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?

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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.

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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!

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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?

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