Following another successful day of hunting ducks, I returned home not only with a few ducks, but also with some swans. Being a keen sausage maker, I thought it appropriate to make my first ever swan sausages. After spending considerable time “hunting” through all of my cook books, it was not a huge surprise to come up empty handed for swan sausages. I adapted some wild duck recipes and made a few kilograms each of basil and sun dried tomato, sage and swan and pork sausages. After tasting all of these, which are all very delightful, I came to the conclusion that the swan taste is very strong and over powering camouflaging the subtle tastes of the spices and next time I shall have to blend it with some milder meats. Overall a very interesting and delightful experience.
I was very fortunate to be invited for my first New Zealand duck hunt last Saturday. We prepared our Maimais on Friday and was out before light on Saturday. Even if there were to be no ducks, the shear beauty and pleasure of being out in the wild was adequate compensation. We were fortunate to get our share of ducks early on Saturday and enjoyed the views, walks along the streams and fresh air for the rest of the day. Sunday was duck cleaning day and after a few technical hitches, everything went smoothly and soon we had enough duck meat to last a long time. I was fortunate as nobody was interested in the offal and had it all to myself. As soon as got home I made it all into coratella, ate some and packed the rest into about 30 portions for the freezer – wonderful. The ducks were cut into portions, vacuum packed and frozen. I gave some meat to a few close friends and my neighbor across the road tried it the very next day and gave me the recipe for slow basted duck breast with dried figs, a recipe she created herself, which apparently was absolutely delicious.
Braise some onion and garlic in olive oil in a oven proof pot. Dust the duck breasts in flour and brown in a separate pan in olive oil. Now put the duck in with the onion and garlic and ad passata (tomato sauce) wine, chicken stock, dried figs, salt and pepper and bake in the oven for four to five hours at 120C. Turn and baste every so often.
Duck breasts and figs are on the menu for later in the week!
There were various hunting groups in the area and Saturday evening we all congregated to discuss the day and watch rugby together. I was disappointed to learn that many hunters would take breasts only and a few groups even discarding up to 60 entire ducks unused to only go out the next morning and kill some more. I am used to harvest for the pot only, waste nothing, and leave some for next year.
Old recipes that use meats that are these days regulated to the garbage or pets abound in Italy. The problem is that offal is not generally obtainable. Slaughtering my own animals has huge advantages!
With a few rabbit carcasses in the freezer, we decided to make a dish with the coratella (heart, liver, spleen, kidneys and lungs) incorporating some of the artichokes that we now have in abundance. Mrs BYO created the dish and did the cooking, serving it with the staple of the North, polenta. It was a delicious meal and we have all of the rabbit left to feed the more fussy members of the tribe.
CORATELLA CON CARCIOFI
As many cleaned rabbit offals as you can get your hands on, but at least 4, cut in small pieces
1/2 cup rabbit fat. The fat surrounding the kidneys are the best. alternatively use 1/2 cup olive oil
4 large garlic cloves roughly chopped
2 tablespoons of finely chopped rosemary
4 or 5 artichokes, cleaned and prepared, cut into 4 sections. All the green leaves of the artichoke must be snapped off and the choke removed, leaving only the tender white parts of the leaves and the heart
salt and pepper
Heat the fat in the pan on a low heat until the fat runs clear and only small bits of browned fat remains in the pan. Saute the garlic and rosemary in the fat until the garlic is golden. Add the rabbit, season with salt and pepper and brown everything quickly over a high heat. Sprinkle with a bit of wine. Lower the heat and cook the rabbit for about 10 minutes, regularly sprinkling the meat with wine, then add the artichokes. Sprinkle wine generously and cook uncovered, turning the artichokes often. When the artichokes are tender, serve hot with polenta or bread.
Rabbit is another of my favorites and fortunately readily available if not farmed yourself, and though Artusi mentions a well-to-do person’s being put off by the latter, they have always been popular out in the country because they’re easy to catch or raise. This recipe for stewed and roasted hare is Calabrian, but works equally well for rabbit, chicken or even quail
1 hare, chopped
2 Sweet Red onions, sliced
3 bay leaves
4 sprigs mint
Marjoram to taste
Thyme to taste
Slices of toasted bread
1/4 cup olive oil or rendered lard
A bottle of Ciró Rosso or any other good red wine
Marinate the hare in the wine with the onions and the herbs for two days, turning the meat occasionally.
Pat the meat dry, flour it, and brown it in the fat, using an oven-proof pot. Once the pieces are all browned stir in the marinade, bring to a simmer (you may want to heat the marinade separately while the meat is browning), and transfer the hare to a preheated 350 F (175 C) oven. Roast until done, spooning the liquid over the meat occasionally to keep it moist.
When the meat is done remove it to a platter and keep it warm – strain the liquid and reduce it over medium heat until it is quite thick. Spread it over the toasted bread, and serve it with the meat.
A wine? Another bottle or two of Ciró Rosso.
Late lunch/dinner out on the deck was fresh baked bread and live Green Lipped Mussels, unique to New Zealand. Back in Australia we did not like to buy them because they were frozen, and were not juicy and soft like they are when sold fresh. Mussels are not expensive in Dunedin and we buy them regularly. From the many ways they can be prepared we enjoy the simple unadorned recipes the most. I was lucky to get a picture of the half empty dish!
NZ Green Lipped Mussels
1 kg live mussels, bearded and scrubbed, all sand rinsed away
6 tablespoons of olive oil
4 cloves of garlic
1 pinch of dried chili flakes
3/4 cup of white wine
Salt and pepper
Put the olive oil, garlic and chili in a pot big enough to hold all the mussels. Gently soften the garlic, add the wine and the mussels. Cover the pot and turn up the heat. When the mussels have opened and released their juices, remove them from the pan, and reduce the sauce until there is only an inch or so left in the pot, add salt and pepper to taste. Add the mussels and the sauce that may have been released while standing, toss, warm through and serve with fresh bread and plenty of Pinot Grigio (here we have to settle for something completely different, namely Pinot Gris, which is heavier, darker and duller).
The secret here is not to lose any of the wine and liquid released by the mussels and to reduce and reduce the sauce until when finished, it will just cover each mussel in a film of sauce when tossed, with a little left in the pot to sop up after serving.
This recipe has been used with great success as a pasta sauce, too.