Spelt Risotto with confit wild rabbit

This recipe contains two fantastic British products, organic pearled Spelt and Old Winchester cheese. We've been trying to move towards using mainly British produced ingredients in the restaurant, and although we have a long way to go yet, these two products will definitely remain on our menu for the future.
I discovered Spelt recently through the 'Taste of The West' awards. It's an ancient grain and a distant cousin of wheat, introduced to England, it's thought, by the Romans.
I had been looking for an alternative to rice and the pearled spelt is as good as, if not better than, rice. It doesn't have the stickiness of risotto rice but retains an aldente centre which gives a wonderful bite to the texture.
Old Winchester is a vegetarian, hard cheese, with a delicious deep flavour which I use in place of Parmesan.
Confit can refer to preserving by immersion, historically this was fruits preserved in sugar. More commonly confit is used to describe a method of cooking by slow poaching in oil or fat, French confit is typically Duck or Goose poached in fat whereas in Italy it is poached in olive oil. I use vegetable oil or duck fat, a few herbs in the oil will infuse a great flavour to the meat, the meat is seasoned with brine before slow poaching for a few hours to create a delicious flavoursome meat. Rabbit works brilliantly as it is a lean meat and the method of cooking stops it drying out which is often a problem when roasting rabbit as they are naturally very lean.

(Serves 4)

Spelt Risotto:
120g pearled spelt (available from Sharpham Park - Tel. 01458 844080 or www.sharphampark.com
2 x Onions
75g Old Winchester cheese (finely grated) (available from Lyburn Farmhouse Cheesemakers - Tel. 01794 390451 or www.lyburnfarm.co.uk
500ml Stock (Chicken or vegetable)
250g Bag of spinach or 200g nettle leaves (if in season)
Knob of butter
Pinch of salt

Confit wild rabbit:
1 wild rabbit (cleaned and quartered by your butcher)
100g salt
1.5 ltr vegetable oil
Small bunch of thyme
Spelt Risotto:

  • Finely chop the onions and sauté in a pan with a little butter and salt until translucent

  • Add the Spelt and mix. Add approx 1/3 of the warmed stock and bring to a low simmer. Stir whilst simmering until the liquid is absorbed

  • Add another 1/3 of the warmed stock and stir. Once the liquid has been absorbed, you have a choice; it'll only take 10 minutes to finish the dish, or you can store the risotto for up to 48 hours in the fridge

  • Add the remaining stock. Simmer and stir until most of it has been absorbed, then add the finely grated cheese, and stir

  • Add the spinach or washed nettle leaves, stir until all the liquid has been absorbed and the leaves are cooked

Confit wild rabbit:

  • Make a brine by mixing the salt with 1.5 ltr water. Place the rabbit pieces in a bowl and pour the brine over until the rabbit is well covered. Put in a fridge for 24 hours

  • To make the confit, take the rabbit out of the bowl of brine, wipe-off excess moisture and place in a suitable large pan (where the rabbit pieces have enough space not to be touching)

  • Pour the vegetable oil over the rabbit until it is covered and throw in the thyme

  • Bring the pan to a temperature of 80-90C (this might be best to do in an oven). Leave at this temperature for 4 hours

  • Remove the pan from the oven and take the rabbit out. Dry-off any excess oil

  • Flake the meat from the bones

To serve, spoon the risotto into a large bowl and place the rabbit meat on top. Decorate with a sprig of fresh thyme.

Lemon Sole with caper and lemon butter sauce

Fresh Sole, baked to perfection and topped with a buttery, citrus, sweet and vinegar caper and lemon butter sauce. My recipe is borrowed shamelessly from a classic Sole Meunière recipe which uses Dover sole and parsley in the lemon butter sauce.
This is another regular dish from the restaurant, simple and quick to make, the skill is in the timing of the dish and ensuring the temperatures are correct, follow the recipe carefully to get a perfect sauce and ensure your fish is as fresh as possible as it is served slightly rare to capture the flavours of the fish.
This can also be used for John Dory and Plaice, for Megrims and Dover Sole get your fishmonger to skin the fish before cooking. Ensure all fish used comes from a sustainable source, Megrims are a great local South West alternative to Dover Sole which are becoming scarcer.

Serves 2

Butter sauce

100g unsalted butter
1 Lemon
tblsp Capers

Heat the butter moderately till it foams, when the foaming stops reduce the heat and add fine zest from the lemon, as soon as the butter colours turn the heat off.
Wait till the butter cools and then add ½ the juice of the lemon (no sooner or the butter will burn) and the capers before reheating till the sauce foams again, immediately taking off the heat when it foams.
Serve warmed over the cooked fish

For the Sole
1 Sole
Vegetable oil
Plain flour

Gut and rinse your fresh Lemon Sole
Slash the skin in crossed diagonal strips (as per the picture) on both sides
Drag the sole in a plate of seasoned flour and lay on a oven tray, (hint: use a teflon sheet to ensure you can get it out of the tray !)
Pour about ½ cup of oil over the fish and rub it into the fish on both sides to cover.
Bake in hot oven for 10-15 minutes
Probe the middle of the fish and remove from the oven when the centre of the fish reaches 60C degrees, crisp for a few moments under the grill.
Plate and pour a generous portion of the sauce over the plate

Serve with some samphire and fresh salad (foraged sea vegetables work great if you have a source for them).

Venison with Jerusalem artichoke purée and Rowan berry sauce

January is a challenging month for wild foods as the prospect of a warm house will often win the battle for motivation to get out and pick, plus the choice, admittedly, is limited. What is great to eat at this time of year are the fantastic wild meats, Venison, Pheasant and Rabbit to choose three we often use in the restaurant. These are great choices for something that is in season and reasonably priced, and a good alternative to supermarket meats.

To enjoy Venison I prefer a less hung animal, often no more than a week, so as not to be too gamey and to allow the more subtle flavours to come through and enjoy a few accompaniments too.

I like to accompany a good piece of venison with some seasonal vegetables, and berries. The stand out vegetable at this time of year is a Jerusalem artichoke which, while not growing wild in the UK, was a staple food for North American Indians, in the USA it is also known as the Woodland Sunflower although I have never seen one in flower.

For berries, unless you made some preserve in October/November them it is time to look into the freezer, I'll give you a simple recipe that can be used for wild berries but also look for frozen british berries, I prefer red berries for flavour and appearance.

Berry sauce
This is too easy and you'll never buy shop bought again once you try. Use berries (fresh or frozen), I use a mix of the below
to get a sweet, bitter, dry sauce which works brilliantly with Venison, but do use what you can find or purchase.

100g Blackberries
80g Redcurrants
20g Rowanberries
sugar to taste

Place the berries in a wide pan and add a little water to just cover the pan base
Heat gently till the water just simmers
Leave the pan on the heat for about 15-20 minutes till the berries are starting to break down, don't be afraid to use the back of a wooden spoon to encourage them to mash a little.
Take off the heat and strain through a sieve, use the wooden spoon to squash the juices though the sieve.
If the sauce is too thin then simmer for a little while till it is reduced to the right consistency
Add a little sugar to taste, err on the side of tartness to get a great flavour with meats.

Jerusalem artichoke purée
Jerusalem artichoke can be intimidating to prepare at first appearance, nothing could be further from the truth.

Soak the root in a sink for 10-15 minutes to loosen any dirt, then, with the back of a small vegetable knife, scrape the skin off the root, don't worry about any little lumps or bumps as we'll deal with them after cooking.

Chop into small pieces and boil in salted water for approx 15 minutes
Force the cooked root through a sieve into a small pan, leaving behind skin and any other bits we don't want to eat.

Add a little cream and salt to the sieved mash and beat with a wooden spoon over a moderate heat till the puree is an even, pale colour and smooth, this will take about 5 minutes. Taste and add more seasoning if needed.

To cook Venison
Venison steak, about 150-200g per person, the steak should be about 1" thick, Have your butcher prepare this for you.

Season your Venison steak with a generous pinch of salt per side and a little ground pepper, leave for 15 minutes at room temperature.

Heat a pan to a moderate heat with a decent knob of butter, to coat the pan about 2mm deep in butter when melted.
As soon as the butter stops foaming place the steak in the pan and cook for approx 2 to 3 minutes per side with the heat turned up, a little longer for a thicker piece. This will result in a medium rare steak which is the perfect way to eat venison. If you like your meat cooked well done then Venison is probably not for you as it becomes unpleasantly tough when overcooked.

Rest for two minutes then serve

Serve the Venison on a bed of hot Jerusalem Artichoke purée and pour over a little berry sauce.