo to the right, there should be very little liquid remaining. Grab the hot pates from the oven (careful!) and divide vegetable mixture between them. Place birds on top of vegetables, add a couple of grinds of pepper, serve! Simple!


This is a hard sort of meal to deal with on the Nutrition front, mostly thanks to the pigeon. The Waitrose nutritional information was for “when prepared as directed”, but this would involve weighing the beasts after baking them and didn’t specify whether the weight should include bones or not! I took a punt at it by calculating the raw consumed weight as the raw weight minus the leftover carcass parts after eating (approximating a total of 200g). I had little luck finding nutritional stats for raw wood pigeon so I used stats for “Pheasant, raw, meat and skin” from the USDA database.

So, clearly the information here must be regarded as little more than a rough approximation! Here’s goes:

Game’s Up!
Thing Value
Energy 672 kcal
Carbohydrate 19.4g
Protein 61.0g
Fat 38.5g
  Saturated 5.5g
Dietry Fibre 3.7g


We found the pigeons to be mild in flavour and maybe a little dry, but the wet vegetable mixture covered for any dryness in the meat. Next time I’d probably give them 5 minutes less time in the oven. That said, the sky-rats are certainly to be repeated!

Carrot & Tomato Soup with Basil & Tarragon

Note: This entry has been restored from old archives.

Carrot and Tomato Soup with Basil and Tarragon: Output
Carrot and Tomato Soup with Basil and Tarragon

This easy soup is one for the tomato lovers. I’ve used tinned chopped tomato, but be very picky with tinned tomato and don’t just buy the cheapest. The tomatoes I use (Napolina brand) are 70% tomato by weight, in tomato juice with added citric acid (preservative) and that’s the entire ingredient list. It could be replaced with an equivalent weight of blanched and skinned Roma tomatoes and a couple of tablespoons of tomato paste, but I’m after low-effort here.

Use fresh tarragon if you can get it (to taste, maybe 2 or 3 tbsp of packed chopped leaf), and add it with the basil. The last time I bought fresh tarragon from Tesco what I got was not tarragon, I’m 100% certain of this, it didn’t look like tarragon and it didn’t have even slightly the right flavour!


Carrot and Tomato Soup with Basil and Tarragon: Input
  • 200g Brown Onion — peeled and diced
  • 25g Unsalted Butter
  • 400g Carrot — peeled, topped, and tailed
  • 10g (small knob) Ginger — skin scraped off and thinly sliced
  • 15g (4 cloves) Garlic — peeled and sliced
  • 1 (10g) Chicken Stock Cube
  • 1200g canned Chopped Tomatoes (in “Rich Tomato Juice”)
  • 3tsp (heaped) Dried Tarragon
  • 2tsp Black Pepper — fresh ground
  • 100ml dry White Wine
  • 25g fresh Basil — chopped


  1. In a large pot melt the butter and start frying the onion, with the dried tarragon, sliced ginger, and black pepper.
  2. Meanwhile peel/slice carrot as required and place in with softened onion (not browned!).
  3. Toss carrot with onion then pour in wine and let simmer away.
  4. Now add chopped tomato, stock cube melted in 500ml of hot water, and the sliced garlic.
  5. Put on very low heat and let simmer until the carrot is granny-cooked (30 minutes should do), then remove from heat and let cool.
  6. When cool enough that you could eat it without pain it’s time to emulsify!.
  7. First fine-chop the basil and stir through the soup, then blend to a smooth consistency in whatever sized batches fit your emulsifier.


Heat to desired temperature and eat, or package and fridge/freeze. I’d serve
this with some fresh chopped basil, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a
dollop of natural yoghurt.

Carrot and Tomato Soup with Basil and Tarragon: +Beer!

The serve to the right has all this except the basil, there’s a generous grinding of pepper on there though. The small serve (100g) of new potatoes adds a bit of extra fodder to this meal. They’re microwaved for 3 minutes, tossed in EVOO, pepper and a little salt and then browned under an overhead grill. The beer is Innis & Gunn — Oak Aged Beer. It’s taking a long time to find a decent variety of drinkable British beer and this is a new favourite — now if only the Poms sold decent beer by the case like we do in Australia!


A serving for me is around 300ml and this recipe makes 6 servings, but could probably make 8 if you prefer a less thick soup (add 1.2l of water instead of 500ml). Based on a serving being 1/6th of this recipe with a 2g drizzle of EVOO and a 20g dollop of natural yoghurt I’ve calculated this approximate nutritional information (thanks to gourmet, USDA and a few manual database entries). The essentials and highlights:

Thing Value
Energy 142 Calories
Carbs 20g
Protein 5g
Fat 6g
  Saturated 2g
Sodium 379mg
Dietry Fibre 4g
Calcium 153mg
Iron 2mg
Folate 35µg
Vitamin A 8598IU
Vitamin C 26mg

The potatoes and beer aren’t accounted for here. Around 70Cals for the spuds with 15g of carbs. Beer? That’s just getting daft.

Beetroot and Celeriac Borscht with Basil and Nutmeg

Note: This entry has been restored from old archives.

Celeriac Borscht: Post-Purée

I wouldn’t normally bother to write about soup since it is essentially a “grab stuff, throw stuff in pot, heat and maybe blend” creation. I make a week’s worth of soup almost every Sunday so we can have soup in the fridge and freezer. We have soup for dinner at least three nights per week and alternate between “this week’s” and “last week’s” soup for variety. This will probably sound most unlike me, but here in the UK I follow much more planned eating habits than I did in Sydney. The primary reasons for this are: inaccessibility of good produce, the high price of produce and the extreme price of eating-out. Life here is very different to living and working mid-Sydney, I’d probably revert to my old ways if I lived and worked mid-London (and could afford it!). These days we have soup on Mon, Wed and Fri with カチンシ (Kathleneshi – Kat’s sushi) on Tue and my own cooking on Thu (usually a fish dish using something from the “Billingsgate” compartment in our freezer), weekends are “freestyle” to make up for weekday lunches, which are strongly regimented.

Back on topic! Today I made a potentially unusual soup and it turned out so well that I decided to make note of it, it can probably be more accurately called a borscht thanks to the beetroot.

The story of borscht starts on Saturday when we visited the Notting Hill office and thus, inevitably, the Portobello Road market, where I was browsing with this week’s soup in mind (and coffee!). Looking like boxes of well used medicine balls there was celeriac everywhere. I have never bought celeriac before but they look like they have soup potential so I picked one up. I’m afraid I didn’t take a photo of it but it looks like most celeriac I’ve seen – large, spherical, greenish and rough. The cooking goddess Stephanie says you should choose celeriac that are firm and baseball sized… I didn’t know this at the time though so I picked one that was about twice the diameter of a baseball (an unusual measure for an Australian chef to use!), luckily it turned out to be solid all the way through with no pithy hollows. I decided to pick up some beetroot too since I was aware that celeriac had a flavour similar to celery and I didn’t relish the idea of soup with a monotone celery flavour. The beetroot were around baseball sized and I got three of them.

So, fairly simple as soup should be, here it is:

Celeriac Borscht: Simmering
  • 1 double-baseball Celeriac
  • 3 single-baseball Beetroot
  • 1 large Brown Onion
  • A knob of Butter
  • 4 grinds of Salt
  • plenty of grinds of Pepper
  • 1 Chicken Stock Cube
  • A Nutmeg
  • A large handful of Basil Leaves
  1. Skin and roughly dice the onion and put into a large stock pot with the butter and grate in half the nutmeg.
  2. Peel the celeriac (I found this much easier to do roughly with a knife than with a peeler), quarter and slice thinly (since it is going into a soup with beetroot don’t bother with the acidulated water).
  3. Peel the beetroot (peeler does fine here) and slice as with celeriac.
  4. Turn on the heat and cook to very lightly brown the onion.
  5. With the onion browned throw all other ingredients except for the basil into the pot and add water until the celeriac just starts to lift (i.e. just-covered).
  6. Up the heat and bring to a boil then reduce to a low simmer (lowest heat on the smallest rosette), cover with the lid slightly ajar and leave to simmer (we actually went out with it simmering away so it got up to two hours of simmer-time but probably would have been fine with less).
  7. When the beetroot is tender turn off the heat and let cool for emulsifying.
  8. In batches process soup with the emulsifier (sorry, I just like that word – I mean food processor or blender) to an almost-smooth (but not quite) texture.
  9. Chop the basil leaves finely (i.e. with a knife or herb-chopper) and mix into the processed soup.
  10. At point taste and add more salt/pepper/nutmeg as you see fit.
  11. Reheat and serve! Or: Package and freeze!
Celeriac Borscht
Celeriac Borscht

I would serve this with a sprinkling of very-fine-sliced basil leaves, a couple of grinds of pepper and a drizzle of good olive oil (photo on left topped with grated nutmeg, ground pepper and olive oil – if you look at the album you’ll see it was served with an unusual accompaniment). A good crusty chunk of bread would go down with it beautifully – but unfortunately bread isn’t something we buy.

Pumpkin Soup

Note: This entry has been restored from old archives.

I’m always trying to do a pumpkin soup like Mum’s Thai Spiced Butternut soup – I never get it quite right though. This soup I made is completely different! 🙂 But it turned out very well.


  • 1 kg – Carnival Pumpkin (Butternut should do)
  • 1 medium – Brown Onion
  • 1 medium – Red Onion
  • 4 small – Parsnips
  • 2 large – Carrots
  • 5 cloves – Garlic


  • 3 stars – Star Anise
  • ½ tbsp – Ground Allspice
  • ½ tbsp – Hot Chilli Powder
  • ½ tbsp – Ground Coriander Seed
  • 1 tsp – Ground Cinnamon
  • 1 tsp – Ground Cumin Seed
  • 1 tsp – Ground Turmeric
  • 10 – Cardamom Pods
  • 10 – Kaffir Lime Leaves
  • 80g – Coriander Leaf


  • 3 tbsp – Peanut Oil
  • 1 400g tin – Coconut Milk
  • 2 litres – Chicken Stock

As usual with soup the process of manufacture is simple:

Boil some water in a kettle and pour over kaffir lime leaves in a teacup.
Peel garlic cloves and slice. Peel where necessary and chop vegetables into ~1 inch chunks.
Heat oil in a large pot, when a little hot (not really hot or you’ll end up with burnt spices) stir in all the dry spices. Should be aromatic, not burning!
When spices nicely mixed through the oil throw in the onion and garlic and sautée until translucent but not browned. Then throw in all remaining vegetables and toss until well coated with the oil.
Tip in coconut milk (reserve a little for later), kaffir lime leaves (with water) and the stock so that stock covers about 1 inch over vegetables (more stock = thinner soup, so add more/less as you prefer). Bring to boil then reduce heat to a simmer.
Cover and simmer until vegetables are soft, around 30 minutes should be fine.
Turn off heat and let cool (another 30 mins should do).
Fish out kaffir lime leaves, cardamom pods and star anise (or don’t – I only bothered fishing out the leaves).
Purée in batches in a food processor.
Finely chop the coriander and stir through the soup, keep a little for decoration. At this point add salt “to taste”.
Serve with a sprinkling of coriander and a swirl of coconut milk.

This recipe made us about 10 medium serves of soup. (We make soup on weekends and have soup for dinner three days a week, usually there are two types of soup in the freezer at any given time.)

Lamb Shank Casserole

Note: This entry has been restored from old archives.

Dinner's Up!
Hiding under all the soupy goodness is a shank!

While strolling back from Cinnamon Square (the best place in Rickmansworth for a ristretto) last weekend Kathlene and I wandered into the local butcher in hope that this time they would have some Osso Buco – no luck. However I did see some juicy looking lamb shanks, so they became dinner.


  • Juicy Lamb Shanks
  • 500g Green Lentils (dry)
  • 2 ~400g Tinned Tomato
  • “Sufficient” Chicken Stock
  • 1 Cup White Wine (Sav Blanc)
  • Flour (just for coating lamb)
  • 5 Anchovies
  • 4 Generous Sprigs of Thyme
  • 3 Sprigs of Sage
  • 1 Cinnamon Stick
  • 3 Bay Leaves
  • 3 Red Onions
  • 2 Sticks of Celery
  • 2 tsp Chilli Powder
  • 2-3rds cup of Peas (defrosted if using frozen ones)
  • 100g Pancetta, thin sliced.
  • 1 tbsp plain flour mixed into 3 tbsp water
  • 1 Small Pumpkin (15cm diameter)
  • 2 Small Kumara (10cm long)
  • 6 Spring Onions

Coat the lamb shanks in flour and place in heated oil to brown, turning regularly; use a casserole large enough for the shanks to be fully covered with liquid Meanwhile slice up the celery, dice two of the onions, chop the spring onions and cut the pancetta into 1cm strips. When the lamb shanks are evenly browned put the onions, celery, pancetta and anchovies into the casserole and cook until the onion starts to caramelise. At this point throw in the chilli powder, cinnamon stick, bay leaves, thyme, sage and spring onions followed by the wine. Then tip in the two cans of chopped tomato and fill with stock until the lamb shanks are covered (if your shanks are as large as mine this will be quite a lot of stock!). Keep on high heat until the liquid starts to boil then reduce to a simmer and cover.

Meanwhile rinse the green lentils and put into boiling water for 10 minutes, scooping off any froth that forms. Once the ten minutes has elapsed tip into a strainer to drain.

After the lamb shanks have been simmering for 30 minutes add the lentils to the casserole, mix through and replace the lid.

Cut the pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds then cut into 1 inch bands. Cut the skin off the pumpkin bands then cut into pieces that are very roughly 1 inch cubed in volume. Peel the kumara and slice into pieces about half an inch thick. Cut the remaining onion into large pieces (half, half, thirds).

After the casserole has simmered for another 30 minutes add the kumara and onion pieces. Let simmer for another 15 minutes then add the peas and pumpkin pieces. After a further 15 minutes drizzle in the flour mix while stirring and continue to agitate as the liquid thickens a little – after about 5 minutes turn off the heat.

Move the shanks to appropriate bowls, then remove any remains of thyme and sage sprigs from the soup (just stems and attached leaves) and the bay leaves; you could also remove the cinnamon stick at this point too but I prefer to break it up a bit and mix it through the soup as it should easily be soft enough to chew (yum!). Generously spoon the soup mixture and vegetables over the lamb shanks. Garnish as desired and serve with a good glass of dry red wine!


You’ll probably have soup left over, this is great to store and eat later. As we have a really huge casserole and only did two quite large lamb shanks we had a lot of left over soup – we had eight servings worth left! There’s still four in the freezer. It should be fine frozen for quite a while (we’ll finish it off this week though).

Spinach Pasta

Note: This entry has been restored from old archives.

Making pasta is easy and fun; fresh pasta leaves packages stuff for dead. I bought a large bag of spinach last weekend and simply couldn’t use it all, so today (2006-08-20) I salvaged what leaves I could and set out to make some spinach pasta!

Spinach Pasta: Ingredients


  • Pile of Spinach (about 2-3rds cup after cooking)
  • Strong Plain Flour (around 1.8 cups I guess)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  1. Boil plenty of water and salt it a little; throw in the spinach for only a few seconds, leave it in too long and all the flavour will end up in the water! When the spinach looks nicely softened scoop out and squeeze out as much water as you can (I use a wooden spoon and a sieve for this). Place the spinach into a food processor (keep the boiling water for boiling pasta later if that is your plan).
  2. Put the flour, salt and olive oil into the food processor and process until spinach is completely blended with the flour (see photo on right).
    Spinach Pasta: In the food processor
    In the food processor
  3. Drop the egg into the food processor (preferably minus the shell) while on a slow speed – the mixture should fairly quickly start to ball up (if not you may need to add a little more egg from another egg, or water – if too sticky adjust with some more flour).
  4. Relocate from food processor onto a floured surface and kneed until dough is evenly blended and nicely elastic.
  5. Break dough ball into manageable portions and roll very thin on a floured surface.
  6. With a sharp knife cut into fettucini.
  7. Put aside for later cooking, if not cooking today you can hang it to dry a little and use it in the near future (you could probably refrigerate or freeze it without drying, but I”m not familiar with doing this).
    Spinach Pasta: Dryish
    Spinach Pasta: Dryish

When you want to cook it just treat as you would any other pasta, put into plenty of salted boiling water and drain when it is done!

Spinach Pasta: Ready to eat!
Ready to eat!

I threw together a very simple sauce to go with this, just a tin of tomatoes, onion, garlic, green olives, capers and anchovies – done in less than 10 minutes.