Spit-roasted Vicenza guinea fowl with pomegranate and wild herb misticanza salad
Recipe from Nino Zoccali's cookbook The Venetian Republic
PREP TIME 20 minutes
COOKING TIME 1 hour
In Vicenza, this recipe is often made with baby turkey in place of guinea fowl, and it’s a common sight on dining tables at family feasts throughout the Christmas season. The spit-roasting process – the best for roasting meats – provides short bursts of intense heat. Because the meat is also being cooked on the bone, you end up with the most succulent, flavourful result. If you don't have access to a rotisserie, this recipe can also be made with oven-roasted duck, pheasant or chicken.
1 kg (2 lb 4 oz) whole guinea fowl (chicken and game birds, including duck or pheasant, can be used as a substitute - cooking times may vary)
5 g (¼ cup) sage leaves
100 g (3½ oz) house-made butter, softened (see below)
1 whole head of garlic
100 ml (scant ½ cup) extra virgin olive oil
900 g (8 cups) mixed salad leaves, herbs and edible flowers
Juice of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 orange
100 ml (scant ½ cup) Agrumato lemon extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
To prepare the pomegranates, cut each fruit in half and hold one half over a bowl, cut side down. Using a wooden spoon in the other hand, tap the skin side of the fruit and the seeds will fall out into the bowl. Remove any white pith from the seeds.
Reserve half of the pomegranate seeds for the salad. Crush the remaining seeds with a potato masher to obtain the juice and then strain through a fine strainer.
To prepare the guinea fowl, using your fingers to carefully separate the skin from the flesh on the breasts and make a pocket. Place half the sage leaves and the softened butter under the skin and season with salt and pepper.
Cut the lemon and the head of garlic in half and place in the body cavity of the bird with the remaining sage. Season with salt and pepper. Rub the outside of the bird with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
Put the bird onto a spit skewer and secure, then place onto a preheated spit rotisserie over high heat, and set as close to the flame as possible. Cook for 40–60 minutes, basting the bird with pomegranate juice every 10 minutes.
Alternatively, you can roast the bird in an oven. Preheat oven to 200°C (400°F). Place the bird in a roasting tin and roast for 15 minutes, then lower the oven to 180°C (350°F) and roast for a further 35-45 minutes, basting every 10 minutes, until the juices run clear when you pierce the thigh with a knife.
When the bird is cooked, remove from the spit or oven, cover with foil and allow to rest in a warm place for 20 minutes.
To make the misticanza salad, wash and dry the salad leaves. Pick the leaves from the herbs and combine with the salad leaves and edible flowers.
Mix the lemon juice, orange juice and lemon olive oil and season with sea salt and pepper. Toss the salad leaves, herbs, edible flowers and pomegranate seeds with the lemon and orange dressing.
Carve the guinea fowl into four portions, drizzle with the remaining pomegranate juice and serve with the misticanza salad.
Guinea fowls are a specialty game bird that can be difficult to source. Specialty butcher shops might be able to pre-order them in, even if they don’t regularly stock them.
MAKES approximately 360 g (13 oz) butter
MAKES approximately 475 ml (scant 2 cups) buttermilk
PREP TIME: 30 minutes
900 ml (3¾ cups) thick (double)cream
1 tablespoon sea salt
To make butter, place the cream in a mixing bowl and whisk until the buttermilk separates from the butter solids.
Drain the buttermilk and reserve. You will be left with approximately 400 g (14 oz) butter. Place the butter into a muslin cloth and rinse under cold running water until all the remaining buttermilk has been removed.
Wring the butter in a clean muslin cloth to remove as much of the remaining liquid as possible.
While the butter is still soft, mix in the salt in a dry mixing bowl and store in an airtight container in the fridge for 2-3 weeks.