By guest blogger SIOBHAN KELLY
On Saturday, participants at Cracking Good Food's Chorlton Cookery School were lucky enough to have the fantastic opportunity to meet the renowned nose-to-tail chef Robert Owen Brown and to cook under his guidance and expertise. The group prepared and cooked three restaurant-standard dishes: wild rabbit with bacon, baby onions and Schnapps, branchlings (baby rook) with black pudding and black cherries, and lobster with wild garlic and double cream.
To start with, everyone was presented with a rabbit to skin, gut and fillet. At 4 o'clock that morning, Robert was out shooting - it is literally impossible to get meat fresher than this and to know exactly where the animal came from. Everyone removed and rinsed two rabbit legs and two sirloins which were fried in a pan to seal and brown the meat along with shallots. Bacon, carrot, celery and leek were sweated before Schnapps was added and the liquid reduced down. Bay leaves, butter and game stock were added then left to reduce then double cream and rabbit loins were added. Once we were ready to eat, the dish was garnished with herbs and the taste was very rich and dense, just beautiful.
Next it was time to prepare the lobsters, whose pincers were held together with elastic bands for safety during preparation. The tails and claws were boiled in water for a few minutes, then plunged into cold water, then the heads were put into boiling water to cook. The sauce was made simply by adding fresh wild garlic leaves to cream and warming through.
The branchlings had been plucked and the giblets removed before the session, so they were braised whole in a pan and then put in the oven to cook on a tray. These birds have a light meat so, to compliment them, a dark sauce was made with black cherries and black pudding.
There was a lot to cram into four hours, but it was a memorable experience for all involved and a great chance to cook with fresh, sustainable ingredients rich in flavour, colour and aroma. Robert Owen Brown's new cookbook, Crispy Squirrel and Vimto Trifle (Manchester Books Limited), was available to buy and it's well worth having in your collection.
Cracking Good Food will be running more sessions with Robert Owen Brown in the future, so keep an eye on the website - there's a lot to learn, and most of all, it's really fun.
See the CGF Facebook page for more photos.