Tuesday, May 05, 2009

First, drown your bird

A comment by Keri on Giovanni's latest prompted me to search (with curiosity, not desire) for a recipe for muttonbirds. I found this: titi orzo on the NatRad site. It seems a suitably Maori-Italian dish for the occasion. But then I read the instructions: "put titi in enough water to drown the birds and bring to boil then gently simmer for 2 to 3 hrs." Oh dear. I feel quite unwell. Is it normal practice to drown birds in the pot? It seems a very violent way to start cooking; and what about the feathers?

12 comments:

Peter in Dundee said...

Indeed, the French know that when it comes to a culinary drowning of live avians they should drowned in Brandy. BTW where in Auckland are you getting live muttonbirds? there wouldn't be a shop down Dominion Road would there?

James said...

"BTW where in Auckland are you getting live muttonbirds? there wouldn't be a shop down Dominion Road would there?"

There's often one to be seen wandering wild around Dominion Road, but it would take a biggish pot to drown him.

stephen said...

Are you being facetious? You realise that muttonbirds are killed when taken, and immediately salted? Hence the long simmering, to extract the salt and tenderise the brined flesh.

keri h said...

Actually stephen, the birds are cooled, defeathered, trimmed (heads/wings/feet removed), and gutted, before being layered in buckets with salt...I prefer to bring the water-covered birds just to boiling point; discard that water, and reheat to a simmer, and simmer for about an hour-if you're going to have a boil-up, add potatoes/kumara/parsnips/ carrots/kareko &/or cress, and cook until tender. If not, drain the birds and grill until the fat is crisp on the outside...one of my brothers prefers to do this on a barbecue.

However, *getting* birds will be a problem this year: there've been reports of chicks starving in the burrows and a lot of the adults left early...

keri h said...

Recipes offered as a public service, not an incitement Paul-

Paul said...

Stephen, I eat mostly plants. I know nothing of seabirds.

Keri, thank you. Your descriptions of cooking are lusty, if that is the right word.

Joe W said...

"It seems a suitably Maori-Italian dish . . ."
Hey, my dad used to sing that song when I was a kid - Maori Italian march to victory . . .

objectdart said...

once you've boiled off enough of the salt (and much of the fat), you can also just roast the birds lightly in the oven.

roast your veges first, and add the birds into the cooking, so that any remaining fat leeches into the tubers.

stephen said...

Tibby old bean, I draw the line at leeches, no matter how fat.

keri Hulme said...

objectdart- a better way (only from my limited experience) is to trim off the bellyfat 'lips' off the bird/s after the first simmer, and lay them over the raw roasty vegetables, and slow bake em.

In my way of simmering birds (not boiling the fat out of 'em) a great deal of the completely luscious (and healthy! healthy!) fat is left.

Chad C Mulligan said...

Keri,
Same same problems with the harvest here in Tasmania as well.

keri h said...

Chad - that is a real worry. Another big reduction in the anchovy/sprat/sardine populations?
I've eaten Tasmanian birds - identical species & identical luscious taste. Tho' our birders dont have to worry about snakes down the burrows!