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in which I eat rook

Diane Abbott. I'm not one heaving a happy sigh at the very thought, am I? She's done good things and stuff. She's a heavy hitter. And it's got to be better than just going for the nearest shiny-faced public schoolboy in the hopes that imitating those in power will bring power to you.

Having spent a happy day at the office eating crow*, I came home and ate rook. I didn't plan it, I was just in an effusive mood after buying some farm cider and on the table of the rather good game merchant there happened to be a pair of rook squabs. I'm a reasonable judge of birds having grown up on a bird farm and they looked good; nice texture, fine colour, and I was just curious, really. So I bought the rooks and stowed them in the work fridge (along with the cider) for the rest of the afternoon. Even better, I remembered to take them home.

Here's what I did with them:

squabs legs with celery and green chilli

Fill a small pot half full with a mixture of onion, celery and green chilli. Lay the skinned joints of a rook squab over, sprinkle with olive oil and savory, cover with more celery. Place in the oven for twenty minutes, then shake the dish to raise the meat to the top, and return for a further ten to colour the meat.

Pan fried spiced rook breasts with apricot

Place chopped apricots in brandy to plump. Cut away and skin the rook breasts, season, then set them on a plate and rub them with crushed garlic, fresh thyme, olive oil and lemon juice. Slowly cook onion in a heavy pan until it is translucent but not coloured. Raise the heat and add the skinned rook breasts, quickly brown them on either side, and then pour over the brandy, flame it, and add the apricots. Add a little few spoonfuls of stock or another suitable liquid, and slap the lid on while the steam from that gets into everything. Remove the lid, adjust and reduce the sauce -- I used a little honey and soy for that, which worked well.

I served it with spiced kidney beans and pink couscous.

Tim didn't really rate the legs -- very fiddly and a bit stringy, like old frogs legs, but we both agreed that the breast meat was excellent. I'd been told that it tasted a bit like pigeon, but more beefy, and I can't really improve on that as a description.

Rooks, along with acorns and goosegrass, are British famine food; google for rook recipes and they're often wartime pies of assorted grey meats, unappealing but filling. I was expecting something stringy and dull, good enough for stew, but nothing to go back to; something you'd eat once, to better understand ancestral privations.

But now I'm in a quandary. There's nothing wrong with rook. I could tell the moment I unwrapped the packet that it would be delicious, simply from the smell. It's good eating. But it's also British bush meat; food from the wild, unhusbanded, just taken. Now, certainly, the rooks will go again, and rooks are not endangered. But if everyone suddenly took to rook, neither of these facts would matter a whit. Rooks would sinply disappear, like a pale blue eye winking shut in the night.

So I'll probably not be making a habit of rook. But nevertheless I feel a certain satisfaction in extending my omnivory.

When Darwin was a young man, he used to take part in Phylum feasts, where they would try and eat the broadest range possible of different living things. Next year I'm planning on having a Darwinian feast of my own to mark Darwin day; but with a difference. It will start with Primordial Soup, then work its way along the tree of life to a specially shaped jelly, served with genetically modified fruit. But I don't think it'll include rook.

*Not really, although it is all a bit unsettled at the moment.

Comments

( 10 worms — Feed the birds )
motodraconis
21st May, 2010 05:24 (UTC)
I'd like to try Rook and Grey squirrel. Some chums of mine found squirrel pie in Manchester but I've never seen it myself. One of the things that pisses me off about Liverpool is the lack of game. You'd think there'd be rabbits at least but there's bugger all!

I might have more luck in Barnet, there's a couple of butchers that look potentially good but I've been avoiding them due to severe lack of cash.
sielis
21st May, 2010 06:58 (UTC)
I believe the butchers near my parents (Wirral) does game - I think it's the one on Greasby Road, Greasby, if that helps? I can ask if you like.
motodraconis
21st May, 2010 14:12 (UTC)
Cheers, but I'm far too skint at the moment to buy anything good. It'd be a 2 hour round trip + toll to get to Greasby, and because I'm having to commute between Liverpool and London I'm loathe to do any more driving than I have to, and paying 3 quid toll + 2 hours petrol for the off chance that I might get a cheap rabbit isn't cost effective for me.
There are however, a couple of decent looking butchers on my walk to work in London (Barnet) so I'd rather take my chances with them first.
cleanskies
21st May, 2010 06:59 (UTC)
our squirrels have all mysteriously disappeared....
I'd blame local omnivory, but that cold snap is a more obvious culprit. RIP mad squirrel, although not before he planted hazel nuts all over the garden. I have a native hedge coming along nicely out there, in kit form. Maybe I can sell it at the winter community farmers market?

If the butchers are good they will have budget cuts too*, but if you're sans freezer at the moment that may not help as cheap usually comes hand in hand with bulk.

*£1.50 rabbits, pigs cheeks etc.
jinty
21st May, 2010 10:33 (UTC)
we have a squirrel in our garden at present
maybe the've just moved around a bit.
glittertigger
21st May, 2010 13:07 (UTC)
Re: we have a squirrel in our garden at present
There was one in our garden this morning too
cleanskies
21st May, 2010 18:17 (UTC)
Re: we have a squirrel in our garden at present
Glad to hear that the saner squirrels have survived!
motodraconis
21st May, 2010 11:25 (UTC)
Re: our squirrels have all mysteriously disappeared....
It's lack of cash, but also I really don't like cooking in my digs. I'm eating pretty minimally partly to save money and partly to spend as little time in the kitchen and as far away from my landlord as possible. I avoid meat at such lean times, though I have been buying chorizo/salamis sporadically as they keep well and are easy to slice into salads or couscous. (No cooking! Super-quick!)
(Anonymous)
21st May, 2010 19:04 (UTC)
Oh man, for the feast, you *have* to have my onychophoran gumbo!
cleanskies
22nd May, 2010 00:14 (UTC)
i'm guessing not a spambot
Are velvet worms good eating? Also, who are you?
( 10 worms — Feed the birds )