A toilet seat and chicken casserole

So I went into B&Q to get some courgette plants to replace mine that had failed (the wind snapped them off) but they didn’t have any, anyway as I was on my way out I passed the bathroom section and something caught my eye. You may remember some time ago that the toilet seat (you know the horrendous one) in my ground floor loo had broken, I’ve been looking for a suitable replacement ever since, I’ve been on line looking for ugly toilet seats but they seem hard to find. Anyway back to B&Q, there I was on the way out and I noticed the toilet seats and in particular a worthy replacement. I couldn’t believe my luck and it was only 12 quid. I got to the check out and just happened to comment to the cashier that I had been looking for a really hideous toilet seat to replace the old one and commended them on having one, to which she replied “oh I think it’s quite nice”. Well there’s no accounting for taste, or the lack of it, I mean take a look at the photos.

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So what do you think?

I did a really easy chicken and mushroom casserole the other day and it was fabulous.
Start off with the usual diced onion (small), stick of celery, carrot and 2 rashers of smoked bacon. Now a note about bacon, I’m not talking about that paper thin stuff (that’s full of water) that you get from a packet, no I’m talking about proper rashers that are cut by hand. I’ve tried to show what I mean in the photos.
Put a good knob of I unsalted butter in a pan, melt and add the stock ingredients, fry gently until they become transparent. It’s important not to overcook the stock ingredients as you are going to brown off the chicken with it and you don’t want to burn the other stuff while you’re doing it.

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I used boneless chicken thighs as I think they are tastier. Turn up the heat and add 12 thighs to the pan, brown quickly but keep turning as you don’t want to burn anything. When the meat is browned add a measure of cognac and flame off.

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Add 500ml (pint or thereabouts) of good chicken stock. I had some I’d made but Knorr or other similar will do. If you are using stock cubes use two for a pint. Add a bouquet garni, a bay leaf, lots of black pepper, a small squirt of tomato puree and some rock salt. Cover and pop in the oven for about an hour and a half on a low to medium heat. Keep an eye on it and stir occasionally. About twenty minutes before the end add as many mushrooms as you like,cover and leave to cook. At about five minutes from the end remove the lid.
I tend to thicken the stock a bit by adding some plain flour mixed to a creamy paste with water but this is my preference, you can do what you like.

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I served this with lovely ‘sweet heart’ cabbage and rosemary carrots. Enjoy.

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Bible punchers, even bandier legged chickens and curry powder

I took Millie over to Castle upon Alun for a walk yesterday and parked up by Nick’s house, as I pulled up I noticed that there were half a dozen eggs on display, yippee the hens had started laying again. I got Millie out of the back and went over to get the eggs and put my pound in the tin at which point Millie decided to have a dump in the middle of Nick’s entrance, anyway I cleared this up and walked back to the truck, popped the eggs on the seat and walked down the lane. At this moment I saw a couple (well dressed with black briefcases under they’re arms) walking up the lane towards me, as we came together they stopped and asked if I lived in the house (Nick’s house), somehow you know, don’t ask me how but you know, I said yes (thinking I’d be saving Nick from a doorstep conversation), they immediately unzipped the briefcases and out came the pamphlets and leaflets. I told them politely that I was walking the dog and didn’t have time to stop, this didn’t perturb them they started telling me about the benefits of their beliefs, so I told them that I was an atheist, this didn’t put them off either in fact it seemed to stiffen their resolve. I again said that I didn’t have time as I was going for a walk with the dog (Millie sat patiently waiting), they then asked if the lady of the house was in as they’d call on her instead, I told them that she had gone out to get the children from school (it’s the only thing I could think of in the moment), this again seemed to redouble their resolve, they thrust the pamphlets etc under my nose spouting words of redemption and the error of my ways (I’d been extremely polite up to this point), I pointed out that I was entitled to my beliefs as much as they were to theirs. They weren’t having any of this and proceeded to tell me of the fate that they saw for me, at this juncture I told them to fuck off and I walked off with Millie for our walk, I can only take so much.
When I got back Nick and Bella were waiting for me, I asked if anyone had called, which they hadn’t, I told him about my encounter, had a good laugh and arranged to go for a pint some time soon. I did comment again about the size of the eggs, he couldn’t explain it but hoped it would continue.
Take a look at the photo, the one on the left is a free range large supermarket egg the other is probably the biggest chicken egg I’ve ever seen.

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Many years ago, the very early 70’s, I knew a chap called Lal, he ran one of the first Asian food shops in Cardiff and he told me how to make a type of curry powder for a quick meal, it’s really easy and very imprecise so you can use just about anything you want in whatever compound you want or get to like.

Green cardamom
Black cardamom
Chilli
Cumin ground
Cumin seeds
Black onion seeds
Cloves
Coriander ground
Coriander seeds
Turmeric
Cinnamon stick
Bay leaves

You aren’t restricted to these but these are what he suggested, you can use any quantity of each that you like as they will all subtly alter the flavour. I tend to make up a large jar and use at my leisure. Lal also had an Indian restaurant, at the time there were only 4 or 5 in the whole of Cardiff and each one was totally individual as they reflected the regional cuisines, oh how I miss those days, the curries were so much better than the mass produced stuff the Bangladeshis serve today.
Asian supermarkets are a really good place to shop as they are generally very inexpensive and the spices and herbs tend to be much fresher than those in a Schwartz jar.

I did a lamb curry yesterday using the above, I’ll tell you what I did but please don’t be afraid of making it your way.
I used 2 lamb neck fillets cut into bite size pieces marinaded in a dessert spoon of the powder, I let this stand in the fridge for about 4 hours (longer is good), I then heated about 4 tablespoons of oil in a Wok and fried the lamb vigorously for 5 mins until they were browned all over. I then added another dessert spoon of the powder and stirred that in and enough water to just cover the lamb and brought it to a fast simmer for 3 mins and then reduced the temp to a gentle simmer for 30 to 40 mins with the lid on.

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By this time the liquid will have reduced quite a bit and thickened up, I added salt at this stage. I cut up 2 red peppers into large pieces and added them in (you only want them to cook but stay slightly crunchy) for 10 mins, add 3 dessert spoons of plain yogurt, stir in and serve. I sprinkled on some chopped coriander and served with a slice of lime and boy did it taste good, quick and easy, just the ticket.

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You can use chicken, beef, pork, onions, green peppers, tomatoes (instead of water and yogurt) or whatever takes your fancy, it really is easy and it’ll taste different every time. Enjoy.

Bandy legged chickens and a stir fry

I popped over to see Nick the other day to return an egg carton, it was a really nice afternoon so we had a bit of a chat. When I got there his three remaining chickens were sat on his front door step and seemed completely un-fazed as I reached over to knock the door, when Nick answered (Maddie was there too) the chickens tried to get indoors, maybe they weren’t happy with Millie sitting there staring at them (she just sat there eying them, well they are related to pheasants) and scenting the air. Anyway Nick said he’d check if there were any eggs, there weren’t, mind you I’m not surprised really, I think I’d be a bit reluctant to lay an egg after the last lot, they really were huge. I told Nick that I wasn’t expecting anything as I was surprised that his chickens had survived the last laying. I think Nick is going to buy some more chickens.

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They really were huge.

Now I’ve had a few enquiries about stir frying, it seems that some of you aren’t getting good results, so I’m going to explain what I do to get good results, here we go.
The basics are quite simple really, if you follow my suggestions I can’t see how you can fail.

Make sure that all the vegetables and/or meat are going to cook at the same rate, this means cutting everything up in a way that they’ll cook evenly, ie its no good putting large chunks of onion in with small slivers of say red pepper. If you are using carrots and courgettes then you have to consider the fact that carrots are far more dense than the courgettes and therefor will need to be cut smaller to cook at a similar rate. You’ll need to experiment but it’s logical really.

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As you can see in the photos I’m using parsnips and carrots with other softer veg so when I cut them up I compensated allowing for their density (they’ll take longer to cook so they’re smaller). You’ll notice that the courgettes and onions are slightly larger.

I sometimes use ginger and spring onions (amongst others) to flavour the oil before adding the meat or veg, it is important to cut these very finely as they will only need seconds to transfer their flavours.

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I should point out that your Wok or pan should be very hot. What I normally do is put the Wok on a very high heat and then add the oil and swish it around, this should immediately start to smoke, it’s only then that anything should be put in to cook.

When you add your chosen veg you must keep turning it over and over so that it all cooks evenly, this is very important as the veg will give up some of their water content and you want to fry not boil. Remember the idea of a stir fry is to have veg that are just cooked not soggy, the golden rule is ‘if you think it’s cooked it is’. If anything you want to slightly under cook as they’ll keep on cooking even when removed from the Wok. There’s nothing worse than a soggy stir fry.

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If you want to add other flavours to your stir fry (oils etc) it’s best to add them at the end just before you remove from the Wok, give it a quick swish around just to coat everything and remove. If you go to a good Chinese supermarket you can buy black beans (soya), these are normally dried, take a dessert spoon of these add a drop of water, lightly mash together and stir in at the last minute, the flavour is fantastic.

If you are using meat in your dish it must be cut small enough to cook through but not over cook, add it first or just after you’ve flavoured the oil (don’t use to much oil, a dessert spoon is normally enough).

Your local Chinese supermarket has loads of useful stuff for stir frying and is normally very inexpensive, don’t be tempted to use Sharwood’s or similar as they are crap, the real stuff is far better.

Fry on brothers and sisters.

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A sunny day and game stock

The sun has been shining now for three whole days and that means it ain’t rained, this must be the first dry spell in this part of the county for the best part of twenty years (well it feels like twenty years), its still cold but it’s great to see the sunshine again. It’s funny how the world seems different when the sun is shining, you tend to notice thing which you obviously miss when it’s raining. I think spring is just around the corner.

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My mate Steve at the Peli has just had a delivery of tea and my order of Assam came as well, yippee! I’ve been out of this lushes tasting tea for a while now and really missed it. Good old Steve.

I had my pals, Ed and Eamon over for an end of season dinner last weekend (son of Angry Cook was there as well), we had copious amounts of cocktails as you’d expect and started with my duck pâté followed by peasant Grenoble with some very nice French wines, Eamon brought the cheese board, which was delicious, and a very nice (too nice) bottle of sloe brandy he’d made (we all paid for that the following day I can tell you) anyway we all had a great night.
I decided to make some game stock from the carcasses of the pheasants (waste not etc), this is a bit like the beef stock I did in an earlier post but it has slightly different ingredients and has to be reduced a bit further, anyway here it is:-

Roughly chop up an onion, a carrot and a stick of celery and put it into a large pot (5 litre or so) put in, in my case 2 pheasant carcasses into the pot with plenty of herbs (bouquet garni), 12 black pepper corns, 3 bay leaves, a good squeeze of tomato puree and some salt (not to much as you are going to reduce this greatly).

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I should mention at this juncture that, shock horror, I found I didn’t have any parsley so a quick phone call to my mate Huw (he’s a great cook and I know he’d have some) down the road who was on the door step within minutes baring gifts of parsley and some freshly picked Bay from his own tree, we had a quick espresso and a chinwag at which point he had his recall orders. Cheers mate I owe you one.

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Right then back to the plot (pot), fill the pot with about 4 litres of water and bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer gently until reduced by half, at this point strain off all the solids and continue simmering. I added half a ground nutmeg at this stage, you can add other spices if you want ie allspice, cloves, cinnamon etc. but be careful of the quantity as you are going to reduce further.

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Continue to simmer until you are left with about a litre (a quarter of what you started with), strain this into another bowl, skim off all the fat from the surface, this is very important, adjust the seasoning and pour into containers for freezing. It looks and smells gorgeous.

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You can use this for making Demi glacé, gravy, soup or as a stock for casseroles.

By the way I’m still using the bay leaves I dried from last summer and I use loads.

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A funny old day

As I approached a roundabout in the middle lane and indicating to go right (third exit), a young girl in a jelly mould car was on my inside. As I entered the roundabout the girl inside cut me up and moved to my outside (whist indicating left) as I was turning left (indicating left) off the roundabout the girl cut me up again and turned left, I honked my horn and she gave me the finger. Unfortunately for her, she hadn’t noticed the police car she also cut up on my inside, he pulled her over about 100m further on, I can only hope he threw the book at the bitch.

I was just about to go in to Waitrose when who should pull up alongside me but my mate Nick. This was fortuitous as my next port of call was going to be him anyway, I gave him his empty egg carton (perfect recycling eh) and asked if there were any eggs at the house, he said yes so off I went. Well take a look at the photos, the chickens that laid these were either massive or walking around with tears running down the side of their beaks.

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You can’t even close the box

I’ve made a Duck pâté for the weekend, unfortunately I didn’t take any photos so I’m not posting it up. Oh well I’ll just have to make it again sometime so you’ll be able to see what I did.
Cheers for now.

Season’s end

It’s that time of the year yet again, the end of the shooting season and what a season it’s been. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a wetter one, I’ve been soaked more times this season than in the passed ten altogether, the things you endure for your sport.
The last few shooting days have been good for ducks and woodcock but poor for pheasants, they don’t like the rain.
I drove down to Devon last Friday, the very last day of the season, I counted at least twenty dead pheasants on the side of the road, all road kill. I think it’s ironic that they managed to escape the guns all year only to get run down by a car on the last day.
The Saturday before the season’s end was Beaters Day, this is always entertaining as it gives the Guns a chance to be a bit smug but also gave the Beaters a good day as without them we wouldn’t have the sport we have and it’s really important to show our gratitude for their efforts, they had a really good day and shot well. I was complimented by many of the Guns and Beaters about how well Millie worked, she was magnificent and really deserved the praise.

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As I said earlier I went down to one of the most magical places in the world, The Duke of York in Iddesleigh. If you’ve never been here you don’t know what you’re missing, this must be the closest place to heaven on earth, try it, you know you want too.

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I cooked a Chicken Chasseur with a difference the other day, I used Vermouth instead of wine, this was suggested to me by an Italian lady.
Melt 25g of unsalted butter in a heavy casserole and fry 1kg of chicken pieces until well browned (I used thighs) remove and keep warm. Chop up 4 or 5 shallots and peel but leave whole about 10 small onions (pickling type) and fry it all in the same butter/chicken juice for 5 mins, when they are just beginning to brown at the edges add a glass of dry vermouth (about 150ml) and flame off. When the flames have died put the chicken back in with a bouquet garni, bay leaf, a pinch of ground nutmeg, a tin of chopped tomatoes, salt and pepper and gently simmer covered for about 1 1/2 hours.

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When the dish is cooked add 200g of small button mushrooms for the last 10 mins or so, sprinkle some chopped parsley over and serve. I had fine beans as an accompaniment together with a petit Parisienne, enjoy.

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Guess what, on our last shooting day, the transitional walk up, we went down to the Peli for our last shoot lunch and the Hunt turned up.

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I really must compliment Steve for organising a fantastic lunch at short notice.

Fish cakes, shooting in the rain and more cocktails

Lets face it the weather this year (the last twelve months that is) has not been the best for any outdoor sports, the shooting season has been no exception. I’ve been soaked more times than I would have liked despite wearing the most efficient wet weather clothing. I have never liked shooting in the rain, your gun gets soaked, the birds don’t fly well (if at all) and you get wet and miserable, it’s not really enjoyable but given the costs involved you just have to get on with it. Last Saturday I shot with two pals down in Hampshire, the weather was atrocious, the ground was so waterlogged it was hard to keep your footing, I felt really sorry for the beaters as it was really hard going but they did they’re best to give us a good day. The tally at the end was not brilliant but given the conditions it was okay. Ducks don’t seem to mind but pheasants just don’t like getting up, they’ed much prefer to leg it or sit tight. Oh well some shooting is better than none.

I cooked some fish cakes the other day, I think homemade fish cakes are the best because you can do so much with them, use your imagination.
I don’t think I ever make them the same way twice, here’s what I did this time.
I used a smoked haddock filet (the un-dyed kind), removed the skin and cut it into small cubes.

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I mixed the haddock cubes with the rind of a lemon, the juice of half a lemon, a bunch of finely chopped dill and some salt and black pepper and let it stand for an hour.

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Boil some potatoes until just underdone, drain and leave to stand until cooled, crush the potatoes leaving plenty of lumps. Mix the potatoes with the fish (they should be about 50/50 in proportions). Add some more pepper.

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Put plenty of plain flour onto a worktop and form the mixture into four cakes (more smaller ones if you prefer)

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Fry the cakes gently in butter until nicely browned, do the same on the other side, serve with whatever you fancy, we had salad and some lovely Dill sauce.

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Son of Anger Cook has now had the cocktail shaker for three drunken weeks, I must confess that he has a natural aptitude for making cocktails, his Martinis and Pink Gins are the best I’ve ever tasted, not to mention his Bloody Marys, Whisky sours etc. Oh well it’s a burden but someone has to do it.

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Getting back to the shooting, our shotguns were absolutely soaked by the end of the day, you have to strip them down to dry out naturally before you clean them, they cost a lot so you have to treat them right.

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Addendum

Forgot to say that I got to take home 2 brace of ducks, they might even be ones that I shot, well they could be as I did shoot a few.

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Crimbo and cocktails

Well it’s that time of year again, peace and good will to all men, lets face it two impossible concepts. Firstly the peace bit, while we all wish for it, realistically it ain’t going to happen while there are twits with guns who don’t think you should be allowed to have a point of view and secondly because its very hard to wish good will on the twits with guns. But there are nice people in this world and I went for a walk with one of them on Christmas Eve, namely my pal Nick. I was taking Millie for a walk over at Castle-upon-alun and parked up by Nick’s house just as he was about to take his dog Bella for a walk, so we went together (safety in numbers as there are twits with guns in Afghanistan don’tcha know). The weather has been so wet the past week or so that the river Alun and every other river in the country have burst their banks and flooded their surroundings, well we got down to the river the day after the worst (it was approximately 1.20m lower than the day before).

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Right then Christmas dinner, we had pheasant. I think Pheasant Grenoble Is one of the tastiest pheasant dishes there is:

Right make a stuffing of 300g of chopped walnuts, 250g fresh breadcrumbs soaked in milk and squeezed, 120g fine pâté (suit yourself which one), a glass of cognac, one beaten egg and salt and pepper. Stuff two pheasants with this.
Heat 50g of unsalted butter in a heavy casserole dish and really brown the pheasants all over, put a couple of strips of nice thick bacon over each bird, add a large chopped onion, large copped carrot and a bouquet garni to the pan and pop into a hot oven for about 35 to 45 mins until really coloured, then cover, reduce the heat and cook for another 45 mins.

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Remove the bacon from the birds but leave it in the pan, remove the lid and pop back into the oven for another 10 mins, remove from the oven and flame with a glass of cognac. Remove the birds and let them rest, meanwhile add some flour to the pan juices etc and mix in then add some (either potato, carrot, pea etc) water to the pan and heat to thicken, stirring all the time, strain (if you wish) and serve as a sauce/gravy.

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Serve with game chips, roast parsnips, carrots and peas, I also did boiled potatoes and a red cabbage dish (more another time).
This dish deserves a really good French red.

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Well son of Angry Cook had a cocktail shaker for Christmas, so far I’ve had both gin and vodka martinis, a whiskey sour, a Bloody Mary and a mojito, keep em coming.

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For Matt and the shady characters

Last Saturday saw the gathering of The Foundation, a very secret and insidious organisation that casts its shadow on a group of well placed young men in sensitive positions. The organisation is a well kept secret only known to a few, it has annual meetings that (as far as can be discovered) end in drunken debauchery. I have to admit I was instructed to prepare a dish for the general consumption of the membership, believe me you don’t turn these fellows down. So I produced a beef and ale stew.

Ingredients:
1 large carrot finely diced
2 onions ditto
1 whole stick of celery ditto
2 thick rashers of dry cured bacon ditto
2 lbs of best skirt beef ( no fat) cut into 1 inch cubes
A good squirt of tomato purée
1 bay leaf
1 bag ( linen) of bouquet garni
1 bottle of brown ale
1 pt good beef stock
1/2 lb button mushrooms
A sprig or two of parsley finely chopped

In a medium sized heavy casserole, sauté the carrot, onion, celery and bacon gently until they start to turn golden/amber stirring occasionally, (don’t let them stick to the bottom of the pan) turn up the heat and add the beef, stirring all the time to ensure it browns all over and mixes thoroughly with the carrot etc. when the beef is nicely browned and sizzling add the squirt of tomato purée and mix in.
Let this cook on a lower heat for a minute or two, add the bay, bouquet garni, lots of black pepper and half a teaspoon of rock salt and mix in, again let this simmer for a minute or two.
Turn up the heat and add the bottle of ale, bring up to temp and then let it simmer until it reduces by about a quarter. Add the beef stock bring to the boil, add the parsley and pop the whole lot into a medium to low oven for about 2 hours maybe more (check) add the mushrooms for the last 10 minutes adjust the seasoning and serve with roasted winter root vegetables.

I’m afraid I couldn’t post up any photos as the Foundation forbade it.

I hope to post again soon if the foundation allow it.

I’m off to the loo now as they’ve given me permission.

Lamb stew and stuff

Well to begin with let me just say sorry to my many millions of readers for taking so long to post this blog, in my defence I have to say that it is the shooting season and that takes first place (actually I haven’t had anything to say, ain’t done any special cooking and couldn’t be arsed).
The season so far has been quite good except for the weather, it’s been too damned warm and too damned wet. A group of pals and I went down to Devon for a days shooting on the pheasants, it was fantastic, really high birds and very testing. If you want a really good day get it touch with Richard Goodburn at Hembury Castle.
My son Joe is a big meat eater and is particularly partial to a steak or six, well I recently got two steaks from Garry that defeated both of us.

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They were extremely tasty but just too big, Millie was glad of that.

I’ve noticed that there are even more adverts using the term”for free” it really does get under my skin.

I cooked a lamb stew this evening, it’s really easy and very tasty especially on a cold winters day. Chop up (not to small) a large carrot and two onions and gently brown in a very small amount of oil.

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Cut two lamb neck fillets into large chunks and add to the browned carrot and onions with a good sprinkle of dried rosemary.

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Brown the meat (really brown the meat) add a bay leaf, salt and lots of black pepper (when you think there’s enough black pepper add a lot more) and about a pint of stock, I used chicken stock as I didn’t have any other anyway lamb stock tends to taste fatty so I don’t use it. Cut two large carrots into thick rounds and add to the stock. Simmer this for 15 mins or so, add a good scoop of fresh chopped parsley and then pop into a medium to low oven for 2 to 3 hours, stirring occasionally.

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It’s important not to use much oil in the frying process as the lamb will add fat and you don’t want it tasting fatty, you can thicken the juices with some flour just before serving if it needs it.

I’ve got quite a few ducks and pheasants in the freezer so a gamey time will,be had for the foreseeable future. Speak soon.