Roasted guinea fowl with red orange
30 January 2018
During the season, I try to eat wild game meat as much as I can. It is, after all, the most local, low environmental impact meat you will find.
Guinea fowl doesn’t really count, however. Although it may sort-of count as game - it is most often described as having a flavour profile half way between pheasant and chicken, and so a suitable bird for people who don’t really like the gaminess thing - it is not found in the wild in this country. So your only option is farmed birds. And, that being the case, you have to make sure you source free-range if you don’t want to feed the intensively-reared poultry industry.
I was intrigued by an early Jamie Oliver recipe that paired it with blood oranges. You skin and slice the oranges and use it to stuff the bird, along with thyme and some seasoning. Guinea fowl have less fat than a chicken, and so can be prone to drying out if you’re not careful. Including some juice citrus inside the bird (and taking the trouble to baste every fifteen minutes or so) helps to keep the meat moist and imparts a nice flavour.
I had to adapt the recipe on the fly when it came to the gravy though. Simply following the original instructions came up with something that was a little flat and lacking in body. I threw in some chicken stock I’d made from a fine roasted chicken a little while ago, and had to combat a slight unbalanced flavour with a little sugar, some additional salt and (although you’d think a citrus-based sauce would have plenty already) a hit of acid. My acid of choice, as I’ve mentioned before, is 12-year-aged sweet white Moscatel vinegar. If I hadn’t had that to hand, I probably would have used some sherry vinegar. That brought it to life nicely.
This is the point about following recipes - you still need to evaluate whatever comes out of them and decide whether the flavour needs some adjustment. There are so many variables. The ingredients the recipe maker had might have been fresher, more flavourful or just different to yours. The oven might have performed differently. They (or their publisher) might have accidentally left out an ingredient from the recipe description. You can never completely give over your own responsibility to what appears on a printed page.
And especially because this is a recipe I’d copied down a long time ago. You can add my own human error to the list of things that could go wrong. And that’s a huge factor, right there.
Roasted guinea fowl with red orange
This produced a nice moist bird, and that’s the trick with something that has less fat like a guinea fowl. But a lot of it comes down to the performance of your oven. Watch the progress and evaluate how it’s going. And make sure you give it plenty of time to rest at the end.
1 free range guinea fowl
4 red oranges
1 stalk celery
1 handful fresh thyme
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, whole and unpeeled
3 tablespoons butter
5 sage leaves
125ml white wine
200ml chicken stock
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1/2 tablespoon cornflour
Preheat the oven to 220ºC (200ºC fan oven, or maybe even 190ºC if you have a fierce oven like mine).
Wash the guinea fowl and pat dry. Add a little salt to the cavity. Top and tail the oranges and then slice off the skin. Slice the oranges into four or five rounds each. Remove the tougher outside ribs of the celery and slice across thinly. Mix the oranges, the celery, the thyme and some salt and pepper, and then stuff this mixture into the cavity. Cover the cavity with the guinea fowl flap of skin if it’s present, and tightly truss the bird up to keep it all contained.
Rub the bird with a little olive oil, and then season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Heat a thick-bottomed pan that can go in the oven, and cook the guinea fowl over a medium high heat until lightly golden on all sides. Add the butter, garlic and sage and cook on for 3-4 minutes. Add a splash of the wine, and then place in the oven for around 45 minutes.
Check every 15 minutes to baste the bird and top up the wine as necessary.
When cooked, remove from the oven and place the bird upside down on a dish, and leave to rest. While it’s resting, make the sauce.
Remove the fat from the roasting pan, and put it on a medium heat. Once hot, scoop out the stuffing from the guinea fowl and add to the pan with the remaining wine. Boil this for a few minutes until the wine has reduced, making sure to scrape up all the meaty residues from the pan. Squeeze the roasted garlic out into the juices as well if you can and discard the skins. Once the wine has reduced down to a third, add the chicken stock and continue to simmer and reduce down. Strain out the orange pulp and put into a clean saucepan. Taste, and adjust seasoning. Add any resting juices that have come from the guinea fowl and then taste again. If it’s perfect, you’re good to go. If it tastes a little flat, liven it up with the sugar and the sherry vinegar.
If the sauce is a little thin for your taste, mix a little of the hot liquid with the cornflour, and then once it’s fully mixed in with no lumps, put it back into the rest of the sauce and simmer a little longer until it thickens.
Serve one thigh and one breast of the bird per person, with roast potatoes and / or any other vegetables of your choosing.
Food waste notes
I ended up using about 200ml of home made chicken stock, but probably you would buy yours in and it would come in 500ml containers. You don’t want to waste such precious stuff, so the easiest thing in the world is to freeze it straight away, and then you have it on hand for adding to a soup, or another sauce in the future. Some people boil the remaining stock down to reduce it to a more concentrated form and freeze it in ice cube trays so you can add a hit of stock to meals relatively easily. I might try that one day, but for now just freezing the stock does me fine.
Celery is a real problem, let's face it. So many recipes call for one stick of celery, and it doesn't last for a long time. If you have a real taste for eating it raw, maybe using sticks as crudités with houmous or something similar, then great. For me, that's not something I often do. If you do decide to munch on it raw over the two to three days following this dish, then don't store it in the plastic bag it originally came in (if it did). It traps the ethylene it produces and makes it deteriorate a lot more quickly. Either put it in a perforated paper bag, or even wrap it loosely in tin foil before storing it in the fridge. But don't even think about doing that unless you have your houmous (or whatever) to hand and you clearly have it noted in your head that that's part of your lunch tomorrow. Because otherwise we both know the celery is going to sit there and then in a week's time, you'll be throwing it out.
The alternative is to blanch and then freeze it. You won't want to eat it raw after that - it will have lost its crispness. But you'll be able to use it in recipes like this one, and in stews, soups and stocks - and having blanched it first you'll be able to keep it frozen for 12-18 months. So wash it, chop it, and then blanch in boiling water for 3 minutes, followed by plunging into an ice bath. Spread it out on a tray and put in the freezer. Once it's frozen, put it into a bag for longer term storage.
If you have white wine left over, I'm reasonably sure you should be able to work out on your own what you might do with that ...