My next-door neighbour rang the other day, to enquire as to whether I might like a rabbit. A recently shot rabbit. I headed next door somewhat dubiously, worried about what blood-splattered scene might await me. But I was presented, very casually, with a freezer bag containing said rabbit. Minus fur, skin, head and guts, but with the heart, lungs and ribcage still left in ‘for making stock’. And still very much looking like a rabbit.
Having seen the slightly horrified look on my face, my neighbour suggested that he might show me how to joint the poor little thing. I retained minimal amount of the information, as I was still getting over the shock of there now being two dead rabbits in the kitchen. So I took the one that had been jointed for me to cook right away, and stowing the other (whole) rabbit hurriedly in the freezer, to worry about some other time.
Rabbit doesn’t have much meat on it, so if you add the saddle too, there is more to pick at. I just chucked the lot in, along with some bacon to bulk it out. Rabbit tastes a little like chicken crossed with lamb- it’s got a rich, meaty flavour that goes well with cider. Some recipes suggest red wine, which you can use instead if you want a more hearty affair. But use some booze please, it’s getting close to winter after all.
I have been going slightly quince crazy over the last few weeks. I had a surreptitious, under-the-counter deal with the greengrocer for a 4kg crate of quinces. Not that I really wanted that many, but they seem to only come in such a quantity, and she was confident that, were I to only take half, the rest wouldn’t sell. No one really knows what to do with the cumbersome fruits that look like a cross between an apple and a pear on steroids. You can’t eat them raw, and I would be dubious to their appeal prepared in any way other than in a jelly or a paste.
This is not actually cheese. It is nothing like cheese. Hence the need for the inverted commas in the title- and my insistence on using air quotes whenever I tell people about it. It’s actually a paste made out of quinces and sugar, which sets firm enough to hold its shape. You eat it with cheese- so why it’s also known as a ‘cheese’ is slightly baffling. The Spanish name is membrillo, which doesn’t enlighten us any more, unless you’re Spanish.
Quinces have a lovely autumnal taste to them, a bit like a sweet pear. This ‘cheese’ is lovely sliced in very thin slivers as part of a cheeseboard, and is particularly good with hard goats’ cheese. It is also nice, as I discovered having surplus, on toast, balanced on top of some crunchy peanut butter. You’ll need some sort of mould for the paste – I used silicone cupcake cases, and the jelly popped satisfyingly out of them when it was set. But any sort of ramekins or small dishes would work well too.
Sometimes, recipes swirl around in my head for days. They start off as one thing, then morph into another, as I add or take away elements. At two in the morning, I’m often wide awake racked with indecision about whether to use mozzarella or goat’s cheese, white or dark chocolate, basil or oregano, cherries or peaches in a particular recipe. Not all in the same one, you understand, that would be too much like crazy fusion cuisine for my taste.
This recipe started life in my brain as a sort of lemon curd trifle, then I decided to add marscapone to make it more like a cheesecake, then I did away with the biscuit base all together, added some whipped egg white and voila– a mousse. Naming things can be a struggle sometimes, as I often want to just say it’s a lemon curd and marscapone….thing. But I guess a ‘thing’ sounds less appealing than the sultry vowels of a ‘mousse’.
I have already waxed lyrical about the joys of fruit curds in my Passionfruit and White Chocolate Cheesecake post, and I’m afraid here I go again. I am mildly obsessed with making lemon curd. As well as lemon curd, I have tried orange, passionfruit, blackcurrant (and those are just the ones I can remember making off the top of my head). But lemon curd is always a winner – it’s cheap to make, unlike passionfruit, and goes so well with so many things.
I love autumn. The first evening snuggling up in front of a roaring fire, the wood still hissing with damp. The trees slowly turning, the tips of their leaves tinged with amber. The earthy smells of rotting leaves, woodsmoke and misty air. The return to substantial, comforting food, rather than flighty summer salads.
This pie epitomises the kind of food that I look forward to as the summer draws to a close. The kind of food I crave on a cold night, that provides solace and reassurance. There’s something about a rich, meaty filling topped with buttery pastry that sometimes just hits the spot, when nothing else will do.
This pastry recipe is a Delia (bless her) revelation. The butter is frozen, then grated into the flour, making a very quick flaky pastry that dispenses with all of the folding, rolling and resting that making puff pastry requires. The result is a pleasing mid-point between shortcrust and puff pastry.
I love the combination of lamb and chestnut mushrooms, and I added rosemary to the pastry as well as the filling. The red wine gives the filling an intensity and depth of flavour. I don’t usually drink red wine, as it seems to give me the mother of all hangovers, but I felt it was necessary to have a glass (which magically kept refilling itself) to accompany this meal.