To honour Britain’s only tricolore red, white and blue tattie, the Yetholm Gypsy, named after the coronation of the Gypsy King in Kirk Yetholm in 1899, I submit this Romany rabbit recipe recorded by Lesley Branch whilst visiting a Gypsy camp in Cornwall. “They made it in the simplest possible way,” he writes in Round The World in Eighty Dishes, “as you could do, if you were in camp, or at a particularly elaborate picnic.”
1 rabbit; oil; 4 cups water; half a cup of raisins; salt and pepper; 4 onions, chopped; 4 carrots, cut in rounds; 1 clove garlic; 3 sprigs parsley; 2 or 3 cloves; 3 or 4 pieces of lemon peel; 1 small turnip peeled and cut into chunks; 4 sticks celery; 2 tomatoes, cut up; a sprinkle mixed dried herbs; pinch sage; 3 or 4 slices bacon; 4-8 potatoes, peeled and cut in half.
“The skinned rabbit, cut in pieces, is first browned in a frying pan with a little oil or bacon fat. Then put it in a saucepan, and cover with the ingredients. All this is very slowly stewed (with a lid on the pot of course), for at least two hours. If the liquid seems to be boiling away, I think you should cheat: that is, do not add water, but rather half a tin of tomato soup. After this dish I think some rather strong cheese and watercress and wafer thin biscuits or brown bread would be good.”
Partridges (or Pheasant) in Cream
This recipe from Catherine Brown’s Broths To Bannocks belongs to Gabriel Tschumi, chef to Queen Victoria, Edward VII and George V at Balmoral.
2 tbsp oil; 1 onion, finely chopped; 1 carrot, finely chopped; 2-3 stalks celery, chopped; 2 medium partridges or 1 large pheasant; 1 liqueur glass brandy; 3 wine glasses Chablis; water to cover birds; 1 bay leaf; a quarter pint/125ml double cream; salt and pepper.
Heat the oil in a pan or flameproof casserole and sauté the onion, carrot and celery till brown. Truss the birds and add, browning lightly on all sides. Pour in brandy and wine and reduce a little with the pan juices. Pour in enough water to come half way up the birds. Add the bay leaf. Cover and simmer gently for about 10 minutes (a little longer for pheasant), depending on the toughness of the birds. Remove the birds from the sauce, and keep warm. Reduce the sauce a little to concentrate the flavour. Add cream and reduce further till a good consistency and flavour. Season. Pour the sauce over the birds and serve with a green salad and baked potatoes.
Venison Steak with Warm Chicory or Fennel
“As well as being lightly cooked,” writes Nichola Fletcher in her book Ultimate Venison Cookery, “bulb fennel is lovely sliced and served completely raw, dressed only with walnut or olive oil, salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice. The flavour goes particularly well with venison. The timings here are for steaks of 2cm (1 inch) thickness, cooked rare.”
300g (11oz) venison steak; butter and oil for cooking; 1 head of bulb fennel, or 2 small heads of chicory; juice of 1 orange; 2 tsp soy sauce; 1 tsp balsamic syrup.
Slice the fennel into rounds, discarding the core and reserving the green feathery leaves in the middle. Heat some butter and oil in a large frying pan and brown the steaks briskly all over (about one and a half minutes each side). Reduce the heat and add the orange juice, soy sauce, and balsamic syrup. Turn the steaks round in the liquid for two minutes (or according to thickness) until they are nicely coated, then remove them to a warm dish to finish their cooking. Add all the fennel and stir it around in the sauce until it is well moistened with the syrupy pan juices, hot but still nice and crisp – three or four minutes is enough. Quickly stir in the chopped green feathery fennel tops and serve with the steaks. If using chicory, it softens more quickly than fennel, so rest the steaks for a couple of minutes before adding the chicory.
Pigeon with Vegetables and Bacon
4 young pigeons (or partridges), plucked and drawn; large nugget of butter; salt and pepper; 1 bunch chervil; 100g/4oz streaky bacon; 250g/8oz small onions; 250g/8oz small carrots; 500g/1lb small potatoes; 1 small cauliflower.
Pop into the bird the butter worked with salt, pepper and finely chopped herbs. Skin and quarter the onions, scrape and slice the carrots, scrub the potatoes and divide the cauliflower into florets. Preheat the oven to 375F/190C. Cube the bacon and sweat in a deep casserole until the fat runs. Turn the birds in the hot fat until they sizzle.
Tuck all the vegetables around them and add 2tbsp water. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and a little more chopped herb. Bring swiftly to the boil. Lid tightly and seal down the lid with flour and water – no steam must be allowed to escape. Transfer to the oven and leave undisturbed for an hour. Unseal the lid at the table. Serve with braised chicory and a heap of Brussels sprouts. No other accompaniment is needed but good Belgian beer. [From Elisabeth Luard’s European Peasant Cookery].
The Hunter’s Dish (from Norway)
“Perhaps this way of cooking potatoes, of making them a meal in themselves,” writes Lesley Blanch in Round The World In Eighty Dishes, “comes from some unlucky Norwegian hunter who had spent long cold days and nights hunting for ptarmigan, or deer, or wild duck that never appeared, so that he came home hungry and disappointed to a larder empty except for potatoes.”
4-6 medium potatoes; 1 tbsp butter; salt and pepper; 3 tbsp milk or cream; 2 egg yolks; flour; butter for sauté
“Take 4-6 medium-sized cooked potatoes. Mash them well, with a big piece of butter, about 1tbsp, some salt and pepper, and 3tbsp milk or cream, till they are very smooth. Add 2tbsp flour, and the yolks of two eggs. Beat all well. Drop the mixture (in large dollops first lightly floured outside) into smoking hot lard or bacon fat. Brown on both sides. I like this as a main dish: begin with a little soup, perhaps, and end with something sharp, like pineapple slices.”