Choucroute Garni

Having been a bit distracted by other things of late, DonQui has been a bit remiss in posting.

Fear not! Today he has the pots and pans out and is going to try to create a classic winter’s dish that he has never attempted before.

It all started when Duchess decided she liked sauerkraut. Now DonQui has a sort of love/hate relationship with sauerkraut. Properly cooked like they do it in the Rhine valley – simmered in Riesling with lots of smoked meats infusing it with their deep flavour – then it is love. Taken straight from the jar and still sour, or cooked with caraway seeds, then it is hate.   To be certain, to get the sort of sauerkraut he loves then there was no doubt that he would have to prepare it himself.


So after searching through a myriad of different recipes and casting his mind back to the tastes he remembers from meals he had in Alsace and Baden, DonQui creates his own version of Choucroute Garni. This roughly translates as “Dressed up Sauerkraut” –  Choucroute being a gallicisation of Surkrutt , the word used in the local dialect on both sides of the Rhine for sauerkraut.

One of the hurdles DonQui had to overcome was to find suitable smoked meats and sausages to give the right flavour. Heavily smoked bacon, pork and proper German style sausages are really hard to find in Britain. The influx of recent Polish immigrants may help in the future but for now DonQui was going to have to rely on doing some online shopping.

Melbury and Appleton furnished authentic Frankfurters and Bratwürste  (DonQui put the latter aside for another day)


The German Deli came up with the all important Geräucherter Speck (smoked pork belly) as well as Kassler (smoked and cured pork loin) and some Schwarzwälder Schinken (Black Forest Ham)

Black Forest ham.jpg

For those who don’t know, real Black Forest ham is like a super smokey version of Italian dry cured Parma ham. What is peddled under that name in some other countries (especially in North America) is nothing like it.

So to the Recipe for 2 people. More people will allow a greater variety of meats:

About 250-300g Sauerkraut, depending on size of appetite
A good piece of smoked Speck cut into 1cm wide chunks (although nothing like as good, smoked lardons, available from supermarkets in the UK, can be a reasonable substitute)
1 thinly sliced carrot
1/2 a finely chopped onion
butter mixed with a bit of duck or goose fat or dripping
1 bay leaf
around 10 peppercorns (DonQui used soft pink peppercorns for their delicate flavour and so as not to loose a filling when biting into one)
around 8 juniper berries (a few more or less do not matter)
about 200 ml Alsatian Riesling (no other wine works quite as well)
about 100 ml non-salted chicken stock (leave this out if you cannot find an unsalted version otherwise, with the addition of the cured meats the taste will be far too salty).

A selection of smoked and cured meats such as:
Smoked sausages (at least 1 or 2 per person — DonQui used 2 long frankfurters which he cut in half)
Kassler or smoked gammon (DonQui used the former)
Smoked Black Forest ham (Next time DonQui would leave this out as unnecessary)
Pork Knuckle (Not used this time)
Confit Duck legs (Not used this time)
Smoked pork ribs (Not used this time)


Drain the sauerkraut and soak in cold water for 15 to 20 minutes. Squeeze out as much water as possible. Pick it apart to separate the strands.

Preheat oven to 180 degrees.

Stir-fry the speck, carrots, and onions in butter/fat slowly in a casserole for 2-3 minutes until they begin to colour. Then cover and simmer for around 8 minutes.

Add the sauerkraut and when it is well covered with the fat and vegetables, cover and cook slowly for 10 minutes more.

Choucroute Garni.jpg

Add the herbs and spices. Pour in the wine, and enough stock to just cover the sauerkraut. Add the kassler or any other uncooked meats that will benefit from a long simmer. Cover, bring to the boil then put in the middle of the preheated oven. Turn down to 160 degrees and then let it cook slowly for 2-3 hours. Check every once in a while and if it is beginning to dry out add a splash more wine.

Twenty minutes before serving add the frankfurters to the pot or any other meats that need a little less cooking such as duck confit if you are using it. If you want to try using bratwürst then it is better to fry or grill them and add them at the last minute.

At the same time boil some potatoes. When they are done, swish them around in butter and add some chopped parsley

Five minutes before serving add the Black Forest Ham to heat through and allow its smokiness to permeate the dish. Next time DonQui will leave this out as he did not think it quite worked.

choucroute garni 2.jpg

Served with the sauerkraut heaped on a plate with the meats draped over it and surrounded by the boiled potatoes, it met with Duchess’ approval.


Wash it down with the rest of the Alsatian Riesling (chilled)







Before going off to see the antics of Nell Gwynn and Charles Stuart, DonQui thought it would be a good idea to have a proper lunch.

Rules 1.jpg

And what could be more appropriate than Rules — possibly London’s oldest restaurant although the title is contested by Simpson’s Tavern and Wilton’s.

Opening in 1798, Rules is probably the closest one can get to a restaurant of Nell’s time, not that they really existed back in the 17th century. Nell would have frequented taverns but the concept of a ‘restaurant’ did not really come into being until after the French Revolution. One theory is that in the revolution the chefs of headless aristocrats found themselves out of work and therefore started to set up on their own.

Started as an oyster bar by Thomas Rules it then expanded to include more substantial fare. Contemporary writers mention ‘rakes, dandies and superior intelligences who comprise its clientele.’

Just the sort of place for me’, DonQui thinks.

Serving proper food such as roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, rack of lamb, pies and a wide variety of game, Rules is not the sort of place to bring a vegetarian, some Californian on a weird faddish diet, nor someone who is in a hurry. It is the sort of place to go to if you are looking for a long leisurely meal and old-school atmosphere.

DonQui booked in for a late lunch at 3:30, leaving plenty of time to build up an appetite before, and plenty of time to linger afterwards. He was surprised that even at this hour the place was full, with waiters in black and white weaving their way around tables of casually well-heeled patrons.

Rules 2.jpg

With a lovely glass of bubbly Crémant de Bourgogne to sip on while he contemplated the menu, DonQui sees that meat from rare breed, slow maturing cattle is on offer. With Duchess on hand to help out, rib of beef for two seemed just the ticket.  After an appetite warming partridge salad to start with, DonQui was ready for the main event.Rules 4.jpg

Although he was well aware that Rules tended to go for old fashioned large portions, he was not quite prepared for just how much food arrive at the table.

It certainly looked good. So DonQui took a sip of Côtes du Rhône to fortify himself, girded his loins, and prepared to do battle.

Rules 5.jpg

The beef, served along with the bone it was carved from, was delicious with a nice charred, salty outside while remaining rare in the middle. Ordered medium-rare it was on the rarer side of medium which was fine for DonQui but a little too visceral for Duchess. Fortunately there were sufficient outside pieces of greater doneness which suited her tastes. The Yorkshire puddings were magnificent as were the accompanying spinach and dauphinoise potatoes. DonQui is not keen on horseradish but Duchess, who is, assured him that it was creamy with just the right amount of bite.

Service was professional, helpful yet unobtrusive and the bill was… well… as magnificent as the food. Even by London standards Rules is not cheap, but then it is an experience as much as a place to eat.

Resolutely old-fashioned and English, in DonQui’s opinion Rules is a wonderful respite from the modern world’s obsession with the new, fast and transient. It is well worth saving up a few shekels for the occasional visit.

Nell Gwynn

DonQui is most pleased to have snaffled a couple of tickets to see the play Nell Gwynn which has just opened in the West End. So he and Duchess find themselves making their way down Shaftesbury Avenue to check it out.

Shaftesbury Avenue.jpg

The story of Nell Gwynn and Charles II strikes a sympathetic chord with DonQui’s attitude to life. As the blurb from the theatre says:

Welcome to England, 1660. The Puritans have been sent packing as Charles II makes his triumphal return to London following the restoration of the monarchy. After years in France, the King brings with him an appreciation for the bawdy and the boisterous. Meanwhile, the young Nell Gwynn is selling oranges on Drury Lane. Nothing will ever be the same again.


Apollo stage set.jpg

DonQui thinks the play is great fun, well cast, well acted and well directed. There is just the right amount of humour and raunchiness interlacing the true story which is delivered with touches of real emotion.

The fully packed house love it, as does DonQui.

Gemma Arterton.jpg

Gemma Arterton is utterly fantastic as Nell, fully living up to the original Nell Gwynn’s stage performance as described by Samuel Pepys:

But so great performance of a comical part was never, I believe, in the world before as Nell do this, both as a mad girl, then most and best of all when she comes in like a young gallant; and hath the notions and carriage of a spark the most that ever I saw any man have. It makes me, I confess, admire her.


DonQui must also confess to admire Gemma Arterton, even since watching her in the excellent re-make of St Trinians.


The character of Nancy is also brilliantly played by Michele Dotrice, best known as the long-suffering wife in the 70s TV series ’Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em. DonQui thinks that she delivers one of the best comic moments through perfect timing and just a look.

Nell Gwynn.jpg

DonQui thoroughly enjoyed himself and highly recommends trying to get hold of tickets.

Stuck on a Sofa

Oh dear DonQui has made a classic coltish error!

He left Duchess in Anthropologie on Kings Rd while he went into Waitrose to get some essential supplies. He agreed to meet her back at the American emporium for earthy, ethnic-y, modern fashions.

Fully expecting to meet up and then head off home, DonQui’s ears fall when he realises that Duchess has barely begun her grand tour.


Fortunately there is a sofa for waiting males

And free wifi.

And so here DonQui sits writing this.

And he expects to be here a while more…

For more on Kings Rd and DonQui’s attitudes to shopping see his London Shopping Survival Guide

A Proper Pub in London

So what does DonQui mean by a ‘proper pub’?

He would say it should be a place where you feel at home, where you can drink good beer (proper cask conditioned ales alongside decent continental imports) and wile away the hours chatting with friends.


The Ship and Shovel on Craven Passage near Charing Cross is just such a pub. In central London such places are sadly becoming a rarity. It does serve food and DonQui vaguely remembers having a decent lunch or two here in the past. But that is not the point. This is not where one goes to for a gastronomic experience, not that DonQui has the slightest problem with gastronomy as regular readers will certainly know.


Nor is this a place where one might be offered the latest trends in oddly mixed concoctions sold as over-priced ‘cocktails’. It is a place for companionship, good conversation and a decent draught or two.

The Ship and Shovel serves Badger beers, which come from Dorset and are not that widely available elsewhere. DonQui fondly remembers his first pint of Badger at the late lamented Angel in Paddington which the current landlords of the Ship and Shovel used to run. It was where he first met Duchess, but that is another story.

So back to the Ship and Shovel.


On one side of Craven Passage (on the north side) is the Ship…


…and opposite is the Shovel.

Smokers can puff away to their hearts’ content out of the weather in the connecting passage despite the best efforts of the Puritans who would like to ban such sinful pleasures.


On an early Thursday evening the place is heaving. The nearby Ministry of Defence generally supplies a good number of after work regulars but the crowd is eclectic. Groups of males predominate but it is not unfriendly to women nor are the men loud, boozy or unpleasant. For the most part they are catching up with friends over a pint or two and this is exactly what DonQui was doing.

Meeting up with an old friend he had not seen for a while, the Ship and Shovel was the perfect place to reminisce, discuss politics, the state of the universe, and generally catch up. After a pint or three, followed up with a whisky, DonQui and his friend had throughly put the world to rights.

This is the whole point of a proper pub.

Long may they survive!

Homemade Cranberry Sauce

Much to DonQui’s surprise this is really easy to make. He first tried it out over Christmas and more recently to accompany his guinea fowl supremes.



200g fresh cranberries
Juice of 1 orange plus a bit of zest
Sugar to taste (DonQui likes his quite tart while Duchess likes it sweeter)
A good splash of ruby port



Put all the ingredients except the port in a small pot. Bring to the boil and then let simmer gently until the cranberries turn soft and the liquid reduces down.


Add a splash of port. Taste for sweetness.

And that’s it!



Guinea Fowl Supremes

Looking for something interesting for dinner, DonQui rummages around the corners of his freezer. There, underneath some frozen beans, he finds a pair of guinea fowl supremes which he picked up from the wonderful Wild Meat Company at the Aldeburgh Food and Drink Festival last September.

Thinking that these will do the trick DonQui pulls them out to thaw and then looks around for advice on how to cook them.


Guinea fowl is a lot like chicken. It has a relatively delicate white meat without any of the gaminess of pheasant, partridge or grouse. DonQui has roasted a whole guinea fowl before but not supremes.

g-f supremes.jpg

The supreme is the breast of the bird off the bone but with the first wing joint still attached and the skin on. Mr Google advised first frying and then finishing off in the oven. This is what DonQui decides to do and he is delighted with the result.

This is his recipe:

Preheat the oven to 200º

onion fry.jpg

Lightly brown a very finely sliced onion or a couple of shallots then put them into a roasting tray with a good splash of white wine.

Make sure the supremes are completely dry (this will ensure a nice caramelised outside), season with salt and pepper and then fry skin side down in the same pan. Fry gently for about 3 or 4 minutes until nice and golden brown then turn over and seal the other side.

Swish out the pan with white wine and add to a gravy base (see DonQui’s earlier post: Rich Meat Sauce)

roast tray.jpg

Turn down the oven to 160º, place the supremes skin side up in the roasting tray on top of the shallots, sprinkle with rosemary (or you can also use tarragon for a slightly different flavour). Cook uncovered for about 12 minutes.

g-f roasted.jpg

Let rest for 4-5 minutes while you finish off the vegetables. Pour off the juices into the gravy.

guinea foul finished.jpg

DonQui served his with curly kale, roast carrots, wild rice and parmentier potatoes (roast potato cubes); gravy and homemade cranberry sauce (very easy to make and may be the subject of a future post).

moulin a vent.jpg

DonQui recommends a light red wine to go with it. This Moulin-à-Vent was just about perfect.