Tales of the flightless partridge

How was your bank holiday? Mine was rather…interesting. Apologies in advance to vegetarians, animal lovers…and those who have a delicate stomach…

I went out for the afternoon yesterday while DJ took the car and went fishing. By 8pm I returned home late and grumpy after problems with the local trains on the bank holiday, a particularly annoying replacement bus journey spent in the company of a group of American musicians, and footsore after foolishly wearing uncomfortable shoes in the heat. As I approached home I spied a black object hidden carefully behind a plant pot on the doorstep. My heart leapt…Could it be what I suspected? I approached with trepidation. How long had it been sitting out in the sun?

The handwritten note stuck to it caught my eye. “Shot at 5pm. Nice and fresh, hope you enjoy it! John.” I picked it up and it felt surprisingly light but warm. DJ was not back so I had no choice but to take it indoors myself. Steeling myself, I laid it on the work surface and gingerly peered inside. Sure enough, there were two grey squirrels, perfectly intact, if a little bloody. I was surprised at how little revulsion I felt, considering my fondness for small furry animals.

The gift from John the Poacher wasn’t entirely out of the blue. He popped round last week asking how we’d got on with Mr Bunny and cautiously sounded out our attitude to something more exotic. Grey squirrels are a notorious pest and game keepers are only too happy to be rid of them. However, eating them isn’t as socially acceptable as eating rabbits. In his book Cook on the Wild Side Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall says was once reviled by his local press for shooting and cooking a ‘flightless partridge’ as they are known. One woman complained it set a bad example to children and that anyone who killed a squirrel should be forced to eat it. Er…wasn’t that the point?!

DJ had asked whether the grounds where John shoots might lay out poison for them, but fortunately they don’t so the squirrels should be safe to eat.

I waited for DJ to get home before tackling them – never having gutted or skinned anything in my life – and praying we wouldn’t also have to gut some trout. But fortunately for me – rather than him – he hadn’t caught a thing. After a late meal we set to work. This time I wasn’t about to get away with not participating in the skinning and ‘paunching’ (gutting) process, and I suddenly regretted eating so much at dinner as I greenly surveyed DJ laying out the squirrels on the draining board.

The little fellas were surprisingly difficult to skin, perhaps because it was now a few hours after they’d been shot, much harder than the rabbit had been, DJ said. And for less meat as you can only eat the meat on the haunches. I was game initially, but after watching DJ skin his I began to lose heart. “I’m not sure I can do this,” I said faintly. However, I pulled myself together and managed to skin most of my one, although I turned green at the paunching bit and DJ took over.

Now we have to decide what on earth to do with them. For now I think we’re going to do a casserole – probably similar to rabbit recipe as we already have the ingredients – because there isn’t much meat so we need to bulk it out. Especially as John rang asking if we could save a little bit for him!

I’ll let you know how we get on…

Would you eat squirrel or does it go against the grain?

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8 Responses to Tales of the flightless partridge

  1. rik says:

    The song birds will definately forgive you for eating as many squirrels as you can. They\’ll take their eggs or young at any chance they get. If anyone gives you a hard time for eating "cuddly little squirrels", mention their well earned nick-name of tree rats, not through disease, but the amount of damage they cause. That\’s not only to birds, but tree\’s too, ask anyone in the forrestry business!

  2. sharron says:

    how about throwing a country style BBQ (and be sure to invite the poacher), squirrel & bunny kebabs.. bunny burgers.. that kind of thing. weather certainly demands a BBQ.
    life in warwickshire is green and lush thanks for asking pipper, the veggies are growing well and i have 4 pea pods !!!! nearly enough for dinner (giggle)
    hope your larder grows well , dont forget .. nearly time to make your elderflower wine im sure dj has more than earnt a tipple or two 😉 i have 5 squirrels you can have .. if you can catch the little bugga\’s  grrrrr im soon going to run out of washing line .. im sick of telling them it is not a squirrel swing !

  3. Sarah says:

    Hi Piper
    I have tried squirrel and it was pretty good. Although I did not catch it myself – it was in a restaurant which gets them from a squirrel farm (would you believe) in Norfolk I think. The restaurant takes pride in using every single part of the animal and happily serves bone marrow (very popular it is too) as a starter. It may not be frugal to eat out but the concept is helping change the way people think. Now we just need the confidence to do it at home. And if we can only find some recipes for magpies…….

  4. sharron says:

    im with you on the magpies sarah… i\’ll have a word with our moggy see if he has any idea\’s on what to do with magpie…. but i think there wont be much left if he ever does get 1  as he hates them with a passion, they sit in thier tree mocking him

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