Monday 31 January 2011


...but, in fact, anything but bleak. Blissful sunshine, and days on-end of perfect gardening weather. I'm a little concerned that some plants will be foolishly persuaded that the cold weather is over for good, and throw caution to the winds as they come into flower - it happens ever year around this time, and since we risk frosts right through until the beginning of March, invariably some plant or other ends up being frost-burnt and looking sorry for itself at the real start of spring. I can understand why they do it, though - today felt glorious, as I hacked the tangled branches of the Cachi trees into shape, and it was difficult to think it wasn't going to be like this in general from now on...

The camellia japonicas ( camellias japonica ?) behind the church are starting to flower (at the right time for them, thankfully), with luxuriantly creamy blooms - they're a range of varieties, and flower in series, so we should have some camellia action in some part of the garden from now right through until the end of March; some of the later flowering bushes are a beautifully pure white, which is positively ethereal.

I was surprised that the dwarf purple irises along the sides of the causeway have suddenly poked their heads above ground - I wasn't expecting them for another few weeks, at least. Delicately patterned, they look like oriental silks; there are bulbs of  a lighter-coloured variety planted with them as well, but they seem to be a bit more reserved, and are perhaps waiting for more sustained warmer weather before they come out.

Much of the winter garden chores have now been done - most of the transplanting is complete (roses, agapanthus, a few small trees) although I still have to move some of the raspberry canes, as well as a flaming-red chaenomeles, which needs a cooler position than it's had so far. Other than that, I have to finish pruning the fruit trees, sort out the grape vines, and get the fruit cage sorted out for this coming year before I can consider we're in good shape. The weather looks good for the remainder of the week, so perhaps I might get it all done by the weekend...before sod's law says the weather will close in and I find myself sitting beside the fire again curled up with a book for the whole of February!

Tonight's Dinner"

Onion Tarts.

Fiorentina, with Parmesan and Arugula.

Lemon Creams.

Sunday 30 January 2011

Recipe: Slow-Poached Rabbit, stuffed with Orange & Walnuts

This might sound complicated - it isn't. And I can readily state that this is the most delicious thing I've eaten so far this year. 
With only a very few changes, the recipe is from an Australian food-writer called Christine Manfield (a friend of Christian's...he sent a copy of her latest tome for Christmas - an extremely weighty volume rather worryingly bound within day-glo velour covers, which gave long pause for thought once the outer wrapping had been removed).

The secret to painless slow-poaching is to use a deep-fat fryer as a water bath, where the accuracy of the temperature control means you can wander off and leave the poaching to take place entirely unsupervised; otherwise, it's a matter of hovering nervously for the entire cooking process, and endlessly checking thermometers and adjusting heat up or down, to ensure you have the correct constant temperature. It isn't my idea, I hasten to add - I first came across it in one of Jane Grigson's books, where she advised a deep-fat-fryer as the best means of poaching fruit in syrup. It works.

If you want an example of boning a rabbit, then follow the link through from my previous rabbit recipe, here.

For six.

Ingredients: a mature Rabbit, boned (with the liver still in place, preferably, to be included in the stuffing); 2 tbs Olive Oil; 1 small Onion, finely diced; 3 cloves Garlic, minced; 30g Pancetta, cut into julienne strips; 1 tsp ground Coriander seed; half tsp ground Cumin; 3 tsp Salt;1 tsp ground Black Pepper; 125g coarsely minced Pork meat + 125 coarsely minced Pork fat; 1 tbs chopped Parsley; 50g small black Olives, pitted and roughly chopped; 40g chopped Walnuts; zest of an Orange, finely chopped.


1. Lay the boned Rabbit out flat; butterfly the breasts open, and lay next to them the thigh and leg meat, to make as evenly covered  as possible a layer of meat. Sprinkle with 2 tsp Salt.

2. Sauté  Onion and Garlic in Oil, until they start to colour, then add the Pancetta, and continue cooling until the strips have become crisp. Stir in the Coriander and Cumin, add Salt and Pepper, and leave to cool.

3. Combine the cooled mixture with the minced Pork and fat, Rabbit liver (minced), Parsley, Walnuts, Olives and Orange zest. Heap this mixture along the longest end of the Rabbit 'rectangle' closest to you, and then roll the rabbit lengthwise, to enclose the stuffing tightly.

4. Wrap the rolled Rabbit in two layers of clingfilm, expel all of the air from within the package, and then twist the ends tightly to make a 'sausage'. The clingfilm should be tight enough that it holds the Rabbit in its sausage shape, and must be a good seal, to prevent any water from getting inside.

5. Fill a deep-fat-fryer with water to maximum depth (allowing for the displacement which will take place when the rabbit is submerged) and set the temperature to 75 degrees C. Once the water is at temperature, submerge the wrapped Rabbit, and leave to cook for 2 hours (turning every 30 minutes or so to ensure even cooking). Once cooked, remove the Rabbit from the water, and leave inside its wrapping for 30 minutes before unwrapping and slicing it to serve.

6. For a sauce to go with this, the rabbit bones can be used to make a light stock, which is then heavily reduced along with some white wine or vermouth to 'spooning' thickness , with seasoning adjusted just before use. (If your Rabbit arrived ready-boned, then use any light stock you have to-hand, instead of Rabbit Stock - chicken, veal, duck...they're all fine for this)