We present to you, dear reader, an argument for choosing to cook with unpopular ingredients in an age of endless options. Carp, the ibis of the Australian waterways, is turned into a beautiful hot Thai salad. Just to prove age should never be a hurdle, we give you mutton shoulder marinated in Korean-style hot bean paste. And when life gives you roosters (one of the few species not rewarded for being male), make a cacciatore.
1 rooster (see Notes, below)
2 tbsp plain flour
100g guanciale or pancetta
2 onions or a handful of shallots, chopped 4 cloves of garlic or ramps
(wild or otherwise), crushed
1 stick of celery, chopped
1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped
2 handfuls of roughly chopped mushrooms
(shiitake, ceps or porcini)
1⁄2 cup (125ml) white wine, brandy or marc 1 tsp freshly ground white peppercorns
1⁄2 bunch thyme
3 fresh bay leaves
1 sprig rosemary
1⁄2 cup (125ml) water
1 tbsp butter
2 tsp salt, or to taste
1kg new potatoes, washed
Cut the rooster into eight pieces on the bone (ask your butcher to do this if you are not confident). Retain the head, neck and offal. Coat with salt, pepper and one tablespoon of the flour.
Preheat oven to 150°C. Cut the guanciale/ pancetta into even batons, add to a large pot or saucepan and cook over a medium heat until the fat is mostly rendered.
Add the rooster and fry, turning, for about 10-15 minutes until golden in colour.
Remove from the pot and add onion, garlic, celery, carrot and mushroom. Cook until golden then return the rooster to the pot. Add the alcohol and cook for approximately five minutes or until the mixture is reduced to a syrup. Season well with freshly ground pepper.
Make a bouquet garni by tying the herbs into a tight bundle with kitchen twine and add to the pot. Add water and then cover with a circle of baking paper to cover the mixture. Cook for around 40 minutes then remove the breast pieces (set aside and keep them warm). Continue cooking for around 15-20 minutes to render the legs edible. The flesh should surrender to the point of a knife.
Mix the remaining flour and butter into a paste. Return the breasts to the pot and stir in some pea-sized lumps of the flour paste to thicken the cooking liquor - about five minutes. Season to taste.
Meanwhile, scatter new potatoes in a roasting tray and toss well with salt. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until tender. Serve alongside the rooster.
You can buy a rooster online from specialist butchers such as Feather and Bone or direct from a poultry farm or supplier such as R&R Roosters.They may also prepare it for you.