Tag Archives: rabbit

An Easter delivery

Easter chickWith spring flowers, chicks and eggs both chocolate and hen, Easter is certainly hot on our heels.  A little rabbit even crept onto the table too (thanks to Pol Roger Champagne for inviting me to share a dinner party favourite), leaving Poppy completely appalled that Mummy and Daddy might have kidnapped the Easter bunny and eaten him!


However, Easter just wouldn’t be Easter dear Reader, without lambs.  Bouncing little bundles of spring joy.  In fact, Poppy, Primrose and I have been reminiscing about our orphans from last year and wondering about a few more.  Since I don’t have any grazing of my own to speak of, finding willing landowners happy to part with a field for six months is pretty tricky.

Lambing2015-2 So, missing my three bleating little ones, I decided to offer my very inexperienced services to a lovely local (very patient) shepherdess whose flock was about to triple within a matter of weeks.  The maternity wing was already full of triplets when I got there and in the biting wind and driving rain, the shed was by far the best place for lambs, ewes (and Margot) to shelter.  Keen to put me to work, the shepherdess had me learning the ropes in no time – docking tails, castration (cross your legs – it’s all about the rubber bands)….checking feet and monitoring newborns.   Even the polytunnel had been cleared out to be used as a makeshift intensive care unit for difficult births and struggling lambs.  Such a lot to get done before the next birth and all that while you’re on red alert for any ewes who look as though they might be going into labour.  Scanning and dating I learn, is no real guarantee of just when lambs might make an appearance and the shepherdess has her trusty notebook with her at all times, referring to notes on when each ewe is due and how many babies.  Some are first timers, others are old hands at lambing and will be giving birth for the third or fourth time.  First timers are always more of a worry, the shepherdess tells me.

Lambing2015-1Lambing is a curious thing….much like giving birth to human babies.  A lot of waiting around, a bit of action, a lot more waiting around and then everything happening in a matter of ten minutes.  Reading my sheep husbandry handbook was no real preparation for witnessing my first live lamby birth – it was amazing.  Even more wonderful to be there ready to assist when one lamb got a bit stuck in the process and the ewe had to be helped out.  Oooh, dear Reader, this was truly Lambing Live and I was standing by like James Herriot in the middle of a field, with a bucket full of delivery essentials and a shepherdess sporting a long plastic glove.  I think that the shepherdess was rendered quite dumbstruck when I got out my phone and starting taking pictures…..  Oh the shame, dear Reader, I am a complete total farming amateur!  Too good to miss recording it for the children to see later that day though!


When the second lamb popped out unaided fifteen minutes later, all hands were on deck to get the newborns and ewe into the trailer before the wet lambs became too cold up at the top of the field.  All this care, love and attention for something that will eventually reach the table.  I am in awe of the work all our farmers do and how much effort goes into bringing meat to consumers.


Keen to get more practice in, I popped over with Poppy and Primrose to see how the rest of the ewes were getting on a day or so later.  Tons more naughty scampering triplets and happy ewes!  Anyone who thinks that sheep don’t have much personality couldn’t be more wrong.  You can see just what kind of mothers they are by watching them for five minutes.  Poppy and Primrose spent an hour running up and down the fields with lambs following and gambolling, their mothers watching on or trotting behind.  Definitely what Easter in the countryside is all about!

Much to the girls’ delight, there was even a spot of newborn cuddles to be had.  One of the shepherdess’ more troublesome ewes had given birth to her triplets just the night before our visit and one of her babies had really really struggled to perk up following the trauma of birth.  Dubbed Minnie, we found her in the kitchen in a cardboard box.  A tiny little thing and destined to be fed by bottle for the moment as she hasn’t had much strength and is considerably smaller than her siblings.  Snuggling up to a newborn lamb has to be the highlight for Poppy and Primrose this Easter – much better than a chocolate egg any day they told Jerry and I afterwards in the car on the way home!


Looks like little Minnie may well be needing a foster home too………….the prospect sent me scuttling to the garage to get the huge bottle of Milton and lamby bottles out again.  Despite  Jerry rolling his eyes, there may well be a cardboard box with a lamb in it in the kitchen very soon!  Well how could we resist such a darling little face, dear Reader?!!!  Happy Easter!


Autumn rolling in


Never have I felt the juxtaposition of town and country more acutely than a recent weekend dash to New York and back for a dear family member’s wedding.  Saying goodbye to straw bales on the school run and green fields (plus two small girls) to be greeted by cabs honking, neon lights flashing and the whoosh of urban living was a far more epic contrast from our every day life than I could ever have imagined.  Continue reading

Are you game?

Dear Reader, if you are of the vegetarian persuasion, you may wish to look away now.  I have no wish to offend but this one is for my carnivorous chums and I shall make no further bones about it…..

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…..

One of Minty’s temptingly chubby bunnies….

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!

Margot tries Carluccio’s delicious rabbit dish

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!