Roasted Guinea Fowl Breasts with Cep and Herb Butter
Portion/Yield:Serves 4 as a main course
Ceps hold wonderful memories for me of working in a Michelin-starred kitchen. At this time of year, when the game, dried wild mushrooms and truffles came in through the back door, the smells in the kitchen became intense and almost forest-like. Now, if I close my eyes, the smell of ceps soaking brings back the sights and sounds of that kitchen and for a split second I can hear “deux covers at table cinq” – the delightful mixture of French and English as somebody called out an order to the chef. In my heart, I still have a strong desire to be a part of that world, but my head and body tell me that those days are behind me. This recipe is a tribute to all my years of hard graft in restaurant kitchens.
I love guinea fowl as it’s a lot meatier and more flavoursome than chicken, but not as gamey as you might expect it to be. You do need to be careful not to let it dry out during cooking, but wrapping it in bacon, as I’ve done, should keep it beautifully succulent and moist. Served with a decadent mushroom and herb butter and a rich helping of one of the season’s best – creamed Brussels sprouts – this recipe is what my foodie dreams are made of. It’s luxurious, creamy and delicious. What’s more, if you dried your own ceps a little earlier in the year during the autumn wild mushroom season, this recipe is a fantastic opportunity to show them off.
Ingredients & Method
For the guinea fowl
- 30g dried ceps
- 100ml boiling water
- 50g unsalted butter, softened, plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mixed herbs (such as tarragon, flat-leaf parsley and lemon thyme)
- 4 guinea fowl breasts (about 100–125g each), with skin and bone, French trimmed
- 8 rashers smoked streaky bacon or 8 slices smoked pancetta
- sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
For the Creamed Brussels Sprouts with Bacon
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 100g diced smoked back bacon rashers
- 300g (prepared weight) trimmed and shredded Brussels sprouts
- Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper
- 50ml dry white wine
- 100ml double cream
- few grating of fresh nutmeg
Soak the dried ceps in the boiling water for 30 minutes. Drain and squeeze to remove the excess water, then finely chop the ceps (discard the soaking water).
Melt the 1 tablespoon butter in a non-stick frying pan and once it starts to foam, add the chopped soaked mushrooms, the garlic and salt and pepper and sauté over a medium heat for 7–8 minutes or until golden brown and soft. Remove from the heat and drain on kitchen paper, then leave to cool slightly.
In a small bowl, mix the remaining 50g softened butter with the drained, cooked mushrooms, the herbs and a little salt and pepper. Transfer the flavoured butter to a piping bag fitted with a small plain nozzle and set aside.
Prepare the guinea fowl breasts. Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6. Line a baking tray with non-stick baking paper and set aside. Trim off any excess fat and then carefully loosen the skin on the breasts. Gently insert the nozzle of the piping bag between the guinea fowl flesh and skin. Pipe a quarter of the flavoured butter under the skin of each breast, then use your fingers to flatten and spread the butter under the skin, being careful not to let it come out or to split the skin.
Place the breasts on a chopping board, skin-side up. Take the tip of each breast and pull it around to the bone to form a circular shape, then sit the breasts on the chopping board, with the bone pointing upwards, and wrap 2 bacon rashers around the bottom of each breast, where the skin and flesh meet. Tie a piece of kitchen string around the bacon to secure it, then place the guinea fowl breasts on the prepared baking tray. (If you are preparing these in advance, cover and refrigerate until you are ready to cook them).
Roast the guinea fowl breasts in the oven for 20–22 minutes or until the guinea fowl is cooked and the bacon is crispy.
In the meantime prepare the creamed Brussels sprouts with bacon, melt the butter in a large, non-stick frying pan and once it starts to foam, add bacon and sauté over a medium heat for about 8 minutes or until golden brown. Add shredded Brussels sprouts and season very lightly with sea salt and freshly cracked pepper. Sauté over a medium-high heat for about 8 minutes or until they start to take on some colour. Add wine to the pan and let it bubble, stirring and scraping the base of the pan to deglaze it, then boil over a high heat for 1–2 minutes or until the wine becomes syrupy and coats the Brussels sprouts. Add cream and bring to the boil over a medium heat, then simmer for 3–5 minutes or until the cream is reduced and thickened, stirring occasionally. Finally, add a few gratings of fresh nutmeg.
Once the guinea fowl is cooked remove from the oven and leave to rest for 5 minutes before serving. Remove the kitchen string before serving.
Serve 1 guinea fowl breast per portion with the creamed brussels sprouts alongside. Serve immediately with duck fat roast potatoes or roasted mixed root vegetables.
The prepared raw guinea fowl breasts can be prepared up to 3 days in advance, then stored in an airtight container in the fridge until you are ready to cook and serve them. Roast them in the oven, as directed, allowing a few extra minutes cooking time, as the breasts will be chilled when they go into the oven.