Category Archives: meat

Get Your Picnic On!

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Roasted Eggplant Salad

Lately, I am all smiles. Why wouldn’t I be? The weather outside is glorious! I know I am not the only one who is loving sweet summer days that lead to wonderful outdoor dining. A while back I announced a contest. I suggested my readers would challenge me with any recipes/meal ideas and I would cook them, photograph them and report back. I was supposed to randomly draw up 3 winners. Drum rolls please….
The first winner is Noemi Hedrick. Here is what she requested, “I would love to see a picnic “done well”. Cold foods that make you want to picnic ALL DAY! I love chicken on skewers and dip. Can you deal with that?”

Absolutely!

I loved working on this post because it combined so many things that I adore-my reader’s request, Russian food I grew up on, endless tasting tests with friends and family while having picnics of my own.

The first thing I got working on was skewered meat with dip called Shashlik in Russian, which is mostly likely a borrowed word as it doesn’t sound Russian to me. 🙂 Shashlik is a marinated meat that is later skewered and slowly roasted over hot coals. It’s Russian campers’ favourite past time. All city dwellers will talk of nothing more than their desire to finish the work week and go to the countryside “na shashliki” (to have shashlik).  This tasty food came to Russia in the 19th century and was brought by Russian soldiers who fought in the Crimean War and fell in love with that local delicacy. Since then it’s been one of the most beloved foods and became the symbol for outdoor eating.Russian skewered meat "Shashlik"

My husband Brad was first introduced to shashlik by my two friends Marina and Misha in the country house outside of Nizhni Novgorod, Russia. He loved it so much that he made it his first project in our newly bought house to build a brick fire pit for making shashlik. It does tend to leave an impression on people!

Russian Shish Kebab "Shashlik"
Shashlik is traditionally enjoyed with fresh vegetables and simple salads.
        My Picnic Menu

  1. Pork Shashlik with Minted Greek Yogurt Dip
  2. Crudités (tomatoes, green onions, cucumbers or any vegetables you like)
  3. Grilled Eggplant Salad with crusty bread
  4. Mixed Olives
  5. Red Wine

Russian Picnic Menu
Russian Picnic Menu
Grilled Eggplant Salad
Ingredients for Shashlik:

Marinade:

  • Onions (sliced for marinade)- 3 large
  • Garlic- 1 head
  • Cumin- 1 tbsp.
  • Paprika- 1 tbsp.
  • Oregano- 1 tsp.
  • Salt- 1 tsp.
  • Fresh Pepper- 1 tsp.
  • Red Wine Vinegar- 2/3 cup
  • Lemon Juice- 1 lemon
  • Bay Leaf-2

Skewers:

  • Pork Loin- 2,5 lbs
  • Onions (quartered for skewers)
  • Bell Peppers- 2-3 (red, green, yellow)

Method:

{The night before}

In a large wide bowl combine all the ingredients for marinade, then add 3/4″ cubes of pork loin, cover with either a lid or a cling wrap and refrigerate over night.

Prepare hot coals for grilling until coated with white ash or use a gas grill.

Remove the meat from the marinade and string it on a skewer intermittent with pieces of bell peppers and onions. Grill the skewers sprinkling with marinade every 3 minutes for 9-11 minutes.

Note: Do not use the onion slices from the marinade on your skewers as they were in contact with raw meat for hours and might be unsafe to eat.

Ingredients for Minted Greek Yogurt Dip:

  • Greek Yogurt-1 cup/250ml
  • Lemon Juice-1/2 lemon
  • Fresh Mint- 3-4 sprigs, leaves only (to taste)
  • Cucumber (diced)- 1/4 cup
  • Radishes (diced)-1/4 cup
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Method:

Recruit your spouse or partner to grill the meat. This way you can get all the side dishes ready. Combine yogurt, lemon juice, mint, salt and pepper. Add cucumbers and radishes right before serving as the vegetables will release quite a bit of liquid and will make the dip too watery if combined too early.

Also prepare a selection of raw vegetables and arrange them on a platter. They will be delicious with Minted Greek Yogurt Dip.

Grilled Eggplant Salad

Ingredients for Grilled Eggplant Salad:

  • Eggplant- 2 medium
  • Eastern European style or Italian marinated mushrooms (usually in the deli section)- 1 small jar
  • Bell peppers (red, orange, yellow)-  2-3 mini peppers or just the number according to the size
  • Cherry tomatoes (halved)- 7-8
  • Olives (optional)-1/4 cup
  • Flat leaf parsley (chopped)- 1/4 cup
  • Garlic (crushed)- 1 clove
  • Red wine vinegar- 1 tbsp.
  • Olive Oil- 1 tbsp.
  • Salt to taste

Method:

While your barbecue is warming up, cut the eggplants into 1/2″ slices and leave them in a bowl filled with water and 1 tsp. of salt for 30 minutes. Then remove them from water and put on the skewers, brush with a bit of olive oil or spray with a calorie reduced cooking spray. Grill on the barbecue for 10 minutes, test for doneness, they should not be spongy but have a soft and silky texture.

While your eggplant is getting grilled, prepare the dressing for the salad. Mix together oil, vinegar, crushed garlic and chopped parsley, set aside.

As soon as you take the eggplant off the grill, put the slices in a salad bowl and pour the dressing on them while still hot, then add the remaining ingredients, season with salt if needed.

Set aside for the flavours to meld. This salad is delicious both cold from the refrigerator and at room temperature. Perfect picnic food!

{Note: Grilled Eggplant is also great just on its own with the salad dressing as pictured in this post.}Grilled Eggplant SaladRussian skewered meat "Shashlik"
So what do you think Noemi? Did I handle it alright?

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Spicy Turkey Burek

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Spicy Turkey and Filo Burek
Some smells and tastes are so nostalgic that even the mere memory of them create instant longing. Sometimes it’s the taste itself but more often it’s the time of our life that is linked to certain food experiences-happy childhood memories, flashbacks to the dizzying early days of a first love or late night eating with your girlfriends in a college dorm. Life is inevitably connected to food we eat and people we share it with. That’s what makes some things truly unforgettable.

One of the best parts of my childhood were summer travels with my parents to the South of Russia. We often went to the Black Sea for a much needed beach holiday. It was a day and a half travel by train which was surprisingly fun for my brother and I. I really loved Russian trains or “mobile hotel rooms” as Brad calls them with their endless tea drinking ceremonies usually accompanied by adults passionately discussing everything from the history of football to the flaws of the government structure and the children watching the expanse of Russian landscape stretch for hours on end. The highlight of the journey was the moment the food vendors would knock on our door with their cart full of wonderfully smelling food. To our utter disappointment, their food never passed my mom’s standards for health and nutrition but once in a while she’d be out of the compartment and my dad would buy us a burek or a cheburek as it is known in Russia

Spicy Turkey and Filo Burek
Cheburek is a popular street food commonly sold throughout Russia. It’s Crimean Tatar’s national dish that is loved and accepted in Russia as their own. Different incarnations of it exists in parts of Eastern Europe and also in Turkey, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan and is more commonly known as Burek or Borek. Deep fried pastry filled with spicy minced meat and onions, cheburek is a lovely snack but not the healthiest thing in the world. I am sure you can see my dilemma as I’ve been on a quest to shed a few pounds for a couple of months, burek just didn’t fit into my diet but the need to make it grew stronger every time I passed the Turkish shop on my way to pick up the kids from school. Necessity is the mother of invention they say. Lo and behold, I present to you-Healthy Burek. Spicy minced turkey breast wrapped into delicate filo pastry and baked in the oven. I served it with hummus and fresh veggies for dipping. Although creating guilt-free burek was hugely experimental, the end result was a keeper and equally loved and enjoyed by husband and children alike. Win-win.
Spicy Turkey and Filo Burek with Hummus
Ingredients:

  • Minced Turkey Breast-500 gr
  • Onion-1 medium
  • Cilantro- 1/2 bunch
  • Parsley- 1/2 bunch
  • Garlic- 2 cloves
  • Dry Coriander- 1 tsp.
  • Chili Flakes(optional)-to taste
  • Salt and Pepper- 1 tsp.
  • Filo Pastry sheets- 150 gr.
  • Olive oil or oil spray

Method:

Preheat the oven to 250C/450F.

Chop onions, cilantro and parsley, mince garlic and combine with turkey, add salt and pepper and mix well. It’s very important to make sure your filling is properly spiced or you will end up with something bland and uninteresting, pinch a small amount off and fry it, taste it and add more spices if necessary.

Take one sheet of filo pastry and keep the rest covered with a tea towel to prevent drying out. My filo pastry came from a Turkish shop and was already cut into triangles, if yours is not you can do it yourselves. I prefer the triangle shape because you end up with less pastry to meat ratio and therefore crispier burek.

Put 2 tbsp. of filling on the wide end of the filo sheet and wrap it towards the tip of the triangle tucking the sides in. Place it on the parchment lined baking sheet making sure that the tip of the triangle is on the bottom, then either brush it with a bit of olive oil or use an oil spray. Repeat until the filling is gone- approximately 8-10 bureks.

Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, turning them over at a half time point to make sure they crisp up evenly.

Spicy Turkey and Filo BurekSpicy Turkey and Filo Burek
Additional links of this tasty treat are found below. Enjoy!

Russian Pastry Chebureki by Mom’s Dish

Borek or Burek (with spinach and cheese) by To Food with Love

Turkish Sigara Boregi with Minced Meat by Eating Out Loud

Paella Valencia and More Memories of Days Past

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Paella Valencia
How often do you look at your life and feel contemplative about the course it’s taken- decisions made, places visited and lived and food eaten? I seem to find myself reminiscing quite often as our life keeps charging forward with so many changes which leave me feeling desperate to hold on to every fun memory we’ve ever had. Those moments, of course, were often created around a meal. If the memories are really special wouldn’t you want to re-create them?

This post is about one of those great memories which incidentally includes our good friend Paella Valencia. Although it is a friend now and shows up regularly for dinner at our house 10 years ago when Brad and I decided to go for a little getaway for our 2nd wedding anniversary neither of us ever heard of Paella. Here we were really excited to have a proper mini-holiday like two grown-ups, the feeling we promptly lost upon our check-in into a beautiful Victorian mansion Bed and Breakfast. Our first and definitely last stay in a B&B. We just couldn’t escape the feeling like two teenagers staying at their spinster aunt house but also paying handsomely for it.  For the duration of our stay we were trying to avoid the all hearing ears of our eccentric and ever so curious hostess but alas we were lacking much needed ninja finesse to be successful. Venturing out to a fancy restaurant we had a voucher for made us feel even younger and more out of place. After surveying the menu for a couple of minutes we quickly realised that the place was far out of our price range even with the discount we were clutching in our hands. Well the decisions was made quickly. We simply ordered the  only item we could afford-the foreign sounding Paella Valencia and tap water.

That was my first introduction to the Spanish staple. It was delicious yet simple and achievable at home. No wonder it’s been the country’s hero among the peasants for generations and many consider paella the national dish of Spain. It gets its beautiful yellow colour from saffron, the world’s most precious and expensive spice. The dish is as tasty as it is gorgeous- vibrant yellow rice punctuated with the colourful bits of red chorizo, pink shrimp, black mussels and green peas!

Paella Valencia
Ingredients:

  • Paella Rice- 2 cups/500 gr
  • Olive Oil-1 tbsp.
  • Saffron- a pinch
  • Onion-1 medium
  • Garlic-2 cloves
  • Flat Leaf Parsley- half a bunch
  • Chicken Stock (homemade or prepared)-4 1/2 cups/1.2 litres
  • Chicken thighs (skinless and boneless)-4
  • Prawns- 1 cup/250 gr
  • Mussels- 1lbs/450gr
  • Chorizo- 250 gr
  • Frozen Peas- 1/2 cup
  • Lemon-1
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Paella ingredients
Method:

I find it helpful to dice and slice everything that needs to be diced and sliced before we start our paella because once the heat is on you will be throwing things in quickly and won’t have the time to do the prep. Chop up your parsley, slice chorizo and dice chicken into bite sized chunks. Also, dice the onion and finely mince the garlic. Heat the chicken stock.

Set a large pan over medium heat and put in the olive oil. Add the chicken, chorizo and parsley and stir everything together. Cook until the chicken is cooked, then add onion and garlic and cook for 3-5 minutes. Add rice, a pinch of salt and saffron and stir everything making sure the rice in coated in olive oil, cook for 3 minutes. I once watched Antonio Banderas cook paella on TV and he said that frying of the rice is what makes paella. Don’t know about you but I trust the man with silky voice and charming Spanish accent.

Now pour in your hot chicken stock and bring everything to a boil, cover the pan with a lid and lower the heat. Cook for 15-20 minutes. When the rice is almost done but still a bit chewy add the prawns, mussels and frozen peas. Cook for 10 minutes longer, stirring occasionally so the paella is not sticking to the bottom of the pan. Squeeze the juice of one lemon and grind some fresh pepper over the paella before serving. Taste to make sure there is enough salt, add more if necessary.

Paella Valencia

Serve with some crusty bread and robust Spanish wine.

Paella Valencia
Paella Valenciana
Note: This recipe was adapted from Jamie Oliver’s “Jamie Does Spain”.

Lime Tequila Chicken Wings

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Lime Tequila Chicken WingsNothing screams “summer is here” louder than a gloriously sunny 3-day weekend and a fired up barbecue. Will you agree with me if I say that absolutely everything taste better when it’s cooked outside? Suddenly simple and everyday foods get transformed into heavenly bites. The images of happy childhood camping days start flashing in front of your eyes as soon as you smell a bit of smoke coming from your barbecue, only now you can also indulge in a margarita. I love a quality margarita, only not the sweet and slushy kind you get in a pseudo-Mexican restaurant but “the real deal-squeezing your own lime juice-on the rocks margarita”. There is something magical in the combination of sour and refreshing lime juice and tequila that goes further than just making a drink great. No surprise, it also works wonders as a marinade for chicken.

Ingredients:

  • Chicken Wings (split in half)- 2lbs
  • Fresh Green Chilli Peppers-2
  • Lime Juice-1/2 cup
  • Lemon Juice- from 1 lemon
  • Lime Zest- from 1 lime
  • Tequila- 1/2 cup
  • Garlic- 3 cloves
  • Cumin- 1 tbsp.
  • Chili Powder- 1 tbsp.
  • Salt

Method:

Put all the ingredients except for the chicken wings in a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Put the chicken wings in a shallow dish and pour the marinade over them, cover with a cling film and let the marinade work its magic for at least 5 hours. Grill on the barbecue until a golden crust develops and the juices run clear or cook them in the oven at 450F/250C for approximately 20 minutes.

Serve with grilled corn, Pico de Gallo and corn chips and, of course, don’t forget to toast the arrival of the barbecue season with a homemade margarita. Cheers!

Lime Tequila Chicken Wings
Lime Tequila Chicken Wings
Lime Tequila Chicken Wings

Russian Crepes “Blini”

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Their peaceful life was firmly grounded

In the dear ways of yesteryear,

And Russian blini fair abounded

When the fat Shrovetide spread its cheer. 

                                                                                                                                -Aleksandr Pushkin Evgeni Onegin”

These lines are familiar to every Russian and come from one of the most beloved poet of the 19th century Aleksandr Pushkin, someone I was obsessed with from the age of 13 to 15. Yes, you heard me right, completely infatuated with a dead poet whose life ended in a duel, defending his wife’s honour at the same age I am now. So very romantic and tragic-absolutely perfect for an impressionable teenager.  I am sure the life and literary heritage of Pushkin will creep up in my writing again at some point but today’s post is about one of the most celebrated foods in Russian cuisine-Blini, loved enough to be immortalised in literature!

What exactly are Blini (plural)? They are thin, crepe-like pancakes, usually eaten with jam, honey, and sour cream or stuffed with sweet or savoury fillings.

Russian Crepes "Blini"

I have always thought that my mum’s blini were the best I ever tasted. That opinion is probably biased but I stick to it. However, I found the task of re-creating the taste of her blini almost unsurmountable. The main reason is the absence of the recipe. You see most of the Russian women cook without recipes, they just sort of throw things together as they call it “na glaz”, which translates as “by the eye”. There is a famous Russian saying “The first Pancake is always a lump”. You would hear it all the time if a new venture doesn’t work out, someone would look at you kindly and say, “Don’t worry, the first pancake is always a lump” meaning-“it’s still early days, you will eventually figure it out”. Well, the origin of that saying became obvious when I decided to create the recipe. I was hoping to write the recipe that would help to avoid the harsh truth of that famous proverb, the recipe my readers could use and succeed with it. Let me tell you, it was one of the hardest things I ever did. I mixed the batter and fried the first blin. Sure enough, it was a lump that I had to scrap. More flour. Second try was better but still not “it”. More flour. Third try. Sigh and close to tears. In the end, after many, many, MANY adjustments I conquered it and  came up with the version that was the closest to my mum’s.

Her two main secrets were using kefir instead of milk and always frying blini on a cast iron pan. It’s impossible to find kefir in London unless you make your own, which I don’t do so I decided to substitute it with buttermilk. Here is my recipe and I hope you will be brave and try it in your kitchen.

Ingredients:

  • Flour- 3 cups
  • Buttermilk-3 1/2 cups
  • Water-1/2 cup
  • Eggs-2 large
  • Baking soda-1/2 tsp.
  • Sugar-1 tbsp.
  • Salt- 1 tsp.

Method:

In a mixing bowl mix eggs, flour, 1 cup of buttermilk, baking soda, sugar and salt with a whisk. When the mixture is smooth and has no lumps add remaining buttermilk and water. The consistency should be the same as of heavy cream.  Let stand for 20 minutes. You should see small bubbles on the surface of your batter. Preheat your non-stick frying pan on medium heat and grease it with an odourless oil. ( I usually put some oil on a paper towel and rub the frying pan with it to ensure even coating.) With a ladle or a measuring cup pour 1/2 cup of batter in the pan and tilt the pan slightly so batter runs to the edges forming a thin and round crepe. Cook it until batter looks dry, then flip with a spatula and cook for 2-3 more minutes. Remove to a platter. Repeat with the next crepe and continue cooking until the batter is used. Stack the blini on top of each other. Serve with fresh fruit, jam, creme fraiche or sour cream. As much as I try to instil the “Russian-ness” in my children they still prefer blini with whipped cream and maple syrup! I shake my head and say to myself, “They are Canucks not Ruski.” When it comes to food, there are no hard rules. Eat blini with whatever your heart desires!

In Russia Blini are usually enjoyed with butter, jam and sour cream and sometimes caviar although the latter was not very common in my family. My mum often made blini for a late weekend breakfast. She made A LOT and there were always leftovers which she used for lunch the next day. Always wanting to serve a variety of food she would make a savoury filling and stuff blini with it. There are countless options for a filling and today I will share one of them with you.

Chicken and Mushroom Filling for Blini

Ingredients:

  • Cooked Chicken- 450 gr/ 1 lbs
  • Mushrooms-300 gr
  • Onion-2 medium
  • Flat Leaf Parsley- 10 springs
  • Garlic- 1 clove
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Chicken stock-1/2 cup
  • Butter- 1 tbsp.

Method:

Melt the butter in the skillet, add the onions and saute over medium heat for 5 minutes, add chopped mushrooms, garlic and parsley and saute until mushrooms are cooked for another 8 minutes. Add cooked chicken, chicken stock and season with salt and pepper and cook for 10 minutes. Your filling should be juicy but not too runny.

Once your filling is done, the blini are ready to be rolled. Use 1/2 cup of the chicken and mushroom mixture per crepe and roll in the same manner you would a burrito. Brown them on both sides in a skillet with a little bit of butter or warm them up in the oven at 350 F/180C for 10 minutes. You can have them made and stored in the refrigerator well in advance and warm them up right before serving. Try them instead of sandwiches on a side of a nice bowl of steaming soup. Ah all of this talk of blinchiki is evoking some great childhood memories for me! Enjoy!

Blini with a chicken and mushroom fillingRussian Crepes "Blini"Russian Crepes "Blini"

Wild Rabbit and Pheasant Pie or Happy British Pie Week

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Wild Rabbit and Pheasant Pie

It’s British Pie Week and I thought it would be only fitting to indulge ourselves in yet another pastry filled with a wonderful fusion of flavours. When people talk about “pies” here in England you never need to wonder if they mean “meat pies”, it’s assumed. The Brits eat fruit pies as well but the meat variety holds a special place in the nation’s hearts and stomachs. Works for me as I come from Russia, another pie loving nation. I didn’t need further convincing to embark on a pie making campaign. Earlier this week I blogged about Yellow Plum and Blueberry Galette and today I am sharing with you this completely unusual and utterly delicious Wild Rabbit and Pheasant Pie.

When I was growing up my mum used to make Rabbit and Sour Cream Stew. If you think of happy childhood memories it wasn’t one of them. My brother and I had very strong opinions about that dish and talks about the dislike for it provided for some quality bonding time between the siblings. I often wondered since then if I would think differently now that I am in possession of a very grown up taste. There are not too many foods I dislike provided they are cooked well. Alas, I had a few opportunities to test my theories. After all, where does one go to purchase a rabbit or a pheasant in North America? Now, England is a different story. Sometimes I feel like I am in a foodie heaven-so many things that I love are easily accessable and completely affordable! This was the case with rabbit and pheasant casserole mix I stumbled upon in one of the local shops. Although I had no idea what I was going to cook I knew I had to buy it.  Rabbit excited me but pheasant sent me over the top. If you are a book worm like me you’d probably also wondered what pheasants taste like after reading the descriptions of feasts in various books of old. How pleased was I when I spotted the design on one of my plates- the latest flea market find-  Asiatic Pheasants. Serendipity, indeed.
Wild Rabbit and Pheasant Pie
The recipe for this pie is a mixture of things-the memories of my mum’s stew, my usual meat pie recipe and also a bit of research. Without further ado let me introduce the final result.
Wild Rabbit and Pheasant Pie
Ingredients:

  • Rabbit meat (skinless and boneless)-150 gr
  • Pheasant meat (skinless and boneless)-150 gr
  • Chicken thighs (skinless and boneless)-300 gr
  • Onion-1 large
  • Garlic- 1 clove
  • Rosemary-2 sprigs
  • Flour- 1tbsp. heaped
  • White wine, vermouth or cider (optional)- a good splash
  • Chicken stock- 2 cups
  • Carrot- 1
  • Peas-1/2 cup
  • Potato- 1 medium
  • Pre-made pie crust – 500gr
  • Creme fraiche or sour cream- 2 tbsp.
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Egg (beaten)-1Rabbit and Pheasant Pie

Method:

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan, dice the onion and gently cook it in a pan over low heat for 5-7 minutes without colouring it. Dice your rabbit, pheasant and chicken into 1” dice and add to the pan, brown the meat over medium heat, add rosemary and cook for 2 more minutes, then pour in the wine, let the alcohol burn off and then add your stock, bring to a boil and turn the heat down. Gently simmer the mixture for 1.5 hours, stirring occasionally and adding more stock if a bit dry. At the end of the cooking time your meat should be very soft and the whole filling look like it’s swimming in gravy but not too soupy.

Adding vegetables is entirely your choice. I like a little bit of crunch in my pies provided by the veggies not the gristle :-). Slice the carrot and potato and add to the mixture, cook for 5-7 minutes, then add frozen peas. When I added my peas I realised it was the pea and corn mix, so that’s what the yellow flecks in the pictures are. Stir in your creme fraiche for the creamy consistency and cool your mixture so it doesn’t melt the pie crust when you pour it in. I am very impatient and often pay for it! Now is the time to preheat your oven to 200C/400F.

Roll out your pie crust to fit your pie plate making sure the bottom crust goes up the sides and hangs over the edges. Fill your pie with the meat mixture and cover it with the top crust. If you feel especially creative you can cut out rounds with a pastry/cookie cutter and assemble a pie topper out of them, overlapping them slightly and brushing each circle with an eggwash to make individual circles stick to each other and to give your pie an attractive shiny and golden finish. If you opt out for the traditional top crust don’t forget to make slits so the steam can escape. Bake at 200C/400F for 30 minutes until the pie is golden and the filling is bubbling.

Wild Rabbit and Pheasant Pie
Note: I would love to point out that this recipe will work brilliantly with just chicken. I realise that rabbit and pheasant are not too common but don’t discard a great pie recipe if you don’t feel adventurous enough to try them. Substitute and enjoy!

Duck Confit or Souvenirs de Paris

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Musique, ambiance et souvenirs d’un temps qui ne paraît pas si vieux…

What are your most treasured memories with the one you love? I am so fortunate to have many but last Valentine’s Day I chose to re-create the one from our anniversary trip to Paris. Although we have spent the majority of our happy days in much humbler settings I thought it would be fun to reminisce of a few glamour moments in Brad’s and my life together.

Paris shoot by Ophelia Photography
Photo Credit: Lisa Gratton of Ophelia Photography.

We had to start our meal with some bread, pâté and pickles just the way it was served to us in Paris!

Duck Confit

In order to bring the cozy ambience of the French restaurant we spent an evening celebrating 10 years of marriage I decided to duplicate the menu. Sounds ambitious, yes, but to my surprise and delight, it was easy and fun! When we think of French food, we think of  art, sophistication, finesse, in other words- the height of the culinary profession.  All of those qualities are true, nevertheless, there is also pure and earthy peasant food that is just as authentic, if not more, to the French life which is deliciously gratifying and a cinch to make. Duck Confit is one of those dishes that you can only find on the menu of upscale restaurants in North America, while it’s not at all posh in my part of the world.

Duck Confit
Duck and Roasted Potatoes, there is simply no meal more satisfying in the world for my taste. There are several steps to this dish but each of them is simpler than the next!
Ingredients (Romantic Dinner for 2):

  • Duck legs- 2 big and juicy ones
  • Duck fat- 500 gr.
  • Thyme- 3-4 sprigs
  • Bay leaf- 2
  • Juniper Berries- 4 crushed
  • Garlic- 2 cloves split lengthwise
  • Course Salt- 1 tbsp.
  • Potatoes- 4-5 medium

Duck Confit

Method:

The night before. Rub your duck legs with course salt, put your them in a shallow dish with thyme, bay leaf, crushed juniper berries and garlic, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

The day of the dinner. Brush the salt off the duck. Don’t skip this step or your duck might be too salty! Put the contents of the shallow dish you prepared the night before into an oven proof dish and cover the duck legs with duck fat. I am not joking, the duck legs should be completely covered, I mean “swimming in the fat” covered! Let me assure you before you run away screaming, you won’t be eating all that fat and the little amount that will end up crisping up the duck is good for you! You see, “confit” (pronounced “confee”) is a french way of cooking and preserving meat in it’s own fat and was used hundreds of years ago before refrigeration was available. I have seen recipes for tomato confit, pumpkin confit, you name it but all of those things are a misuse of the original meaning of the word.

Back to the recipe. Cook the duck in the oven at 250F/120C for 2 hours. At the end of it your meat should be falling off the bone tender and juicy (and will NOT look appetising) but it’s not done yet!

With a pair of tongs take your duck legs out of the dish and pat the excess fat with paper towel. The last step is roasting your duck legs with potatoes. Arrange the duck in a roasting pan on top of sliced garlic cloves with thickly sliced potatoes, brush a bit of that duck fat on your potatoes, trust me nothing works better on them, sprinkle with additional thyme, salt and pepper. Roast at 400F/200C for 30 minutes or until crispy. (Alternatively, you can pre-boil your potatoes to make sure they cook evenly at the same time as duck but I didn’t.)Duck Confit with roasted potatoes
This recipe is a real gem, so simple to execute with very few ingredients. It produced absolutely matchless results – tender and delicate duck meat with crispy full of flavour skin. I have to admit I am glad that the first time I tried this delicacy was in a restaurant and I had no idea how it was cooked. Once I experienced the heavenly taste of old French country I was determined to do anything to have it again. I can’t say enough to urge you to run to your local supermarket, butcher, duck farmer/friend or whatever place you get your food from and buy a few legs (the cheapest and tastiest part of the bird) to roast. You won’t regret. C’est magnifique!

Duck Confit with Roasted Potatoes

Note: The recipe was adapted from “Jamie Does France” by Jamie Oliver