If you are anything like me, you may have been dieting for the last month.
Or you may have resolved to give up drinking, smoking, spending money and swearing, although possibly not all at once, which I foolishly tried one year. I went completely bonkers after a few days, only lasting about a week in the end. In fact, I cracked after three days with the swearing; it was impossible to not cuss while abstaining from all the other vices in my life.
These days I have given up “giving up” for January. It’s a tough month, with short days, dubious weather and the post-Christmas anti-climax. I start looking for ideas to jazz up January early in the month -.fun nights in with friends, such as Burns Night with Haggis, neeps and tatties, and a healthy helping of whiskey keep me going.
Congratulations if you have managed to keep your new year’s resolutions thus far, you definitely deserve a treat.
Whether you’re creating a reward for a month of self-restraint, an excuse to brighten a dreary winter weekend or a romantic valentine’s meal, this dish is easy to prepare, tastes great and is still full of healthy fruit and vegetables. Do you need any other excuses to make it?
Oven-roasted guinea fowl with bacon and pea sauce, and root vegetable smash
Guinea fowl is a lovely meat which has been described as “chicken and then some”.
Although a game bird, they are now available year-round. The peas could be substituted with mushrooms or leeks, which you would need to fry with the bacon for 5 minutes until cooked before adding the crème fraiche.
Serves 4-6 people (1 bird feeds 2-3 people depending on appetite)
Preparation and cooking time 40 minutes
2 guinea fowl
200g streaky bacon, chopped into small pieces
150g frozen peas.
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
2 cloves garlic, minced
300g crème fraiche
1tsp thyme leaves
Salt and pepper
1. Heat oven to 180c.
2. Joint each guinea fowl into 4 pieces – 2 supremes (the breast with wing bone) and two legs.
3. Brush with butter and season, and place in a 180C oven for 10-12 minutes (or until done).
4. Check that they are cooked by piercing with a skewer – if the juices run clear they are cooked. If they need to go back in and are already golden brown, cover with foil.
5. While the guinea fowl is cooking, fry the bacon in a medium/hot frying pan with 1tbsp oil. When it is cooked through, add the garlic, thyme and lemon zest. Stir for 1 minute, then add the crème fraiche. Stir for another minute, then add the peas. Simmer for about 3 minutes until the peas are done and turn the heat to low. Season to taste. The sauce should not be too thick. If it is, you can stir in a splash of milk to loosen.
6. To serve, float some of this sauce in a bowl. Position a dollop of the root veg smash in the centre, and place the guinea fowl on top. The dish is garnished with pea shoots on top.
Roaster Vegetable Mash
Preparation and cooking time 30 minutes
This dish has a bite to it and is thicker and more chunky, not smooth like mash or puree. You can use any combination of root vegetables for this simple dish.
200g carrot, diced into 2,5cm pieces
200g turnips, diced into 2.5cm pieces
400g Swede, diced into 2.5cm pieces
Salt and pepper
1. Each vegetable needs to be cooked separately to ensure none are overcooked.
2. You can either toss them in oil and salt and pepper, and roast for 10-15 minutes, or you can boil them. If boiled, drain them in a sieve, and then press them gently to drain out as much of the absorbed water as possible. They should be cooked through, but not overcooked, otherwise this will result in a puree/mash-type consistency, quickly going past the smash stage.
3. Once they are all cooked, put in a food processor with the butter and pulse to a rough consistency, I do ours until the pieces are about 3-4mm big.
4. Taste and season again, add more butter if required.
Dark Chocolate Panna Cotta with Sloe Gin Poached Pears
30 minutes preparation time, 4 hours setting time
For the pears
6 pears, peeled, halved and cored
600ml dry cider
200ml sloe gin
1 star anise
5 juniper berries
8 allspice berries
Zest of half a lemon
1 cinnamon stick
1. Put all the ingredients except the pears in a pan and bring to the boil to dissolve the sugar.
2. Add the pears and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the pears are soft and cooked.
3. Remove the pears from the juice and put to one side.
4. Reduce the liquid to make a sauce. You may wish to remove some or all of the spices, otherwise their flavours can become far too strong in the reduction process. Boil until the liquid is the consistency you require – a thin syrup is a nice.
For the Panna Cotta
1 litre double cream
150g caster sugar
1 vanilla pod split with seeds scraped
200g dark chocolate (at least 65% cocoa)
8 leaves gelatine, or enough to set 1.2 litres liquid
1. Place the cream, caster sugar, vanilla pod and seeds in a pan on a medium heat, bring to a simmer.
2. Put the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of water (make sure the bowl is not touching the water) and melt the chocolate.
3. Add the chocolate to the cream, and stir to combine and take off the heat.
4. Put the gelatine leaves in a bowl of water and soak for 3-5 minutes until soft. Add to the cream mixture and stir to ensure it is all dissolved.
5. Leave the cream mixture to cool a bit before dividing between 2 glasses of your choice. Serve with grated chocolate flakes on top, and the pears and sauce.