How to cook Javelinas!

Have you ever seen a Javelinas? Know what a Javelinas is, or even cooked a Javelinas? For most of us the answer is No.

Looking at the pictures ( thank you Texas A and M) they look similar to pigs, or wild boar. They aren’t ,they are peccaries, which are distantly related to Hippos!

Javelinas are found in central and South America and also in parts of the southern USA. In Texas, where they have a problem with wild hogs and as such hunters cull them but often mistake the Javelinas as wild hogs. Rumour has it ( and according to himself,) Javelinas stink ! There is a sweat gland along their backs, which is all part of the territory marking process!

Wild boar and therefore Feral Pigs need marinating and long slow cooking. Maybe this is where a Sous Vide machine will come in useful. ( have not tried it ).In the USA it is impossible to buy any Wild Game, unless it is USDA approved, which of course as it is wild, is impossible! However, it is possible to get any game from friends who hunt!

I have cooked game in Europe, where of course when the Game season is on it is very easy to buy, even from stores such as Costco!

One of the best recipes for cooking wild boar is Elizabeth David, how to cook pork like wild boar, and this I have done many times.But onwards to Javelinas! Javelinas eat whatever is going, after all when you live in the desert, what choice do you have. Their favourite is Prickly Pear and apparently the spikes on the Prickly pear does not bother them at all! They just eat it as it is! In Mexico where the Prickly Pear is know as Nopales, the prickles are removed before buying, and yes they can be bought in the local market! Whilst on many of our Mexican trips we did indeed try Nopales , and I have to say, did not think they had too much to offer!

I have read several accounts on how delicious roasted Javelinas can be, but on the other hand I have read even more on how disgusting it is. But, if it is the only food available, then it will become edible and presumably could be described as delicious. One can assume, that the native Americans who ate Nopales, would also have eaten Javelinas, but I have to say that during our stay in Arizona and the American southwest it was not on offer on any of the local restaurants that we visited!

We went on a tour of Sedona, a beautiful location, about halfway between Phoenix and the Grand Canyon. This is very much into Native American country, amazing rock formation and definite signs of earlier civilisation including wall art and ruins.

Whilst in this tour, Ed from Kentucky, who was a great guide and very entertaining, told us of the ultimate method of cooking Javelinas and so here it is!

First capture the Javalina, obviously kill it, and by this time you will be pretty stinky! Skin the animal and gut it. Take a whole load of assorted fruits, apples, oranges, lemons and limes, Chop, and stuff The Javalina with the fruit.

Take an old Hessian sack and soak it in red wine, until thoroughly soaked. Wrap the stuffed Javalina in the sacking and soak the whole lot in more red wine! Leave for 24-48hours, the longer the better! When ready to cook and eat, unwrap the Javalina, throw away the fruit. Throw away the the Javalina and eat the sacking as rumour has it, it will taste better and be more nutritious than the Javalina !!

A USA Road Trip”

We are on a Road Trip in the USA. We started out in Phoenix at Golf Boot Camp, and as such the hotel was maybe not what we might have chosen, but it was where the golf camp was held. It was fine, convenient and actually it worked well.

I have decided to keep a pictoral record of meals we have eaten.

For starters, Breakfast. I chose the same thing for 5 days, yogurt, with granola, strawberries, raspberries and blackberries. For me it was perfect. Himself, little piggy that he can be ( think 3 Krispy Kreme doughnuts whilst watching rugby) decided to go native and try the more substantial foods that were on offer.

Day one, Huevos Rancheros, which came on a kind of fried bread with beans, salsa and eggs ( over easy). In Mexico, they are very different, tortillas, salsa, refried beans, avocado and of course the eggs. Sonora the area of Arizona,in which we found ourselves , served them a piece of fried bread which was actually plate size. The verdict, not bad!

Day two had, himself trying out the Chilaquiles.

Chilaquiles, are very popular in Mexico, it is yet another way of using up day old tortillas . Served with a salsa, red or free, with sour cream, maybe avocado or guacamole, maybe refried beans and of course eggs! Scrambled or fried. The verdict, ? Umm a bit soft, but they are meant to be soft!

Day three he took the buffet, and am not sure what he ended up with !

Day four, it had to be the short stack pancakes, along with crispy bacon and tons of Maple Syrup, and if it were only maple syrup and not just sugar filled sauce. However, he seems to enjoy them!

Day five, umm he didn’t fancy the breakfast Burritos. Actually a bit like Chop Suey and American Chinese invention, Burritos are an American invention and not at all Mexican. But never mind, they were not fancied and so it was back to the Huevos Ramcheros! Oh what a shame! Not as good as on day one, and he actually left some!

And now we have left Phoenix and have headed on to Sedona, beautiful red Mesas all around and it is cold Negative degrees!

We warmed ourselves up with giant Margaritas ( me) and. Triple Mezcal ( him) I can only blame this on the server not have having a clue to the size of a Mezcal shot and to Son Inlaw for introducing Himself to the joys of Mezcal! My memories of being in Oxaxca at a Mezcal tasting, willowy blond I were not so impressed, so passed along our tastings to the boys, who seemed to manage ours and theirs with ease!

This little Piggy went to Market.

A couple of months ago, for whatever reason, I was tempted to buy a suckling pig. Costco the big American owned Super Store, would deliver, and so it was one Saturday morning early December, that said Piggy arrived on my doorstep. He was much bigger and heavier than I had thought him to be. The next question, was, what to do with him. So off came his hind quarters, cut into two, well almost, one bit still had the tail, whilst the other did not. Wrapped those and stuffed them into a freezer. Next the front half, which of course still had the ears and snout. Again wrapped and stuffed into the freezer. Now, when on earth was this little pig going to be eaten?

The lovely little Amelia Rose and her parents were visiting for the weekend and although she is only eating deluxe baby mush  ( pear and ginger?) an opportunity had arisen at least for part of pig to be eaten by her parents.

I decided to use the wonderful Sous Vide machine and started googling, Sous Vide, Pork Leg. Not much joy there, I m afraid, most of the recipes submitted are by amateur cooks like myself, so actually did not find pork leg at all, but at least found pork shoulder. The instructions varied from 12 hours to 48, so it was a matter of take your pick. So I opted for 20, as that fitted in nicely with my schedule! ( on reflection, maybe a tad too long, it was a very young pig, after all!)

Twenty hours on, Piggy pings and is ready to be finished in the oven, again, I’m not sure how long this will take, but at first glance the meat already seems very tender. Skin is scored and initially put into a fairly hot oven to start the crackling process.

Our Sunday dinner timing was to be determined by young Amelia, and so it was that after she had eaten her supper, had her bath and her milk and had gone to bed, we sat down for ours. I started with some Arancini( can you see I’m feeling better? First time in the kitchen for about 7 weeks!) More on Arancini another time. Onto the pork, it was tender and crackling, crackled. Along with some rosemary potatoes, green beans sautéed with garlic, piquilino peppers and almonds, it was indeed very nice. Son, who dissected piggy commented that his bones were very tender and rather than trying to carve, ended up “Pulling” in an attempt to avoid small bone fragments.

Pork a tad on the dry side, should have done a sauce, but by this time, I had, had enough of being in the kitchen and handed over the role of beans to himself! Dessert ? A time old classic, mixed fruit crumble, I’m not a crumble fan, but son and daughter in law chose it as a dessert at their wedding and himself, will eat anything sweet! Think, 3 Krispy Kreme doughnuts at Twickenham! What a glutton! He doesn’t deserve to stay slim !

We only have two bits of little pig left, watch out you might just be invited to partake !

Domestic God Cook Book, Maybe??

As I have been kind of out of action for going on 6 weeks, himself has been in charge ( well at least he thinks he has). And has cooked so many meals that soon we shall have enough for our own cook book!

Many years ago, my son, who is severely dyslexic, found a love of cooking. The reading part proved difficult though, so made him his own cook book. Simple instructions, not long-winded ones. I find, even today when checking out  new recipes, either in  a magazine or a cook book, the instructions are way too long winded and complicated. I usually get out a marker pen, scrub out at least half of them and substitute, my way.

When living in Bruxelles and had my own cooking school, I also sought ways to make the instructions as easy as possible for my pupils, to encourage them, as normally faced with instructions as long as an arm, one can easily get discouraged! My pupils in this instance were on the whole American expat wives, who were suddenly expected to have dinner parties, Brussels style and not just hamburgers around a pool, so the emphasise of my classes were always, a three course dinner party, the order in which to prepare and cook, what coud be made ahead of time and what could be frozen. The class ended with them sitting and having lunch. Himself teases by saying that the local council had a bottle bank installed outside our house ! But on the other hand, said son would race up the drive from the school bus, saying ” Mommy Mommy can I have sausages and chips”?, but then his face would fall and groan “oh No. cooking class !! He had no choice but to become a very competent cook !!Screen Shot 2018-02-04 at 19.23.12

So the latest offering in our house is Chicken Curry. No sooner had we returned from the mountains than the baby brother of himself and his lovely wife arrived.

Hunting around, through my various books, it was decided that a chicken curry would fit the bill, but which recipe. I have books by Atul Kocher, the Michelin starred chef, but maybe this would be throwing someone in at the deep end ( make a paste, make another paste, grind your spices, type of recipe) No, we needed something a little more straightforward! And along came Keith Floyd, he lately departed of TV fame, the forerunner, of, if you like Rick Stein ( though I think they did not like each other) et al. On his TV shows, even when in a boat he had a glass of something in his hand ( usually wine) and he dreamt of cooking for Gorbachev, so that they coud drink vodka together!!

And so it was to Floyd’s India that we found ourselves.

And  the cook in chief was asked yet again to perform. One night was the new star turn, the fish pie, but the second night the chicken curry. Not just any old chicken curry but, Murgh Tikka Makhani. There are of course as many variations of this recipe as there are of any other. Floyd went to India, mixed with some locals, ate their chicken and came up with this version> I saw on TV this week Rick Sten doing exactly the same, trying out Goulash in Vienna and then creating his own version)Screen Shot 2018-02-04 at 19.23.41

And so onto our version.

  • 2lbs chicken ( use either thighs which have been boned and skinned, for a good flavour, or breasts, again skinned.
  • 2 Tablespoons of Ghee or unsalted butter ( ghee is better as it will not spit at you)
  • 150 mls double cream
  • 5 cloves of garlic crushed  and chopped
  • some fenugreek leaves, ( optional)
  • some vegetable oil to fry the chicken

For the tomato sauce

  • 2 cans chopped tomatoes ( you can use fresh but this is so much easier)
  • 3 red onions peeled and cut in 2
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 2 ” bit og ginger peeled
  •  5 fresh green chilies
  • 5 green cardamom pods
  • 1 teaspoon each of ground cinnamon, ground coriander and ground cloves

Put all of the tomato sauce ingredients into a food processor or blender and process to make a puree.

Heat the oil in a pan and add the chicken in batches and stir fry until they are golden and cooked. Repeat until all is cooked.

Fry the garlic, taking care not to burn. Pour in the sauce, add the chicken and heat until heated through. Just before serving, stir in the cream and the butter/ghee.Taste and add salt and epper to taste. Decorate with a few prigs of fresh coriander and of course serve with rice of your choice, or how about some naan or other Indian bread. There is a good selection of frozen ones in most Indian stores.