Thursday, 24 March 2016

The Meat Course

When in France we tend to feast on fresh vegetables, fish and pasta- but this year I have been making some forays into different meat dishes too.

I say different, as I have gone out of my way to use the meats which are very easy to source in French supermarkets- but which might not necessarily be to British tastes.

To make things more palatable though, I will suggest an alternative for most of the recipes.

Have I got you worried?

Well, first of all I'm starting with a rabbit dish- but if you don't like the idea of eating your Easter bunny, you can use chicken instead. Rabbit however is very easy to find here- easier than finding good quality mince in fact and, if you have never tried it, I urge you to give it a go. It is lean, tasty and affordable.

For a delicious Rabbit Casserole- take 1 jointed rabbit and coat the pieces in seasoned flour.

Coat rabbit in seasoned flour
Brown them in a frying pan in a good glug of oil and place the pieces in a casserole dish.
In the same pan, brown 5-6 rashers of streaky bacon (snipped up), then an onion and a crushed clove of garlic. Add them to the casserole.
Now coat 2-3 sliced carrots and 100g of button mushrooms in the oil in the pan and add them to the dish.
Mix 1 tbsp plain flour and 1 tbsp mustard into the fat in the pan, work to a paste and then add 2-3 glasses of red wine and some chicken stock and boil to remove the alcohol and thicken the sauce.

Bring the red wine sauce to the boil
Add some more hot chicken stock if it is too thick. Season well and pour over the rabbit. Add a bay leaf and then place in a medium oven to simmer away for about an hour.

Rabbit Casserole
Apologies for this photo- we had eaten most of the casserole befoe I remembered to take a photo so this is one from a magazine!

Although rabbits are skinny, there was enough left over from this casserole (with the addition of a few extra veg) to pop under a pastry lid and make a rabbit pie for the next day. Just be careful as you remove the flesh from the bones- as they are surpisingly bony little blighters.

Rabbit Pie

Next I am venturing into the world of pork. This is more like a universe though as pork has so many cuts, offcuts, products and delights. I'm just looking at two today- black pudding and pork knuckle. I can't suggest an alternative to black pudding for the recipe but if you can't find pork knuckle, spare rib chops are a good alternative.

There are certain flavours which marry so well together- and black pudding, apple and onion are a case in point. For a simple, but groan-out-loud delicious dish, top leftover mashed potato with black pudding, caramelized apples and serve with crispy onions.

Enrich your leftover mash with some extra butter and milk and keep warm, then take a bit more butter and 2 tsp fine caster sugar and fry thin slices of eating apple until caramelized and tender.
In another pan, fry your slices of black pudding until cooked then break up with a fork until they resemble mince.

For the crispy onions, slice onions thinly, dip in milk then in flour and fry quickly in hot oil.

Now assemble your dish- a little pile of mash, a topping of black pudding and a fan of cooked apples. Pour over any juice from the pans and add the crispy onions. I defy you not to love it!

Black Pudding with Apples, Mash and Onions
Next, slow braised pork knuckle with honey and spices. Mmm!
Here in the Auvergne,slow cooked meat dishes are de rigueur at lunch time when you have had a hard morning in the fields or at the saw mill. I don't have that excuse- but so what?

You will need 2 pork knuckles, 6 spring onions, 2 vegetable stock cubes, 6 tbsp honey, 1 tbsp mustard, 2tsp cumin, salt and pepper.

Place the pork knuckles in 1litre vegetable stock, bring to the boil and simmer for 1h 30 mins until just tender. (Keep the stock for adding to the sauce later- also for soup later in the week!)
Preheat the oven to 160 degrees.

Chop up the spring onions, mix together the honey, mustard, cumin and seasoning. 
Put the pork knuckles in a casserole and baste with the honey and spice mixture. Add two ladles of stock and the spring onions and place to caramelize in the oven for 45 minutes, basting again with the sauce half way through.

Pork Knuckle with Honey
Now, just quickly, a nod to duck ( if you see what I mean). This is a bit of a quick storecupboard and leftover dish- Canard Parmentier- a Shepherd's Pie but with duck. What would you call it? I can't think of a suitable title at the moment.

In French supermarkets, you can buy tins of Confit de Canard everywhere. It is duck legs, cooked in fat then tinned. The fat is usually retained in the fridge to make Pommes Sarladaises ( potatoes fried in duck fat). The meat is simply heated to make a main course- but in this case it is shredded with a fork and added to fried onions and garlic and a little meat stock or leftover gravy.
Layer this into a gratin dish, top with mash and grated cheese and voila- a Duck Shepherd's Pie.

Duck-herd's Pie
Finally, and I suppose most controversially, I am moving on to veal. This is not controversial in France of course, but in the UK there seems to be an aversion to eating it. This is daft nowadays, as rose veal is humanely reared and the more people eat of it, the fewer male calves are slaughtered at birth.

For a simple veal escalope, coat veal fillets in seasoned flour, dip in milk and then in fine breadcrumbs or crushed 'biscottes'. (See last month's blog for how to make this 'chapelure'.)
Fry in butter or olive oil and serve either with lemon and veg (as in the picture) or with spaghetti in a simple tomato sauce to make Escalopes Milanaises.
If you really can't bring yourself to eat veal, or more realistically- can't find it at a decent price in the UK, you can use turkey escalopes instead.

Veal Escalope

If you are able to find veal mince, it is lovely in a quick supper dish of stuffed peppers.(But pork or turkey mince is fine too.)
Fry a chopped onion, a crushed clove of garlic and some chopped sundried tomatoes in some oil and then brown your veal mince in the pan too.

Fry your mince and onions etc
Mix in some cooked rice or leftover risotto and a crumbled stock cube and add a little water. Meanwhile steam or microwave some bell peppers until tender ( you can halve them or keep them whole with their lids separate). Stuff them with the rice and veal mixture and place in a gratin dish.Cook in a moderate oven for 15-20 minutes.

Stuffed Peppers
And so my blog comes to an end this week. Next one will be from the UK. So it's goodbye from me- and goodbye from the Auvergne!

Minjaz ben!