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Poacher's Pot

“No more Nouvelle Cuisine! Bring on the wild boar, chestnuts in red wine, and the Poacher’s Pot.” This was the recommendation a good friend of mine recently made when asked what type of recipes he would like to see in the Optimist’s Gourmet section.  Being somewhat of a trencherman myself, I am inclined to agree with him. But we must be flexible and to appeal to the tastes of all our diverse Gourmet followers and accept that one man’s meat is another man’s poison.

Everyone has their likes and dislikes in food. Jacques Rousseau, the eighteenth century French philosopher declared in his Confessions, “Give me milk, vegetables, eggs, brown bread and tolerable wine and I shall think of myself sumptuously regaled.”  All very nourishing for some I daresay, but personally I could not exist without fish, meat and game and the herbs and spices to season them. As for his tolerable wine- that I would only use for cooking.

To demonstrate our flexibility this week and as requested, we will include the Poacher’s Pot recipe. This dish is honest country fare, ideal to set before good friends during these spats of cold weather, although genteel females may balk at the sheer size of the dish. My friend - who would have made an excellent poacher in another life - says that you must think big when preparing the Pot.  It is not a dish for the timid and should you still happen to have one of your grandmother’s cast iron pots for the preparation or even for serving from – so much the better.  For the wine recommendation, you will no doubt need more than a couple of bottles to accompany this dish, my suggestion would be a case of 2004 Barolo, that king of Italian wines.

Poacher’s Pot
Serves: 8-10

1 Rabbit, jointed
2 Pigeons, halved
2 Old Grouse, jointed
50 Gram Plain flour (2 oz)
2 Medium Turnips, peeled & cut into 2.5 cm cubes
2 Large Onions, sliced
3 Large Carrots, sliced
1 Kilogram Venison cut or gammon join (2 lb 2 oz)
4 Sprigs Thyme
4 Sprigs Sage
4 Sprigs Parsley
15 Gram Salt (1/2 oz)
1 Teaspoon Freshly ground black pepper
1 Large Savoy cabbage, outer leaves and hard stalk removed, quartered
300 ml Red wine ( 1/2 pint)

Place the rabbit and game joints in a bowl and rub all over with the flour. Put all the vegetables except the cabbage in a very large pot or preserving pan and place the game and rabbit joints on top of them. Put the venison or gammon on top again in one piece.

Add the herbs, salt (if gammon is used reduce the salt to 7g ( 1/4 oz)) and black pepper. Add just enough water to cover all the meat. Cover loosely with a double layer of foil, bring to the boil and simmer very slowly for 2 1/2 hours. Stir from time to time in case the vegetables stick to the bottom of the pan.

After 2 hours, add the cabbage and the red wine. Make sure at this point that the stock is gently boiling and taste for seasoning. After another half hour, lift out the venison or gammon and carve it into thick slices. Cut the slices in half and put these back into the stew to warm through.

To serve, carefully ladle some stew into large soup plates or bowls standing on meat plates, making sure that each person has a large portion of cabbage, a joint or two of the game and some meat, as well as some root vegetables and plenty of gravy.

Serve with crusty bread or scones to mop up the gravy.

You can use chicken in place of the rabbit and Pheasant in place of the Grouse.

Recipe courtesy of Great British Kitchens - Fly at a Smile-Price