Watching a recent Great British Food Revival programme on the BBC, I was reminded of the wonders of game by one of my cooking and countryside heroines, Clarissa Dickson Wright. Inspired by her fervour for wild meat, I set to work on finding a suitable recipe and fell upon this. Apparently, November is Game to Eat month. How glorious! Deciding to indulge my ‘wild’ side and always up for a culinary challenge, I thought that I would attempt some gamey gastronomy this week. I suppose as a countryside offering, it doesn’t get any more authentic than game.
First things first, where to find a feathered or furry friend to eat? Jerry and I have often wondered about the deer culls in Richmond Park and where the meat goes as it is certainly not on any of the gastropub menus in our little corner of suburbia. Thinking that local venison would probably not be in the pot and not wishing to pick up any roadside offerings from our jaunts to the country, I began my quest at beloved Waitrose. I found, to my surprise, that they did have a good selection of all the usual gamey items: partridge, pigeon and even wild mallard. Thankfully all plucked and ready for roasting. Not so long ago, I did find myself in a feathery mess when a brace of pheasants were brought to the door by a member of the family. I had been expecting them in more of an oven ready condition….
Moving on from the great plucking incident of 2011, I decided that perhaps birds should not be part of my dabbling on this occasion. I can still hear Jerry reciting the ‘Pheasant Plucker’ ditty and we had to explain to a wailing Primrose that they were very naughty birds who had eaten all the farmer’s crops.
Remembering a delicious meal Jerry and I had in a charming little osteria in Florence some years ago when we were footloose, fancy free and sans children, I thought how wonderful it would be to recreate the roasted rabbit we had had that evening. No feathers to worry about there. I was out of luck at Waitrose so went in search of a butcher. Dear Papa has an excellent butcher down on the South Coast whose shop is beautifully adorned with the heads, skins and feathered carcasses of all sorts. A delight for the meat lover’s eyes but not one for the vegetarians…. I continued my ‘townie’ search for the elusive wild bunny to cook but no fluffy bunny could be found. To be honest, at one point I thought that I would have probably had more luck trying to bag one myself with a shotgun. I pondered, for a brief moment, my friend Minty (Araminta) and her recent dilemma of how to rehome her domestic bunnies but thought that she might not appreciate my idea of ‘rehoming’. Well, after all during the Second World war, rabbits were bred for the pot…..
Three butchers later and I found what I was looking for. One wild rabbit ready for roasting. Primrose wept at the thought of eating dear old Peter Rabbit or Benjamin Bunny (Beatrix Potter, you have a lot to answer for, in my opinion). She was convinced that the butcher would present the rabbit with its dinner jacket still on. Mercifully for all, he did not. I did try the old “He ate all the farmer’s crops” story but no amount of white lies would persuade her to sample the end result. She even hid her toy bunny in fear that I might just cook that too.
Looking down at the rather large rabbit on the meat board, I did feel a little out of my depth trying to follow Clarissa’s instructions on jointing. I wasn’t too sure what to do with Peter Rabbit’s heart, liver and kidneys either. Perhaps I had become a little squeamish by this point? Jerry did remind me that it is not the done thing in the country to name one’s food….. Bolstered with a good glass of Barolo, I soldiered on. The effort was worth it. Memories of Florence wafted back with each mouthful of Coniglio Arrosto con Patate which I can only describe as heavenly. Signor Antonio Carluccio, I salute you. I can only say that with a recipe as good as that, even dear fluffy-tailed Peter might not mind being eaten!
Rabbit well and truly polished off, Jerry and I settled down by the fire with a box of chocolates and I discovered a recent interview with Clarissa DW in The Telegraph. She seems to have caused quite a stir with her calls for us to eat badgers to solve some of the proposed cull problems. Mmmm. Rabbit, venison, partridge, pigeon..all a resounding yes. Badger….sorry CDW, not sure even I am game enough for that one!