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As you know from my previous post, I’m having problems with my freezer. Um, yes, still. It played up for a few days so I took most of the contents to my mum’s. Then it seemed fine for about a week, so I thought ah.. problem solved. But it wasn’t. So there is no avoiding it, I have to defrost. Which means I have to empty it. There are a few things I don’t mind giving away or even chucking. The one thing I was not going to get rid of though, was the rooster which The Mister’s mum, Mrs K., sent me from the village. I’m very lucky to receive lovely packages every now and then, with fruit and vegetables, herbs, meat and other goodies from The Mister’s parents’ home in Mani. We even have yearly supplies of olive oil from their own trees!

It had occurred to me a while back that rooster is probably one of those meats that cook really well in the crock pot, as it’s supposedly quite tough. So when Mrs K. told me over the phone that she had half a rooster in the freezer and would I like it, I jumped at the chance to give it a try! The traditional way to eat it here is in a tomato sauce, as a “kokkinisto” (which means reddened). Like the traditional lemonato (lemon sauce), there are many kokkinisto dishes. Apart from rooster it can be made with beef (the most common), chicken, or a vegetarian version with green beans. The meat versions are usually served with chips (French fries), rice, pasta or hilopittes.

Yesterday I served my rooster with hilopittes, traditional Greek noodles made with milk and eggs. They are usually small and square shaped, but you can also find longer flat hilopittes which look a bit like short tagliatelle. Again, these were a welcome package from Mani, where you find small producers selling them from their workshops. If you are reading from the UK or the US, you could probably find them in shops with Greek products. Or you could try ebay!

The tricky part with these babies is getting the amount of liquid right. They cook in the sauce, so it’s important to have the correct ratio. I don’t know if there is a rule, like say 1:3 or something like that. There probably is, but I don’t know it! So my advice is, always add a bit less liquid than you think, because it’s easier to add water than to take it out! And you don’t want mushy, stodgy hilopittes! Of course for this recipe I’ll give you the exact amounts I used.

So, the rooster and the slow cooker. What a great combination. I was right that this method suits this meat. Mine was already cut into pieces and I had two legs and 3 pieces of breast, all bone in. At this point I have to make a confession. I forgot to weigh the meat. So I’m not sure exactly how much I had. And now I have two options, either go ahead and make a guess (I’m not too bad at estimating weight) or leave this post and wait till I get my hands on another rooster. But this was too good to just leave it. Also, the amount of meat won’t make a big difference to the recipe. It’s the liquid and the hilopittes that I need to be specific about. So, my guess is that the meat weighed between 1.3 and 1.5 kilos (2.7 to 3.3 pounds). He was a big guy this one.

I popped the meat in the slow cooker the evening before, and woke up to a gorgeous smelling house. When it had cooled down a bit, I took the meat out of the slow cooker carefully, with a slotted spoon. When you have bones in slow cooked meat you need to be careful you don’t lose them in the sauce. Using my fingers, I separated the bones and fatty bits (rooster is fattier than chicken), and put the meat pieces in a container. The hard part here is trying to keep some big pieces; the meat is so tender it falls apart. But this is only for the sake of presentation. If it’s just a family dinner the smaller pieces are fine mixed up with the noodles and sauce. After making sure the sauce didn’t have any more bones swimming around, I put it in another container and stuck them both in the fridge. It was 10 in the morning so we weren’t ready for dinner!

Later on, when we were sufficiently starving, I measured the sauce, which came to 3 ¼ cups and put it in a large saucepan. I added enough water to make a total of 6 cups of liquid (2 ¾ cups water added) and moved on to make the hilopittes. Here is the complete recipe.

Slow Cooker Village Rooster Kokkinisto with Hilopittes
Serves 4-5

What you’ll need:
1.5 kg rooster, bone in and cut into portions (you could use boneless, but I’m sure the bones add much to the taste. I think they also add liquid goodness)
1 tin (400gr) chopped tomatoes
1 cup (250ml) tomato passata
2 tsp dried onion flakes
2 tsp Italian herb mix
1 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp coarse salt
4-5 grinds of pepper

For the hilopittes:
450gr hilopittes
½ a vegetable or chicken stock cube/bouillon (optional)
Enough water to make up 6 cups of liquid when combined with the tomato sauce left in the slow cooker

What you do:
1)      Rinse the rooster pieces, pat dry with kitchen paper and put them in the slow cooker (mine is a 4-qt).
2)      Add tomatoes (with their juice), passata, onion, herbs, paprika, sugar, salt & pepper.
3)      Cook on low for 8 hours.
4)      Turn off slow cooker and let cool for a while.
5)      When cool enough to handle, lift the pieces out with a slotted spoon and use your fingers to remove bones and any skin. If it’s already dinner time keep the meat warm.
6)      Measure the remaining sauce and place it in a large saucepan. Add enough water so that the liquid comes to 6 cups. Bring to a boil and add the stock cube if using.
7)      Add the hilopittes and stir. When it starts bubbling again (won’t take long) turn the heat right down to a slow simmer. Keep stirring often because they tend to stick to the bottom of the pan. They generally need about 10-15 minutes to cook and absorb all the liquid. If you see that the liquid has been absorbed, taste them. If they are soft but not mushy they are ready. If they are still slightly hard and gritty (the way pasta is just before it’s ready) they need a bit longer. Add some hot water if necessary (1/4 cup at a time). Remember that the hilopittes will continue to absorb a little bit of liquid after they come off the heat.
8)      A few minutes before the hilopittes are done, you can add the meat to the pan and let it warm through again. Or you can warm it in the microwave and just put the pieces of meat on top of the hilopittes when serving.
9)      Serve with feta cheese, or sprinkle grated cheese on top. Parmesan or Pecorino are nice options.

Note: Another great way to serve rooster kokkinisto is with Bucatini, the tube-like pasta that looks like thick, hollow spaghetti. If you want to try it prepare the rooster as above, transfer the sauce to a small saucepan and reduce it by boiling for a few minutes. Prepare the pasta as per packet instructions and serve with pieces of rooster and sauce on top. Gorgeous.