Posts Tagged ‘game’

Cook up a confit storm

Sunday, November 9th, 2008

As the game season continues, duck has become available in butchers and some supermarkets.

Wild duck has a stronger flavour than farmed duck and a dense aroma when cooking. However, one way to intensify the flavours of any meat is to prepare it as a confit. This method is a perfect way to serve duck, as it also ensures the meat is tender and succulent. It is also ideal for those who prefer their meat presented without any trace of blood.

There are a few elements to this recipe and, as with a lot of my food, a fair amount of preparation will ensure great end results. However, the recipe can be prepared in stages.

This recipe for wild mallard duck necessitates that the duck be ‘deboned’. Your butcher may do this for you, if asked nicely. However, if you want to give it a go yourself, this guide is easy to follow:

1. Remove the wishbone
Place the bird with its cavity facing away from you. Feel around its collar/ neck to find the wishbone and cut around it with the tip of the knife. Take a firm grip of the bone and give it a sharp tug. It will pop out.

2. Remove the legs and thighs
Place the cavity facing away from you. Cut through the skin between the thigh and the body of the bird, on the left hand side as it faces you. Pop the hip socket, put the bird up on its side and proceed to cut close to the bone. Extract the ‘oyster’ as you go. Cut through the ball and socket joint; at no stage will you have to cut through bone. Turn the bird over and do the same to the other side, this time with the cavity facing you.
Place the cavity facing towards you. Feel the bird to find where the divide is between its breasts. Cut down the left hand-side of the divide, close to the bone. Follow the rib cage with your knife. The breast will come away easily when you cut through the shoulder socket. There should be no meat remaining on the carcass.

4. Boning out the thighs
For a mallard, or anything smaller, only bone out the thigh. Following the line of fat in the thigh, scrape the flesh gently until the thighbone is visible. Free it from the thigh and then pull it back a little to reveal the joint. Cut through the joint.

5. Preparing the breast
Clean the skin, remove the veins from the breasts, and trim the fat around the edges.

Wild mallard duck with puy lentils; serves four

1 bunch of thyme
2 bay leaves
24 whole black pepper
2 garlic bulbs, cut in half
500ml olive oil
1l sunflower oil

1. The duck meat should be marinaded for two days. First, mix up the marinade, then place the duck breasts flesh side down on the rock salt for ten minutes. Then remove, wipe off all the salt, and score the remaining fat on the breast without cutting the flesh. Place the legs and the breasts in the marinade.

Confit of duck legs
½ tsp ground cumin seeds
½ tsp ground coriander
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground allspice
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp freshly ground nutmeg
¼ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp finely crumbled dried thyme
1 bay leaf
Garlic from the marinade
250g duck fat (for the confit)

1. Preheat the oven to 135C.
2. Remove the duck legs from the marinade, draining any excess liquid. Mix all the spices together and rub them on the duck legs.
3. Place the duck legs and garlic cloves in a large pot and cover with the duck fat, ensuring that the pot is not filled beyond three-quarters full.
4. Place the pot on a low heat until the duck fat has melted. Then cover the pot with a lid and place it into the oven and cook until the garlic cloves have turned a deep golden colour, which will take about two to two-and-a-half hours. Let the meat cool in the fat for a few hours.

Confit is also a great method of preserving meat. If you are making this recipe in advance, you can place the duck legs into a clean preserving jar, cover with the duck fat by at least three centimetres, and refrigerate for up to two months. Allow meat and fat to fully cool before refrigerating.

Confit of duck parcels
Confit of duck legs
50g duck fat
1 shallot diced
1 carrot diced
1 parsnip diced
1 head of leek diced
2 sprigs of tarragon
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
20ml of duck stock
4 large spinach leaves

1. Place a little duck fat in a pan along with the shallot, carrot, parsnip and leek. Add the duck stock and cook for about ten minutes.
2. Remove the duck leg from the duck fat. Remove the rest of the bone from the meat (it should come away easily). Add the duck pieces to the pan; taste and correct the seasoning, add the chopped tarragon and mix well. Taste and correct the seasoning. Remove from the heat and cool slightly.
3. In a pot of water, add the picked spinach leaves and blanche for a couple of minutes, remove and refresh in cold water.
4. Squeeze the spinach leaves to remove the excess water, and lay them flat on a sheet of cling film. Season each leaf lightly, and fill the centre with a spoonful of confit mix.
5. Cut the cling film around each leaf so that you can fold each leaf into a parcel shape. Seal the cling film by rolling the ends.
6. Heat the parcels in a shallow pot filled with water on a medium heat for about ten minutes. Remove from the water and peel off the cling film. Brush with melted duck fat, and they are ready to serve.

Duck breasts
1tsp honey
100g chopped pistachio nuts
Sea salt and fresh milled pepper

1. Heat the oven to 170C. Then place the breasts fat side down in a warm pan over a low heat, then sprinkle flesh with black pepper.
2. Drain off fat as often as possible, until the edge of the breast is crispy and no visible fat remains.
3. Once fat has been rendered down completely, allow the breast to rest for up to an hour. If you leave it any longer the flesh will become tough.
4. Spoon over the honey on the breasts. Sprinkle with finely chopped pistachios. Place it in the preheated oven for five minutes.
5. Remove the duck from the oven and sprinkle again with pistachio nuts and let rest for two minutes.

Puy lentils
200g puy lentils
1 diced shallot
½ crushed garlic
Knob of unsalted butter
1 small bunch chives
100ml duck stock
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper

1. Wash the lentils, then cover with water for two hours.
2. Melt a small amount of butter and add the shallots and crushed garlic. Strain the lentils, add them to the pot and cook over low heat for two minutes.
3. Season lightly and add the duck stock and bring it to the boil. Cook for about 15 minutes or until the lentils are soft, then add the chopped chives.

To serve
Place the confit parcel in the centre of the plate, slice the duck breast and place it on top, arrange the lentils and serve.

The chef: Wild about venison and port

Sunday, October 19th, 2008

One of the best things about going from autumn into winter is the warm, hearty food we can look forward to.

At this time of year, I like to take advantage of the abundance of wild foods in season.

Game – which includes feathered and four-legged animals – takes pride of place at this time of year. The season for feathered game runs from the beginning of October to the start of February and the four-legged game season runs from September 1 until March

Over the coming weeks, venison, rabbit, grouse, mallard, teal, pigeon, woodcock and snipe will feature on Thornton’s menu, and in the run-up to Christmas we’ll offer partridge and pheasant.

Venison is a wonderfully pure meat and is popular in the restaurant. It has fewer calories and less fat than beef, but it needs careful cooking to render it succulent.

We buy venison that is over a year old and serve it either very rare or in an elegant casserole.

When buying meat, it’s best to ask your butcher to hang it for you for up to three weeks before cooking.

Loin of venison with port sauce

Ingredients, serves 4

4 pieces of venison, approx 150g each
2 carrots, roughly chopped
1 onion, roughly chopped
3 sticks of celery, roughly chopped
A dash of brandy

Marinade ingredients

20ml hazelnut oil
Pinch of chilli powder (mix these ingredients together in a bowl)

Port sauce ingredients:

2 shallots (finely diced)
1 clove garlic (finely diced)
Dash of olive oil
Sea salt
Fresh milled black pepper
3 knobs of unsalted butter
1 tsp honey
50ml port
1 litre venison or chicken stock

Venison method

1. Rest the venison in its marinade overnight in the fridge.
2. Season the venison pieces on both sides and sauté on a hot pan over a medium heat turning occasionally until golden brown in colour.
3. Remove and place on a roasting tray on top of the roughly-chopped carrots, onion and celery.
4. Cook in a hot oven (175C) for 5 minutes.
5. Remove from the oven, return to pan and sprinkle with crushed black pepper corns. Sauté over a medium heat for a further minute and flambé with a dash of brandy.
6. Remove from heat and allow the meat to rest for three to four minutes before carving.

Sauce method:

1. Heat a little olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat, then add the shallots and garlic and season with salt and pepper.
2. Sauté for a few minutes, allowing shallots and garlic to colour slightly, then stir in the honey and the port.
3. Bring the liquid to the boil and let it boil until it reduces by half.
4. Pour in the stock and cook at the same heat for a further 20 minutes or until the liquid has reduced by three quarters.
5. Remove from heat and strain through a sieve. Taste and correct the seasoning.
6. Return sauce to the heat and whisk in butter, then serve. This dish is delicious served with fondant potatoes. To cook the potatoes firstly cut them into quarters. Season and brown them in a pan on a medium heat. Remove and place them in a small baking tray. Add enough chicken stock to cover them to half. Cook in oven (at 170 C) for about 20 minutes or until the liquid has evaporated.

Kevin Thornton is a Michelin-starred chef and owner of Thornton’s Restaurant on St Stephen’s Green in Dublin.

Game on for a tasty season

Sunday, December 9th, 2007

The game season is one of my favourites in the kitchen year. It is the one time you get to work with quantities of wild meat, giving a true sense of seasonality to your cooking.

Game is rarely cooked at home these days, so it is a bit of a treat to eat it out.

Over the coming months popular Irish game such as venison, rabbit, grouse, mallard, teal, widgeon, woodcock and snipe will all make an appearance on the menu at Thornton’s, while just before Christmas we will feature partridge and pheasant.

Game traditionally refers to any wild animal that is hunted for eating. It includes both feathered and four-legged creatures. The season for feathered game runs from October 1 to February 1. For four-legged game the season is September 1 until March 1.

However, only a small proportion of the game we eat is really wild – for many, their environment is carefully managed; predators are kept down and food sources are increased to maintain body weight. Farmed game, particularly venison, is steadily becoming more common.

Wild game feed on a varied diet of berries, grains, grubs and grasses which give their meat a distinctive ‘gamey’ flavour. The taste is far more intense than you get with farmed animals and, because they run free, their muscles are more developed and the meat is darker.

One disadvantage to wild game is that the meat can be quite tough and dry, meaning hanging is key. The quality of wild meat is determined by how long it is hung – a butcher will usually hang game for around two weeks, while supermarkets tend to sell wild game that has been hung for a day or two.

The most prized game of all has to be grouse and woodcock, and I love them both. We only serve grouse for two weeks of the year, and we only serve woodcock after the first frost of the year, when you get the best flavour.

We serve woodcock with its head and brains intact – for the seasoned game lover, sucking the brains out is a rare delicacy.

Venison is also popular in the restaurant. A beautifully pure meat, it is lower in calories, cholesterol and fat than beef, but it needs careful cooking to ensure the texture remains supple and tender.

Because the flavour of meat is directly related to the animal’s diet, venison is typically described as having a full taste akin to a woody yet berrylike red wine.

We take venison that is over a year old and serve it very rare or in an elegant casserole. This recipe for venison with a rich chocolate sauce is guaranteed to create a stir at any dinner table.

Venison with Valrhona sauce,
potato maxim and parsnips,
serves four

4 noisettes of venison, 150g each
20ml hazelnut oil
Splash of hazelnut liqueur
Pinch of fresh dried chilli powder
3 diced shallots
100ml of dry sherry
200g of Valerian chocolate
1 litre of veal stock
1/2 litre of venison stock
50ml of white balsamic vinegar
1tsp of raspberry juice
1tsp cocoa powder
Crushed back peppercorns and sea salt
Drop of white wine vinegar
5g butter

Potato maxim
4 medium Maris Piper potatoes
10g clarified butter
Sea salt and freshly milled white pepper
10g braised onion

4 parsnips
Still water
Olive oil
Sea salt and freshly milled pepper


1. Heat a pot and rub with olive oil. Saute the shallots without colouring.

2. Add the dry sherry and the freshly crushed black peppercorns. Cook for two minutes and add the raspberry juice and stock and reduce by half.

3. Roughly chop the chocolate. Add 3/4 of it to the sauce, keeping the remainder for later. Add the cocoa powder and stir gently and consistently to make sure that the chocolate is not lying (and burning) at the bottom of the pot. Taste to make sure it is not too bitter. Cook for a few minutes longer, then remove and pass through a fine strainer.

4. In another pot add the white balsamic vinegar add the chocolate sauce. Taste and correct the seasoning, then add the remainder of the chocolate. Stir gently and add 5g of butter.

1. Heat a copper pan and add hazelnut oil. Season the venison with salt, pepper and chilli powder and saute until golden brown on all sides.

2. Remove and cook in a hot oven for five minutes. Then return it to the heat and sprinkle with crushed black peppercorns.

3. Flambe with hazelnut liqueur, remove and rest for a few minutes before carving. Remove each end of the venison so you can have a perfect cut. This allows you to taste it and make sure it is cooked properly.

Potato maxim
1. Wash and peel the potatoes and cut into cylindrical shapes. Slice thinly, season and brush with clarified butter.

2. Arrange in a Teflon pan about 10cm diameter. Cook on a solid top cooker until golden brown and cooked through – about ten minutes.

1. Wash and peel the parsnips, cut in quarters and shape like cones. Blanch the parsnips in salted spring water, then remove and saute in a hot pan.

2. Season and cook throughout, remove and serve.

To serve, place the potato on the plate, arrange the parsnip cones and sprinkle lightly with fresh dried chilli and some cocoa powder. Sauce the plate, arrange the venison on top and serve.