How to cook guinea fowl

How to cook guinea fowl

Originating from West Africa, this black and white speckled bird was first imported to Europe by the Portuguese in the sixteenth century. As well as being a popular meat in West Africa, French and Italians chefs can’t get enough of it, and are some of the biggest guinea fowl producers in Europe.

The birds are generally a little smaller than a chicken and their flavour is somewhere between chicken and pheasant, with a mild gamey flavour. It’s the perfect bird for you if you find cooking game tricky, but would like to give something new a try. Roast or braise in a stew or curry as you would a chicken, but make sure to adjust your timings accordingly as guinea fowls are a little smaller and generally contain half the amount of fat as a chicken, meaning they can have a tendency to dry out if not cooked with care.

What to look for when buying guinea fowl

Guinea fowl season in the UK runs from September through to February. They are readily available in larger supermarkets these days, and as with all meat, organic and free-range birds are not only more ethical, but provide tastier meat. You want a bird no older than fourteen weeks – the younger the bird, the more tender it will be. Older birds should be reserved for braising to ensure the meat doesn’t dry out. One bird should feed 2–3 people, so make sure you buy enough if cooking for a crowd. Although they’re pretty uncommon, guinea fowl eggs are a wonderfully rich treat!

See below for a classic, simple method for cooking guinea fowl.

How to cook guinea fowl

Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4
Boil a lemon in a pan of boiling water for 10 minutes. Once soft, pierce the lemon and place in the cavity of the guinea fowl along with a handful of fresh thyme, some salt and pepper. This will help keep moisture in the bird during roasting and impart a wonderful flavour
Cut an onion into quarters and crush a couple of garlic cloves. Place them in a roasting tin
Season the outside of the bird well and place on a wire rack sat in the roasting tin. Pour vegetable stock to about a third of the way up the tin. This extra liquid in the oven will create steam, another way to prevent the bird from drying out (plus you can use it to make a delicious gravy at the end)
Cover the bird in foil and roast for 25 minutes per 450g. After this time, remove the tin foil and roast for a further 20–25 minutes to allow the skin to crisp up. It is cooked once the juices run clear when you pierce the thickest part of the thigh. Like chicken, guinea fowl must not be served rare
Once cooked, remove your bird to a plate and cover with foil to rest for 10 minutes before serving

What guinea fowl goes with

Guinea fowl comes into season in time for autumn and runs through until the end of winter, so naturally it pairs nicely with earthy, autumnal flavours like mushrooms and beetroot, and robust winter root vegetables such as celeriac or parsnip. Like other game, it is also delicious with winter fruits such as quince, plums or prunes.

The legs benefit most from braising, and make a lovely, lightly gamy guinea fowl terrine. Theo Randall uses Italian inspiration with robust autumnal flavours of cavolo nero, gorgonzola and chestnuts for his stuffed guinea fowl recipe.

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