Coincidence, postscripts and lucky dips
"Very few cookbooks contain recipes for guinea fowl. Most chicken or pheasant recipes can be interchanged with guinea fowl". Maggie Beer
I'm not really going to write about how to cook guinea fowl here. Well a little bit. I touched on it the other day with Gabriel Gaté and besides I'm pretty sure that neither you nor I are going to cook guinea fowl any time soon - indeed ever. We're not even likely to encounter it in a restaurant here. The main message seems to be that like rabbit it's a bit dry so you have to be careful not to let it dry out if you are roasting it.
No - this began as a lucky dip because I'm not feeling quite up to the more challenging subjects I am ruminating on, and I was so struck by the coincidence of my lucky dip page being a recipe for guinea fowl that I thought I would do a sort of postscript on what I wrote the other day. You see I didn't think to check out Maggie Beer, or indeed any of the other cookbooks I have that might have mentioned them.
So today I did, and found that, obviously really, Elizabeth David and Robert Carrier had recipes, as did Stephanie, Delia and my two coffee table French cookbooks - Provence the Beautiful, and France: a culinary journey. I won't tire you with the recipes but here are a few pictures of the results - stew, a roast and a salad.
But as you can see there is nothing distinctive about them in the sense that the meat in those dishes could well be duck or chicken. So it's interesting to see Maggie - and now that I have looked a bit further - others as well, say that you can use chicken instead. Now why didn't Gabriel Gaté tell us that. Perhaps he thought it was so obvious as to not need a mention. But why would you bother to search out a recipe for guinea fowl and then use chicken instead? There are literally thousands, possibly millions of recipes for chicken out there, not to mention one's own fridge raid dishes when one is out of inspiration. Why would you be looking for a recipe for guinea fowl anyway given that we can't get the here. And since it doesn't feature in many of my cookbooks you're not likely to come across it accidentally are you?
So yes Maggie, it's true that there are not many recipes out there, but how like you to have one. Your restaurant in the Barossa was, after all, called The Pheasant Farm. Not the same bird, I know but a game bird. In fact Maggie, in her introduction to her chapter on guinea fowl - yes a whole chapter - says:
"In my experience, the French prefer guinea fowl to pheasant, and although this was a debate I once preferred to stay out of given that my restaurant was called the Pheasant Farm, we often bred our own guinea fowl for the menu."
Mind you although originally a game bird, these days it is more of a domestic one - raised like chickens for the table. I don't think, that, even in France you would find wild guinea fowl on a menu, although I suppose if she get out - and I'm sure they do - those legions of hunters you see roaming the countryside would happily pot one and take it home for dinner.. However, reading Maggie Beer's introduction to her selection of guinea fowl recipes I learnt why we are not into this particular bird here. Why?
"the Australian stocks have had no new bloodlines introduced. This is for good reason, though - our authorities have tried to protect Australia from Newcastle's disease (a highly contagious virus that affects poultry and game) by not allowing the importation of poultry, with a blanket ban that lasted over 50 years. Although some poultry importation is now allowed, only the large poultry industries can afford the huge costs involved. This means that guinea fowl, pheasants and other game birds are not likely ever to be as good here as the their counterparts in Europe."
Interbreeding I guess, and the inability to therefore breed up to the larger sizes found in Europe. Although why not one wonders? After all surely the Europeans began with small wild birds and over time bred them to be larger and plumper. Still it's interesting. Delia seemed to think that you could get them in the supermarket in England. Never here. Do I care? No of course not and if I ever get the chance to go to France or Italy again I can indulge in something truly exotic.
And a final word from the River Cottage people who, of course, would cook guinea fowl. They add the information that the guinea fowl is indeed a native of the West African coast originally but are now bred for the table and:
"are increasingly available online and in some supermarkets, butchers, and farmer's markets."
But yet again coincidence has entered my life. Today I picked a book at random, and a page at random and lit upon a somewhat obscure subject just a very few days after I had written about that very thing, as a result of another somewhat random choice. I sometimes think that coincidences in my life are increasing. If I was a mystical person I would start thinking that some entity is trying to tell me something. And if so, what on earth would that be? That I should start breeding guinea fowl? That I forget things? Oh yes I do - all the time - and increasingly. That I don't think things through and do a bit more research? That life is full of surprises? Yes that will do.