BANK holidays can be the perfect chance for a gathering, and if you’ve got that little bit of extra time, it can be the ideal opportunity to prepare something special to eat.
You’ll be able to lavish more attention on preparation and then enjoy the food together at your leisure.
The key is not to get too carried away trying lots of new things, even if you do have a little longer to spend in the kitchen. Try to really impress with one course, whether you choose the starter, main or dessert, and then keep the other two courses simple. That way, you can challenge yourself, but avoid too much stress.
A delicious roast can be a fantastic option for a family feast, served with a starter of salmon and cheese and home-made biscuits to finish. This bank holiday, we’re planning to enjoy guinea fowl at home. Usually, one bird will feed two people, so we love to cook a couple of birds and place them in the middle of the table, which always looks impressive, especially served with big bowls filled with colourful seasonal vegetables. Another of my favourite recipes is this lemon and garlic roast guinea fowl.
Though once game birds, guinea fowl are today domesticated and tend to be available all year round. I’ve found a fantastic local supplier – St Brides, a family-run farm in Strathaven. They slow-grow the birds in happy environments, where they are free to roam around in the lush green grass. They are so much tastier as a result. If you’re buying guinea fowl, make sure you look for free range.
The taste of guinea fowl isn’t dissimilar to chicken, but it has a darker flesh and a more gamey taste, which I just love. To cook, it is quite similar to chicken, but keep in mind that it is usually a little drier. You have to be quite careful not to overcook the meat, so if you’re following a recipe, try to stick to the recommended cooking times. Like much game, you can keep the bird lovely and moist by wrapping it in bacon when you’re cooking it.
The best way to prepare and enjoy guinea fowl is to carefully roast it, but if you have leftovers the next day, it can taste delicious in a casserole or pie. As with all of the ingredients I work with, I use every single part of this bird. If you’re having potatoes with your bank holiday feast, you can try sautéing them in the guinea fowl fat. You’ll get this incredible flavour from the light gaminess of the bird that makes the potatoes really stand out. I would also highly recommend using the carcass of the bird for soups or stocks.
Whatever you decide to cook, make sure you leave yourself plenty of time to linger over your meal, relax and enjoy all your hard work.
Lemon and garlic roasted guinea fowl with sauteed potatoes
1 free range guinea fowl, about 1.2kg
olive oil for marinating and cooking
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp dried herbs de Provence
2 fennel bulbs, trimmed
500g baby new potatoes (similar in size), washed and patted dry
4 whole carrots
1 tsp caraway seeds
head of garlic (cut horizontally)
1 lemon, halved or cut into wedges
2 thyme sprigs
2 bay leaves
2 baby gem lettuces, halved
25g unsalted butter, in pieces
Heat the oven to 180C/Gas Mark 4. To make it easier to cut the breast from the bird, first remove the wishbone. To do this, cut down either side of the wishbone with a sharp knife, then reach in with your fingers and hook the bone out. Cut the breasts and legs from the guinea fowl carcass and put them into a dish. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with the dried herbs. Leave to sit for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, cut each fennel bulb into 6 wedges. Cut any larger baby potatoes in half.
Heat a large, heavy-based ovenproof frying pan over a medium heat and add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Place the guinea fowl legs and breasts in the pan, skin side down. Cook for 5-6 minutes until they start to take on a nice golden colour, then turn and do the same on the other side. Remove the guinea fowl pieces to a plate and set aside.
Return the frying pan to the heat and add a little more olive oil if needed. Tip the potatoes and carrots into the pan and season with salt and pepper. Sauté for 2-3 minutes, then add the fennel and cook for a further 2-3 minutes. Scatter over the caraway seeds and add the garlic, bay leaves, lemon and thyme.
Place the guinea fowl on top of the vegetables, cover the pan and cook in the oven for 10-12 minutes.
Remove the guinea fowl breasts to a warm plate, cover and set aside to rest in a warm place. Give the potatoes, fennel and guinea fowl legs a stir, put the lid back on and return to the oven for a further 12-15 minutes until cooked. Add the lettuce, dot with the butter, cover and cook for a further 2 minutes.
Place the guinea fowl breasts back on top of the potatoes and fennel and serve.
400g high quality salmon
extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp capers
small bunch wild herbs and radishes
A good trick when working with raw fish is to place your chopping board in the freezer for an hour before preparing the fish. When you remove it, the board keeps the salmon as cold as possible, making it easier to handle. I learned that top from a sushi expert. Slice your salmon thinly off the skin, removing the blood line, and place directly on to the plate, or you will find it difficult to manoeuvre afterwards. Rub with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with capers and garnish with wild herbs and radishes before serving with half a lemon.
Biscuits for Cheese
140g plain flour
1½g baking powder
1½ tbsp poppy seeds
½ tbsp sea salt
1 tbsp sea salt (for garnish)
21g olive oil
50g cold water
Pre-heat oven to 180C/Gas Mark 4. Mix together the flour, baking powder, poppy seeds, salt and water to form a dough. This can be stored in the fridge for up to five days, however it is best to use it the same day. Separate the dough into marble-sized pieces and roll each one out very thinly. Place each dough piece on a greased baking tray before brushing with the olive oil. Sprinkle with the remaining sea salt and bake until golden and crisp.