My mother once tried to raise guinea hens, tiresome birds that made a lot of noise and were hard to catch as they persisted in roosting in the trees. So, when I moved to France and found guinea hens ready-prepared in the local market I was delighted. They have much more taste than a chicken and handily replace game birds such as partridge and pheasant. If you cannot find them, use a small chicken instead.

Serves 4
3 lb/1.35 kg guinea hen
Medium head white cabbage (about 3 lb/1.35 kg)
1½ tablespoons vegetable oil
8 small or 4 medium sausages (about ½ lb/225 g)
8 thickly cut bacon slices (about 6 oz/170 g)
Salt and pepper
6-8 small carrots or 2 large carrots, quartered
2 cups/500 ml chicken stock
1 cup/250 ml white wine
1 onion, studded with a clove
Bouquet garni
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Medium heatproof casserole

1. Truss the guinea hen with string. Heat the oven to 350°F/180°C. Quarter the cabbage, discard the core and shred each wedge, cutting across the veins in the leaves. Blanch the cabbage by boiling it in the casserole in salted water, allowing 1 minute after it has come to a boil. Drain the cabbage and set aside.

2. Wipe out the casserole, heat the oil in it and brown the sausages. This will take 2-3 minutes. Take them out and set aside; then brown the guinea hen on all sides. Take it out, add the bacon slices and fry until starting to brown. Take out half of them. Spread half the cabbage over the remaining bacon and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Put the hen on top, surrounded by the carrots, and cover with the remaining cabbage. Season with salt and pepper and top with the remaining bacon slices. Pour in the stock and wine. Add the onion and bouquet garni, pushing them well down into the cabbage. Cover and bring to a boil. Cook the casserole in the oven for 1-1¼ hours or until the hen and carrots are tender. During the last 10 minutes of cooking, add the sausages to the casserole to reheat, pushing them down into the cabbage.

3. When the bird is tender, transfer it to a carving board, and cover with foil to keep warm. Lift out the sausages, bacon, and carrots. Lift out the cabbage with a slotted spoon so the cooking juices are left in the pan. Boil the juices until well flavored and reduced to about 1½ cups/375 ml. Discard the onion and bouquet garni from the cabbage and pile it in the center of a large, deep platter. Either set the hen on top or cut it into quarters, discarding the backbone, and set the pieces on top. Arrange the sausages, bacon, and carrots around the edge of the cabbage. Cover the dish and keep it hot in a low oven while you finish the gravy.

4. Skim off and discard excess fat from the gravy, reheat it, taste and adjust the seasoning. Spoon a little gravy around the cabbage platter and serve the rest separately. Sprinkle the platter with parsley just before serving.