Rabbit (optional), Chicken and Flat Bean Risotto

Ingredients

  • 6 chicken thigh fillets
  • 1 rabbit
  • Runner beans
  • 2 large brown onions
  • 4 vine ripened tomatoes
  • Thyme
  • Bulb of garlic
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Butter
  • Arborio rice
  • A nice chardonnay
  • Tuscan Downs Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Method

If you are going to use rabbit in the dish it’s best to soak them in brine. We have a plentiful supply as rabbits love young olive trees!

Cover the rabbit with water, add a couple of tablespoons of salt and a dash of vinegar and soak for 24 hours. It makes a huge difference and gives a softer flavour.

Add some extra virgin oil to a large pan and add the rabbit after quartering. Keep this on a medium / high heat until the rabbit has browned. Add a whole peeled onion and thyme then cover with filtered water and gently simmer for two to three hours. The meat needs to be soft and the water will absorb the fats and flavours to become a rich stock that we will use to make the risotto. It’s easy to do this in a slow cooker on high if you have one.

At the same time (unless you are using a slow cooker) heat the oven to 180C and place one tomato for each person in an ovenproof dish. Drizzle with olive oil, add the whole bulb of garlic with the skins on and a sprig or two of thyme. Dash with salt and pepper and pop in the oven until nicely darkened and soft. Keep the pan small so the fruit absorbs all the flavour.

After the rabbit has cooled, pick off all the meat from the bones, cover and set aside. Strain the liquid into a large jug using a sieve. This will be used later.

Put a large high sided pan on a medium heat. Add a generous amount of Tuscan Downs Extra Virgin Olive Oil and about 100 grams of butter. Drop in chopped chicken thigh fillets. I normally just cut them in half and cook until nicely golden brown on all sides. Use a slotted spoon to remove them into a bowl.

Finely chop the remaining onion, add to pan and keep it moving until translucent. Then add the arborio rice (I normally use at least 500g to feed the family) and keep it moving. My grandmother taught me to make the rice sing, that is let it crackle a bit. This prepares the rice to absorb the wine and flavours.

Next add the chardonnay. Now I use a large wine glass and add one to the rice then refill it and sip away as I’m cooking…just to be sure of the quality:)

The key with a risotto is to keep stirring it gently. As the wine begins to absorb, add a little stock, no more than half a cupful at a time and stirring all the time. This makes the risotto super creamy and silky as it releases starch from the grain.

When the rice is almost done, add the last bit of stock and return the rabbit meat, chicken and finely chopped flat beans (in my case runner beans from the garden) to the pan. Reduce the heat to the lowest you can. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Grate about 200g of parmesan cheese and, when the risotto is ready, fold through and plate up.

Plating Up

I like to serve this in a big bowl. Place the risotto in the bowl with the tomatoes placed on top. Squeeze the garlic out of the bulb onto the tomatoes and drizzle with the juices from the tomato dish and a little extra Tuscan Downs Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Slow roasted persian lamb

This is another favourite in our family, succulent juicy and full of the flavours of persia.

Ingredients

  • Leg of lamb (New Zealand or Welsh are the best).
  • Preserved lemons (whole lemons packed in salt).
  • Advieh (A mix of warm spices -cardamon, cinnamon, cumin, nutmeg and dried rose petals).
  • Black toasted sesame seeds.
  • Raw sesame seeds
  • A whole chilli
  • A whole bulb of garlic
  • 2 cups filtered water

Method

Preheat the oven to 130 C. Take the leg of lamb and rub with Tuscan Downs Extra Virgin Olive Oil making sure it’s completely covered and very glossy. Then dust with Advieh.

Advieh is easy to make I like to use the same amount of all the dry spices and add about a dozen dried and chopped rose petals. I like to pick rose petals from gardens (Ask first though!)

Next take the preserved lemons and scrape off the flesh and discard. Roughly chop the peel and generously sprinkle this on top of the spice mix. Top with a chilli split down the middle and a whole bulb of garlic.

Then dust with raw and blackened sesame seeds. Place the lamb in a large oven dish with the two cups of filtered water.

I use a dish with a lid but if you don’t have one, cover with foil. Place in the centre of the oven and cook for at least 4 hours. As the lamb cooks it fills the room with the most amazing fragrant smell. The hardest part of this dish is to not open the oven door!

Its cooked when super tender.

Take out of the oven and leave covered for 15 minutes to help moisten the meat.

Plating up

I just pop it on a plate and the family cuts off what they like. When we eat this we have some persian bread, hummus and a bright salad. If I’m being really posh I’ll dust the salad with pomegranate seeds. These are not always available but really add to the dish.