Multi bird roast – Why not!

18 05 2013

Today is Saturday.  It’s a beautiful Saturday and I spent the morning at soccer with my son Alex.  I did a line.  He scored 3 goals.  The team won 5-2, but that really doesn’t matter.  He’s in U8’s and it’s all about the kids having fun.  It’s late autumn in Canberra but the sun was shining and it was a spectacular morning to be outside.  They have team photos in a couple of weeks and I bet it will be -5 degrees and sleeting, no doubt.

After a wonderful morning at soccer and a good hour back at home wrestling on the lounge room floor, Alex and I headed to the markets.  A typical Saturday.  We had lunch at Ace Sushi and they had Alex’s thongs that he left there last time we were there, which was last week.  We go there almost every week I’m in Canberra and I was reminded just how much we follow our habits.  I thought about this as we went to Beppe’s cafe and got a coffee and a hot chocolate to take away while we got our fruit and veg, just like pretty much every Saturday.

I like being a creature of habit, it’s natural, it’s comforting and when your habits are good ones, it’s healthy.  But every now and then you have to do something different, something you’ve never done before.  So as we went about our fruit and veg shopping just as we always do, I decided I wanted to cook something I’d never made before, something elaborate.  Not because of a special event, not because we’ve got friends coming, just because making something new and special is fun.  So tonight we are having a multi bird roast.

I’ve always wanted to try doing a multi bird roast after seeing Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall roast 10 birds stuffed inside each other for an indulgent River cottage Christmas dinner.  At least I think that’s what it was, but it’s not important.  So I went to the cooking shop at my local markets, bought a good quality boning knife (I do love an impulse investment) and then went to Eco Meats, a fantastic butcher that I was sure would have a collection of birds to choose from. Exactly which ones to buy I wasn’t sure of, but given it was just Alex and I for dinner, I figured the smaller the better.  Maybe next time I’ll try the traditional 3 bird roast of a chicken, inside a duck, inside a turkey. Turducken!

Today I went for a quail, which I could only buy in a tray of 6 but froze the rest for another time, a pheasant, that once I started boning was clearly corn fed but I didn’t have much choice, and a really good quality free range chicken. I guess you could call this one Chiphesail?


I was pretty excited about trying this out but also a little apprehensive as I’d never boned a bird before, let alone 3, and of ever decreasing size.  I started with the chicken and was pleasantly surprised at just how easy it was.  I know that BBQ’s will never be the same again.  Next was the pheasant which once again was pretty easy, although it’s breast bone was very different to the chicken and being a smaller bird, there’s less meat.  The quail was last and whilst I thought it would be really tricky, again I was surprised at just how easy it was to bone.  I didn’t bother trying to get anything off the wings and legs tips as there was plenty of meat on the body and thighs.


Boning complete meant 3 carcasses into my stock pot, followed by some veg and a house filled with amazing smells.  It’s one of the reasons I love cooking.  Cooking smells wafting through the house makes a home just as much as photos on the walls.  Alex and my neighbours son were busy in the rumpus room doing acrobatics on the spare mattresses and cushions they’d arranged, but little did they know they were also breathing in scents of home cooking, family and love. It was a great Saturday.

Anyway I then needed a stuffing (Paleo of course) to go in between each layer.  I threw some almonds into my coffer grinder, sweated off some leek in butter, crushed a few garlic cloves, added the zest of a lemon and grabbed a bunch of sage and Italian parsley from my garden. Chop and mix and bingo, 3 bird stuffing!


Now it’s the fun part, putting it all together.  The idea is to lay out some string and start with the largest bird, in this case the chicken on which I left the wings and legs, then add stuffing, the pheasant, more stuffing, the quail and finally a bit more stuffing.  The end result is layers of bird and stuffing.


Tie it all up and it now resembles (almost) a normal chicken.


Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and lay in a pan with carrots, parsnip and pumpkin.


Cover and place into a low oven of 130 degrees for a long slow roast of at least 2 hours.  I wanted to do this low and slow to retain moisture in the meat.  Because of the low heat, I then par boiled orange and purple sweet potato before putting them in a pan and topping with duck fat I collected from my good friends Tim and Latha who last week roasted a duck on the webber.  This went into the oven after about an hour of cooking time and should mean everything is ready together.  Fingers crossed.  After about 90 mins I took off the foil and turned the oven up to 150 degress so that some colour was imparted on the birds and the veg.  It turned out pretty well.


The end result was good but in reality a little overcooked. Next time I do this I’ll bake it for less time and keep it moist.  I’m also going to try more and more birds in one.  Maybe 5 next time.  I love the idea of doing this with wild caught birds and will have to think about making it a festive dish and align it with hunting seasons for birds perhaps.  I may never get to hunt birds though as this would need pretty good skills with the bow?  One day perhaps?

Apricot bounty

4 01 2013

Just over 3 years ago I planted a range of fruit trees in my front yard.  I put in a nectarine, peach and pear, all on dwarf stock, and a full size apricot, cherry and plum.  Amazingly the nectarine and peach produced fruit from the very first summer and I continue to get around 20 mid sized fruits from both, which is pretty good.  The pear has yet to produce fruit but gets hammered by sawfly grubs which may have something to do with it.  I recently found a really good article on controlling them which has helped this year.  Check it out here.

As for the full sized trees, they’ve taken a little longer to become productive.  I got a relatively small amount of apricots and plums last year, probably a couple of kilograms from each, and until this year nothing from the cherry.  I was very pleased with a good couple of kilograms of cherries picked in early December even though the tree is still pretty small.  It has suffered from cherry aphids this year which attack the young growing parts of the tree and cause them to curl and stunt the growth.  Unfortunately I was away for many weekends over spring with volleyball and wasn’t aware of the problem until it was too late and the damage was done.  Next year I’ll be ready for them and get the upper hand early on so am hoping for some good growth and additional cropping the following year.

The plum fruited prolifically this year and it’s branches are drooping under the weight of the fruit even though it’s a couple of weeks away from being ripe.  I estimate I’ll get more than 10 kilograms this year and it has grown well each season and gaining size quickly.

So what about the apricot I hear you ask? Well a couple of days ago whilst sitting in my lounge reading a new cook book I got for Christmas (It’s called Whole Larder Love and is about a guy who decided to grow, hunt and eat his own food, very cool) I saw the tell tale signs of the apricots being ready to pick, birds! With the cherries you have to put netting on the keep the birds away because they’ll start eating them a bit before you want to pick and will strip the tree in no time flat.  With apricots however, I use the birds to tell me when to pick as they tend to only come once the fruit is soft and golden.  So I grabbed a bowl (a couple actually) and collected my bounty.


About 8 kilograms all up (not all pictured) which is not bad at all and meant I was going to need to do something with them.  I googled a few ideas and decided on chutney.  Sugar free of course.  I did a 1kg batch to see how it went and was pretty please with the result.  I amended the recipe a little for the next batch of 3kg and it was even better. So here’s how it went then with amounts for a 3kg batch…

First halve 3kg apricots and give them a good wash…DSC_0012

Then toast and grind 5 teaspoons of coriander and 3 teaspoons of cumin.  Add 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper, 3 teaspoons of seas salt, 3 teaspoons of yellow mustard seeds, a heaped teaspoon of chilli powder and a piece of cassia bark (cinnamon is fine also)DSC_0022

Dice up 3 onions, 3 cloves of garlic, 5-7 cm of ginger, 2 zucchini’s and a capsicumDSC_0024

Lastly add 3 cups of palm vinegar and about 1 cup of honeyDSC_0026

Put everything into a large pan and simmer for about an hour until the mixture is syrupy.  Allow to cool and put into sterilised jars, which then go into a water bath for at least 30mins (I use a tea towel in between to prevent breakages)DSC_0029

The finished product should last the whole year in the pantry but refrigerate after opening. Perfect with Indian meals but also great with a simple steak.DSC_0028