It was a year ago, almost to this day, when I gave up watching TV, for good.
The good news is one year later, I’m back. But why did I let go in the first place?

Well, this – my hiding place, my lab, my joy, my blog. For me…and for you (if you want, of course!)
I wasn’t particularly sad to ditch NCIS and Numbers, after all, years before when we moved from Nigeria, I gave up BBC Food and what’s TV life without that? Nothing I say.

IMG_2736See, I didn’t physically have time to tend to family, and do on Kitchen Butterfly what I wanted, plus watch TV. Till Easter weekend 2010. We went to a family park for the break and in truly holiday mode and style; I slept well, ate well, sent the kids off to bed early and then sat back and watched TV. I watched movie, after movie, after movie. I even managed to see 2 hours of France’s Top Chef – all in French. Did I mention that the smattering of the language I know is limited to pleasantries and words like enchante and mon tresor, pain au chocolat, croissant and macaron!

But that didn’t stop me. To the extent that now, I have made my 2011 resolutions – top on the list of which is learning to speak French, for I think I need to be able to speak the language of gastronomy. What do you think?

Anyway, I am loving my return to the world of viewing. Its like the sweet, inviting fragrance of lemon tea wafting up your nose as you come in from a particularly cold day, numb fingers and feet, but the first sip….warms you right down to your toes.

IMG_2718So spring has sprung on me new things, a cleansing and numerous blessings. While I love KB, I also realise that there is a wealthy of good TV out there, like the final of MasterChef UK, which had me in tears, an evening watching Raymond Blanc wax lyrical about tomatoes and a Sunday afternoon finally watching Julie and Julia! Super fantastic.

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I am making a conscious effort to see the blossoms….and smell them, to make more time for myself, and me and just have fun.

IMG_2760I am also really glad for more daylight, as it means that my evening meals can now reappear on KB, something which I have lacked in the winter months past. And while this stew, which requires the wooden spoon test may seem heavy and stodgy and fit only for the ‘ember months’, I beg to differ. Yes it contains its fair share of starches and protein but these fuse together to give a wholesome, well-cooked dish with light and clean flavours.

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Blog Checking Lines – The 2010 April Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Wolf of Wolf’s Den. She chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make Brunswick Stew. Wolf chose recipes for her challenge from The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook by Matt Lee and Ted Lee, and from the Callaway, Virginia Ruritan Club.

This month with the Daring cooks, we made Southern Brunswick Stew. This is a recipe, which calls for rabbit and on that note, I couldn’t resist it. Though we got 2 versions – a short and a long, I decided to go with the long version as it gave me a chance to cook with rabbit (which I hadn’t tried before), plus use my clay bundt/pot. Those were my challenges. When the stew was ready, another one presented itself – what to do with such a huge portion of delicious food. Thankfully, that was well sorted.

Ever since Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial first mentioned her Romertopf, I’ve been on the lookout for one. I found a proxy in the guise of a bundt dish.

Brunswick Stew has a long, and oft debated history. Brunswick, Georgia claimed that the first Brunswick Stew was created there in 1898. There is, at the Golden Isles Welcome Center on Interstate 95, a bronzed stew pot with a plaque proclaiming this fact.

However, Brunswick, Virginia claims that the first Brunswick Stew was created there by a camp cook named Jimmy Matthews in 1828, for a hunting expedition led by Dr. Creed Haskings, a member of the Virginia State Legislature for a number of years. He was said to have used squirrel in the original Brunswick Stew created for the group when they returned. The hunters were at first skeptical of the thick, hearty concoction, but upon tasting it, were convinced and asked for more.

However, most agree that, Brunswick stew is not done properly “until the paddle stands up in the middle.” – reminds me of the Dutch ‘Stampot’, which requires the same success defining criterion!

Wolf included two different recipes for this Challenge, out of the hundreds of variations out there. The first is from “The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook: Stories and Recipes for Southerners and Would-Be Southerners” by Matt Lee and Ted Lee”, and the second from the Callaway, Va Ruritan Club, who hand out cards with their recipe printed on them, every year at the Blue Ridge Folklife Festival, and where she tried her first ever Brunswick Stew.

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Our DC guidelines included:

Mandatory: You must use one of the two recipes provided. Now, to not exclude our vegans/vegetarians, if you’d like, use vegetable stock and leave out the meats. It won’t be a ‘true’ Brunswick Stew, but it’ll have the spirit of  There’s no gluten anywhere in this that I’m aware of, so we’re good in?one.} that regard.

Variations allowed: Recipes may be halved if you choose.
You may substitute any vegetables you don’t prefer. You may use fresh, canned or frozen vegetables. My variations are included in the notes. For example- some recipes include okra in their stew, others use creamed corn.
You may sub out the rabbit for pork, turkey, beef, or even another game animal if you have it available.

I followed almost all of the instructions, save for substituting a few ingredients, like celeriac for celery and tinned veggies for fresh, then cooking it in the oven, rather than on the stovetop.

The one thing I found was it took time, as I made my stock from scratch and it made a huge pot. I left the stew overnight for the flavours to develop and then shared it into into three portions- I sent 2 portions off to the deep freezer and the 3rd was had by the hubby and I as Sunday night dinner!

Batch one – I served the stew, topped a layer of puff pastry. Egg-washed, baked and 20 minutes later, our Brunswick stew pie was ready.

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We enjoyed it a lot…….I was surprised though when hubby took a bite and said, ‘I thought you didn’t like celery’. I was shocked actually that he remembered. I went on to say I’d used celeriac, which I preferred for its celery flavour without the aftertaste.

The flavours were lovely and went very well the golden, crisp puff pastry. Paired with a light salad of cucumbers and tomatoes, drizzled with orange vinagrette, it was perfect. The stew was well cooked, not wet but moist. The potatoes held very well together, the celeriac became a puree, which formed a rich gravy and the veggies and meat were incredibly tasty.  I did have to add some chili pepper to it before I baked it as I felt it was needed to cut through the monotony of the stew (as most stews are!)

IMG_2896So what do I think of rabbit? Tastes a bit like chicken. I will have to try it on its own, naked….and uncluttered as it is now with a rich mix of ingredients, which is why I saved half of the ‘animal’ for later.

Batch two, featured rice and sauteed spinach with a wedge of perfectly-crisp bottomed cornbread and a rich onion jus, made from the chicken stock as per serving suggestions. I enjoyed it, but for hubby, it was just ok. He felt the stew was more liquid, with less concentrated flavours than the previous serving. I agreed. Nevertheless, he did enjoy the combination of the greens, the cornbread and the jus.

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This stew stood up well to the freezer test – tasting the potatoes, you’d never know they’d spent 48 hours in minus temperatures. They held very well together and remained as tasty. I was super impressed.

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I did enjoy this challenge, tasting and trying a little bit of Southern to add to my repertoire of popcorn shrimp and chicken & dumplings!

Ingredients
Recipe One, the Long Way, adapted from “The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook: Stories and Recipes for Southerners and Would-Be Southerners” by Matt Lee and Ted Lee

Serves about 12

1/4 lb / 113.88 grams / 4 oz slab bacon, rough diced
2 Serrano, Thai or other dried red chiles, stems trimmed, sliced, seeded, flattened
1lb / 455.52 grams / 16oz rabbit, quartered, skinned
1 4-5lb / 1822.08- 2277.6 grams / 64-80oz chicken, quartered, skinned, and most of the fat removed
1 Tablespoon / 14.235 grams / ½ oz sea salt for seasoning, plus extra to taste
2-3 quarts / 8-12 cups / 64.607-96.9oz Sunday Chicken Broth
2 Bay leaves
2 large celery stalks {I used half a celeriac, cut into large chunks}
2lbs / 911.04 grams / 32oz Yukon Gold potatoes, or other waxy type potatoes, peeled, rough diced
1 ½ cups / 344.88 grams / 12.114oz carrots (about 5 small carrots), chopped
3 ½ / 804.72 grams / 28.266oz cups onion (about 4 medium onions) chopped
2 cups / 459.84 grams / 16.152oz fresh corn kernels, cut from the cob (about 4 ears) { I used a tin of corn, well-rinsed and drained}
3 cups / 689.76 grams / 24.228oz butterbeans, preferably fresh (1 ¼ lbs) or defrosted frozen { I used a tin of beans, well-rinsed and drained}
1 35oz can / 996.45 grams / 4 cups whole, peeled tomatoes, drained
¼ cup / 57.48 grams / 2.019 oz red wine vinegar
Juice of 2 lemons
Tabasco sauce to taste

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Directions
In the largest stockpot you have, which is hopefully larger than the 5 qt ones I have, preferably a 10-12 qt or even a Dutch Oven if you’re lucky enough to have one, fry the bacon over medium-high heat until it just starts to crisp. Transfer to a large bowl, and set aside. Reserve most of the bacon fat in your pan, and with the pan on the burner, add in the chiles. Toast the chiles until they just start to smell good, or make your nose tingle, about a minute tops. Remove to bowl with the bacon.

IMG_2667Season liberally both sides of the rabbit and chicken pieces with sea salt and pepper. Place the rabbit pieces in the pot and sear off all sides possible. You just want to brown them, not cook them completely. Remove to bowl with bacon and chiles, add more bacon fat if needed, or olive oil, or other oil of your choice, then add in chicken pieces, again, browning all sides nicely. Remember not to crowd your pieces, especially if you have a narrow bottomed pot. Put the chicken in the bowl with the bacon, chiles and rabbit. Set it aside.

{When I made my stock, I used fresh chicken pieces, I didn’t have any bones. I went on to use the already cooked pieces instead of raw chicken. I did brown them though}

Add 2 cups of your chicken broth or stock, if you prefer, to the pan and basically deglaze the pan, making sure to get all the goodness cooked onto the bottom. The stock will become a nice rich dark color and start smelling good. Bring it up to a boil and let it boil away until reduced by at least half. Add your remaining stock {I couldn’t use up all the stock ’cause I ran out of pot space, hence the reason my stew looks so thick! In the end, I used about 3 cups of stock} , the bay leaves, celery, potatoes, chicken, rabbit, bacon, chiles and any liquid that may have gathered at the bottom of the bowl they were resting in. Bring the pot back up to a low boil/high simmer, over medium/high heat. Reduce heat to low and cover, remember to stir every 15 minutes, give or take, to thoroughly meld the flavors. Simmer, on low, for approximately 1 ½ hours. Supposedly, the stock may become a yellow tinge with pieces of chicken or rabbit floating up, the celery will be very limp, as will the chiles. Taste the stock, according to the recipe, it “should taste like the best chicken soup you’ve ever had”.

{I popped my claypot in the oven at this point, on 150 deg centigrade and left it to cook for 1 1/2 hours}

With a pair of tongs, remove the chicken and rabbit pieces to a colander over the bowl you used earlier. Be careful, as by this time, the meats will be very tender and may start falling apart.

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Remove the bay leaf, celery, chiles, bacon and discard.5 After you’ve allowed the meat to cool enough to handle, carefully remove all the meat from the bones, shredding it as you go. Return the meat to the pot, throwing away the bones. Add in your carrots, and stir gently, allowing it to come back to a slow simmer. Simmer gently, uncovered, for at least 25 minutes, or until the carrots have started to soften.

IMG_2707Add in your onion, butterbeans, corn and tomatoes. As you add the tomatoes, crush them up, be careful not to pull a me, and squirt juice straight up into the air, requiring cleaning of the entire stove. Simmer for another 30 minutes, stirring every so often until the stew has reduced slightly, and onions, corn and butterbeans are tender. Remove from heat and add in vinegar, lemon juice, stir to blend in well. Season to taste with sea salt, pepper, and Tabasco sauce if desired.

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You can either serve immediately or refrigerate for 24 hours, which makes the flavors meld more and makes the overall stew even better. Serve hot, either on its own, or with a side of corn bread, over steamed white rice, with any braised greens as a side.

{I left my claypot, with the finished stew overnight at room temperature. The following morning, I created portions and froze some}

For the full recipe and post, check out this link.

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Thanks Wolf for a nice challenge and see you next month. Lots of love

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