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Photo by Markus Kreutzer
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Photo by Markus Kreutzer
In Barcelona, the undisputed king of game, both big and small, is Avinova, one of the Boqueria’s longest-standing stalls and still one of the most respected among chefs looking to source top quality produce.
About now, their butcher’s hooks are dripping with the shimmery plumage of pintada and faisan (guinea hen and pheasant), which have white and dark meat that tastes a bit stronger than chicken, but not too much; coffee-coloured hares with their deeply livery nuances; and intensely satisfying cuts of wild boar, deer and muflon (a wild mountain sheep, mouflon in English). All of it is then carefully plucked and prepared, and nearly all of it comes from around Barcelona, La Garrotxa, Lleida and Aragon.
Once you get into it, nothing beats game for autumn cooking as the tougher flesh and stronger flavoured meat lends itself well to bolder flavours, slow roasting and stews. And often you don’t really need to add a great deal to it to make the dish sing. On a recent trip to Portugal, I was served mouflon stew at a winery in the Alentejo. We helped ourselves from an old-fashioned porcelain tureen placed in the centre of the table, with nothing more than a green salad on the side. It was one of the simplest and best meals I’d had this year.
Recipe: Mouflon Stew (serves 4-6)
1 kg mouflon, cut into 2 inch cubes
1 baguette, sliced into rounds
2 large onions, cut in half and thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
3 large potatoes, peeled and diced
3 large carrots, peeled and diced
1 bottle dry white wine plus a bit extra
1 large handful fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
Salt, pepper and olive oil
Preheat the oven to 120ºC. Brush the bread on both sides with olive oil, spread over a baking tray and bake for 30 minutes until crisp.
In a large earthenware or cast iron pan with a lid, brown the mouflon well, remove from the pan and set aside. Sauté the onion and garlic in the same oil over a medium heat until soft and golden (about seven minutes).
Return the mouflon to the pan and stir well. Pour in the wine and bring to a simmer. Turn up the oven to 160ºC, cover and cook the stew for three hours, checking occasionally. It should be quite liquidy—if it starts to look dry at any stage, add more wine or water. Add the potatoes, carrots and half the mint, season well and cook for another 30-40 minutes until the vegetables are tender.
To serve, arrange 2-3 slices of bread in the bottom of soup dishes, ladle the stew over the top and sprinkle with fresh mint.
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