Sustainable guinea fowl with opulent fruit and spice stuffing is a gorgeously festive dish, worth taking the trouble with. Just get the butcher to debone the bird.
Eat more guinea fowl
High in protein, low in fat and cheaper than free range chicken: guinea fowl is the poultry we should eat more of. It’s a sustainable and healthy choice – what’s not to like?
I expect some will baulk professing they don’t like game. But guinea fowl is the game for people who don’t like game. It tastes like a chicken you’d buy straight from a caring, small farmer’s chicken coop: completely free roaming, with more bite to its meat than in a supermarket chicken but nothing as tough as a pheasant.
The French appreciate the bird much more. There’s always pintade available quite cheaply at the butchers’, whole or filleted.
Do not confuse guinea fowl with quail, also popular across the Channel: similar in taste but tiny, the size of a one person’s portion. A whole guinea fowl will happily feed four, just like a chicken.
Guinea fowl, unlike guinea pig which not only is not related to the bird but does not have African origin either, comes from the west of the continent, the part that used to be called the Guinea Coast.
How to cook guinea fowl?
Handle it just like chicken and roast it whole for a gorgeous Sunday (or otherwise) lunch. Just take care not to overcook it: game cooks quicker than chicken and might dry out if left in the oven for too long.
For a special feast though, consider deboned guinea fowl filled with an exquisite, spiced and fruited, almost festive stuffing. it won’t be out of place on the Christmas table too!
I have done it myself and it isn’t impossible to do by an unskilled person, albeit not easy by any means.
The problem is the outcome will not be as tidy as when the butcher does it. Rolling up the stuffed bird will present a rather wonky shape, with stuffing peeking out everywhere. And the legs always prove the most troublesome.
My advice then – leave it to the professionals.
Fruity, spicy pork stuffing
The recipe for the stuffing alone is worth chalking up, perhaps for the next Christmas roast. It is gloriously rich, and the perfect foil to poultry meat.
Poultry, game and pork love sweet, fruity and spicy company. Ham cooked in Coca-Cola, venison in chocolate sauce, duck with pineapple or à l'orange to name just a few classics prove the point.
In fact possibly all meat marries the sweet and fruity well: I once had an absolutely exquisite dish of rare beef fillet with redcurrant sauce.
It is no strange thing after all: for centuries spices and dried fruit were not remotely confined to desserts. Mince pie pastry used to be made with suet and originally the festive pie mincemeat did contain meat flavoured with dried fruit and spices, then encased in pastry.
The Middle Eastern tradition adopted for Western Europe eventually dropped the meat contents along the way, but isn’t it in fact a shame?
I’ve always fancied those medieval flavours. Here the minced pork meat works beautifully with the sweetness of dried fruit and rich spices, nutmeg and wonderful mace.
How to prepare stuffed guinea fowl for roasting
Just like for cakes, the dried fruit for the stuffing should be soaked in warm liquor, port or sherry, for at least half an hour. It will absorb most of it so it will hardly need to be drained, just chopped up quite finely.
In the meantime, sweat the onions in a little butter. Then all the ingredients should be mixed well like for meatloaf, which is best done with your hands, mashing and kneading it through.
The deboned bird must be seasoned generously with salt and pepper on both sides, then spread on a chopping board skin side down. And then you slap the stuffing over the meat, spread it evenly with a spoon and start rolling.
Roll it up as tightly as reasonable starting from the side – the short end. Try to finish with the skin covering the parcel but don’t fret if meat or stuffing want to escape here and there. Kitchen string will now help tidy it up, and it really needn’t be super neat, as long as it helps keep the shape.
Softened butter spread over the skin will help keep it juicy, and the roasting should be 20 minutes per 500g of weight in moderate oven, with an initial blast of 15-20 minutes (depending how large the bird is) at high temperature.
Afterwards, at least 15 minutes’ rest is required as with all roast meats, and the feast awaits.
The same stuffing and the same process can be applied to chicken, duck and even turkey, though I’d go for stuffing a breast fillet rather than the whole turkey, naturally.
More game bird recipes
Braised pheasant with chestnuts, tender and flavourful, it is also the ultimate sustainable food and free range meat.
Roast wild mallard duck, easy to cook, tender and full of flavour. Female specimens are plumper but if in doubt, salt the mallard in advance to tenderise it.
Partridge breast fillets recipe: pan-fried partridge breast served with grilled vegetables. Partridge is sometimes too dry when cooked in the oven. This recipe has the partridge breasts coated in spiced flour and pan-fried for just 4 minutes in total.