In some parts of South America, guinea pigs are eaten and are considered a fabulous meal. But not in my part of the world.
Although that’s not entirely true.
When I was a wee wisp of a thing we had cousins who kept 12 guinea pigs. One Christmas holiday they were heading north to Taupo for their family vacation and before setting off in the Kingswood they dropped off all 12 guinea pigs including Lucky 13. Lucky 13 was Marmaduke, a two-toned ginger and white prize-winning guinea pig whose proud owners had dropped him off at my cousins’ house for minding.
My sisters and I were all so excited about our new ‘toys’ and spent countless hours out in the backyard handling them and feeding them and cleaning their enormous hutch, all under the eye of disapproving Sophie.
Sophie was our dog that had been the centre of my world until the day the guinea pigs arrived. I sort of forgot about her and threw myself with great enthusiasm and passion into the care of these guinea pigs that were all my new best friends.
Then one day I went out to play with my new best friends and noticed they were all huddled into a back corner of the hutch and upon closer inspection, Lucky 13, the prize-winning guinea pig whose owners had left him in the loving care of my cousins who had then recklessly forwarded him on to a family of novices, was missing.
The door of the hutch had been opened and Marmaduke taken. It was a tense moment.
I searched the backyard and called him by name but there was no answer. Then I saw something lying in a clump of clover and it was Marmaduke. Dead. Savaged. Almost bitten in two. Who was the culprit? A guilty look from Sophie and a few ginger clumps of fur between her paws said it all. She hadn’t eaten much of him. Just had a little taste. A bit like a great white having ‘a taste’ of your leg. The only thing is, a little taste is often fatal.
But I don’t think Sophie was innocently ‘having a little taste’. This was an act of spite as the over-indulged and totally spoilt-rotten pet found herself usurped by a bunch of tiny, harmless, furry little play-things.
Marmaduke was buried behind the incinerator at the back of the backyard. We broke the news to our cousins. They had to break the news to the proud owners of Lucky 13. No more prizes for him!
And what to do about Sophie. Well…Like Moses who murdered the Egyptian and King David who murdered Bathsheba’s husband, Sophie too was restored!
Have you ever had to forgive your pet of a mighty sin?
I don’t know why I think of Beggar’s Chicken when I think of those guinea pigs but here is a recipe that you need to start early because it takes four hours to cook. Just put it in the oven in the afternoon and then you have the next four hours to play with your dog or your guinea pig – just don’t let them play together!
Degree of Difficulty: 3/5 because covering the chicken in the clay dough is a bit tricky
Cost: This is an economical family meal
1.5kg (3lb) chicken
2.5cm (1in) piece of green ginger
1 tsp sugar
3 tbspns soy sauce – for gluten free use a wheat-free soy sauce
2 tbspns dry sherry or shaoxing wine
1 tbspn water
1/4 tsp five spice powder
2 tbspns soy sauce, extra – for gluten free use a wheat-free soy sauce
2 tbspns oil
1kg (2lb) cooking salt
4 cups plain flour
1 1/2 cups water, approx.
Place unsifted flour and salt into bowl; mix well. Gradually mix in water, mixing to a firm dough. Use hands to mix dough: a little extra water may be needed. Do not have dough too soft or it will be hard to handle.
Place two very large sheets of aluminium foil on to table, brush top sheet of foil well with extra oil. (I place baking paper on top of the foil so the chicken is wrapped first in baking paper, then foil). Place chicken in middle of foil. Place roughly chopped shallots, sugar, peeled and sliced ginger, soy sauce, sherry, water and five spice powder into bowl; mix well. Rub chicken all over with extra soy sauce, then rub with the 2 tbspns of oil, rubbing well into skin. Pull skin at neck end down under chicken, tuck wing tips under chicken and over neck skin. Carefully pour soy sauce mixture into chicken cavity, holding chicken up slightly so that no sauce runs out. Secure end of chicken with small skewer. Wrap foil around chicken, securing like a parcel.
Roll out dough to approximately 1cm (1/2 in) in thickness, so that it will completely encases chicken. Fold dough over chicken, pressing edges together; press ends together.
Place chicken into lightly oiled baking dish. With wet fingers, smooth out all joins, making sure that there are no holes in pastry, or steam will escape. Bake in hot oven (200-230°C, 400-450°F) for 1 hour. Reduce heat to moderately slow, (160-180°C, 325-350°F) cook further 3 hours. Remove chicken from oven, break open pastry clay with mallet or hammer, remove from around chicken. Lift foil-wrapped chicken on to serving plate, carefully remove foil.
Serve with rice and steamed Asian greens.
Recipe is from The Australian Women’s Weekly Cooking Class Cookbook – an oldie but a goodie.