Braised guinea fowl with spätzle

Serves 4-6
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Indy Lifestyle Online

Guinea fowl is a perfect alternative to game birds, and makes a change from chicken. As well as roasting, guinea fowl suits being braised in a sauce. Many years ago in Colmar in Alsace I ate a memorable chicken cooked in Gewürztraminer and served with noodles. That was my inspiration for this recipe. I wanted to cook guinea fowl, and I had a bottle of Austrian white wine - but you could use a similar Alsace or German wine. The World Cup should kick up some interest in German food - and the wines, too, are due to come into their own.

Spätzle are little German and Austrian pasta-like dumplings. A couple of years ago I was given a bag of spätzle flour and a special spätzle-making machine from Germany. They've been gathering dust in my larder, but everything has its time, and 2006 seems like the year to put it to use.

Anyway, the spätzle-maker looks more like a slicing contraption, with holes instead of blades. You load the batter into a compartment on the top and slide it backwards and forwards over a pan of boiling water to release little blobs of the batter. As you're unlikely to have one of these you can improvise with a colander. You can manage without spätzle flour, too, but can buy this from the German Wurst Delicatessen, 127 Central Street, London EC1 (020-7250 1322). Otherwise plain flour will do instead.

2 guinea fowl weighing about 1kg each
Vegetable oil for frying
30g butter
1 medium onion, peeled and roughly chopped
40g flour plus some extra for dusting
250ml white wine (such as riesling)
700ml chicken stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3tbsp double cream
1tbsp chopped parsley

for the spätzle

100g spätzle flour, or plain flour
1 egg beaten
Water to mix (about 200-250ml)
1tsp salt
A good knob of butter to serve

Remove the legs from the guinea fowl, cut off the knuckles and halve them at the joint to divide the thigh and drumstick. Cut either side of the backbone with a heavy knife and remove it, so that you are left with the upper part of two breasts. Turn over on to the breast and chop through the breastbone, cutting the carcass in half to give you two breasts on the bone. Trim any excess bone around the meat on the breasts and cut each breast in half across the middle. Remove the wings. When you've chopped up two guinea fowl you will be left with eight pieces of breast on the bone, four drumsticks, four thighs and four wings. Keep the backbones for a stock or gravy.

Lightly flour the pieces of guinea fowl and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Heat some vegetable oil in a frying pan and lightly brown the pieces on all sides, then drain them on kitchen paper. In a thick-bottomed saucepan gently cook the onion in the butter until soft. Add the flour and stir well. Gradually add the wine and chicken stock, stirring well to avoid any lumps forming. Bring to the boil and add the legs, thighs and wings of the guinea fowl first and lightly season with a little more salt and pepper.

Simmer gently with a lid on for 1 hour or until the guinea fowl is tender. Add the breasts and cook for a further 20-30 minutes.

Meanwhile make the spätzle: mix the egg, salt, flour and about a tablespoon of water to make a paste then gradually add a little more water until you end up with a thick Yorkshire- pudding-like batter.

For the next stage you will need a pan of boiling water, a colander or a spätzle gadget, and a rubber spatula. Rest the colander over the top of the pan of water. Pour the batter in the colander and push it through the holes with the spatula. (Do this in one or two batches depending on how much you are making.) Simmer the spätzle for a minute or so then remove with a perforated spoon on to a plate to cool. Remove the pieces of guinea fowl with a slotted spoon and put to one side.

Add the double cream to the guinea fowl cooking liquor and continue to simmer for about 5 minutes until the sauce has thickened. Return the guinea fowl to the sauce with the chopped parsley and bring back to the boil. Heat a knob of butter in a frying pan until it's foaming and lightly fry the spätzle for a couple of minutes, tossing it in the pan until it's lightly coloured. Check the seasoning. Serve the spätzle separately, or over the guinea fowl.

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