© 2009-2011 Quality Eating and Drinking London Ltd

 

© 2009-2011 Quality Eating and Drinking London Ltd

Rook with blackcurrant sauce

Four-and-twenty blackbirds
Baked in a pie

So, what do you think the black birds were? Rooks, that's what.

Rook is a very tasty meat, though to be honest, the non-breast meat is a bit fiddly. When we were playing Match the food at the New York wine tasting, the idea was floated that rook would partner the Baco Noir nicely. So what's it like? Lighter than pigeon or duck, and wilder than guinea-fowl. Basically, you can use any pigeon recipe, but watching for the slightly longer cooking times — a decent rook breast comes in at 80-100g, whereas you'll rarely find pigeon bigger than 50g, and more often around the 25g mark.

This recipe (which will give a generous starter for two, or a twee starter for four) makes use of blackcurrants in season, and would be perfect with pigeon too. In fact, the breasts we pulled out of the freezer, though sold as rook, may well have been pigeon. Or just possibly jackdaw. Whatever, they were very tasty. Ask for rook at your local butcher.

150-200g rook breasts, skinned
50ml red wine (we used montepulciano d'abruzzo to excellent effect)
150g blackcurrants (but see method)
75g shallots
25g pine-nuts or hazelnuts
25ml maple syrup or 1Tbs chestnut/pine honey
0.5tsp tarragon
oil for cooking

Marinate rook (or pigeon, or whatever) in wine for an hour.

Remove all stalks from blackcurrants, and put through a blender. Sieve, pressing out the mousse from the skins. Check whether there are any local auditions for the Scottish Play: your hands will be perfect for Macb. or Lady Macb. (Out, out, damned spot!). Get rid of the skins, and decide how to clean the sieve later. OK, next time, you can use 75ml blackcurrant coulis, but you don't get the same pungency of the currant-bush, so add a generous pinch of fenugreek if you cheat in this way.

Clean the blender (or use your second one) and whiz the shallots, then add the nuts and whiz. The mix should be only a bit coarser than granulated sugar.

Allow the rook to dry off a bit on a plate before giving it about 45sec to a minute on each side in hot oil. Reserve the rook.

Now add the shallot/nut mix to the hot oil, stir, and cut the heat. Stir until it just begins to look like toasting, and add the wine marinade. Let it stew while you slice the rook into centimetre-thick slices. This allows you to check how much more cooking is necessary: it should be cooked through, but not overdone. With luck, the meat should still be rare inside.

Add the blackcurrant, stir, and then mix in the syrup or honey. If you have used coulis, start with half the sweetener, and check the taste: it should have taken the edge off the currants, but we're not aiming for Ribena here! Stir in the tarragon, and then the meat.

Stir until the meat is cooked through, and serve immediately on polenta or toast.