The most important ingredient in Basque cuisine is the fresh ingredient.
Basque dishes are not based on elaborate sauces or spice combinations. Their excellence is due to the use of high quality, local ingredients in season, combined with preparation that enhances, rather than masks, the natural flavor of the food.
So when it comes to game and poultry, it’s the same — quality versus quantity (depending on how many mouths you have to feed, of course).
Euskal Herria, local name of the Basque country, encompasses three provinces of France and four of Spain — it is likely they have inhabited the Basque region since prehistoric times.
Meat, including pork, beef and lamb, as well as poultry and wild game also have their place in Basque cooking. Cured meats such as excellent hams and sausages are produced in the Basque Country.
Focussing on poultry, below you have two tasty dishes you can prepare in your own home.
Please note that these dishes need some specific ingredients and can be considered tricky to cook. If you’re willing to give them a try, go for it!
1 kg of boneless rabbit meat
1 rabit liver
8-10 slices of bacon
2 table spoons of olive oil
1 onion, peeled and preferably finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, peeled and minced
1/2 table spoon of paprika
1 sprig of fresh thyme, also finely chopped
1/8 table spoon of ground nutmeg
1 table spoon cayenne pepper
1 table spoon of all-purpose flour
Salt and freshly milled pepper, to taste
4 slices of bacon (separate from the previously mentioned bacon)
1. Dice the rabbit meat and then chop is very thin (or you can grind it).
2. Purée the liver in a mixer (or grind it) and put it in a large bowl.
3. Line a terrine dish with slices of bacon, the strips are to be long (longer than the diameter of your terrine platter) and hang out of the edges of your terrine.
4. Heat olive oil in a skillet and sweat the onion and garlic until they all turn translucent.
5. Add the onion and garlic to the purée liver with thyme, cayenne pepper, nutmeg, and paprika.
6. Add the chopped rabbit meat to the liver mixture, together with a splash of brandy or sherry.
7. Beat the eggs with a fork, add to them to the rabbit meat mixture and mix it all thoroughly.
8. Pile your well-mixed rabbit mixture into the terrine (covered in bacon strips), pressing down the meat mixture down firmly.
9. Once you have the terrine full of your mixture.
10. You can trim any pieces of hanging/overlapping bacon on the sides of the dish and cover the terrine with your 4 strips of bacon in a lattice pattern. Or you can fold over the hanging bacon pieces and cover the terrine (like in the image below).
11. Cover the terrine (with a plate) and cook it in a bain marie for 1 1/2 hours.
12. When terrine is cooked, you will notice the bacon strops are translucent. It is ready to serve hot or to be kept in the refrigerator. Enjoy your game!
4 large dried figs
100 g foie gras (goose or duck liver)
4 young oven-ready pigeons
Salt and freshly milled pepper, to taste
3 table spoons of olive oil
2 shallots, peeled and finely diced
250 ml of hot game stock
1 table spoon of raspberry vinegar (this works best, if you have other vinegar you can use it — preferably not balsamic)
100 ml medium dry Sherry/Or Brandy of your choice
1. Wash the figs, soak in cold water for 4 hours and drain them; then stuff them with foie gras. 2. Rinse and pat dry (with kitchen paper) your pigeons. Rub the skin with salt and pepper.
3. Place a stuffed fig in the belly of each pigeon, close it with a wooden pick/stick.
4. Preheat oven at 220 ºC, heat the oil in a roasting pan and seal the pigeons all over (with the olive oil).
5. Remove your pigeons from the pan and keep them warm (wrapped in cloth works well). Do not throw away the oils and juices in the pan.
6. Sauté the shallots in the pigeon left over juices in the roasting pan until the shallots turn translucent. Add the hot stock, vinegar, and 1/3 (one third) of the Sherry (or Brandy).
7. Put the pigeons back in the roasting pan and put it in the oven.
8. Braise in the oven (at 220 ºC) for 20 minutes – with occasionally (every 5-7-minutes) adding more Sherry or Brandy.
9. Take out of the oven, place your pigeons on a warmed serving plate/dish. Strain the gravy (juices and sauces), add some salt and pepper (to taste) as serve separately — allowing to add more sauce to own plates if need be.