Last week hailed the new year in, unusually mild, and with the rather nice feeling that the fuss of Christmas is over. However that does not mean to say that I don’t enjoy a seasonal, festive themed, January. Whilst meandering down some local lanes into Kent, I often see the sad sight of a dead animal by the road, usually a badger, a fox, or a bird of some sort. This time it was a pheasant. It is common sight to see them walking happily, unaware of the impending danger of the modern car. They seem to have a death wish, not unlike squirrels who leave things to the last possible nano-second. Nevertheless, this pheasant had clearly not made it this time and was lifeless.
I stopped, as I wanted to make something beautiful from the feathers, no animal should go to waste at this time of year at least. So I picked him up and he spent the rest of his heavenly day in a somewhat more comfortable car boot. Once home, I was then faced with the rather more challenging task of how to tackle him. I’ve been brought up to make the most of wildfowl, as my father did much the same with a dead rabbit once, and made a marvellous stew with it, which did not go down well with my school friends at the time! But with mustard and wine it was delicious I recall. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall would approve I think.
Pheasant would be no exception, so I began with plucking the feathers off, which was my main interest. They are beautiful, so they were kept aside for further creative uses to come. Next it seemed a waste to discard the animal, so the breasts were the easiest part to carve off, and so without wrestling with the traditional gutting and other nitty gritty of a full job which was becoming messier by the minute, I simply sliced them off. Later that evening, I put them into the stew pot, with wine, garlic, herbs, mushrooms and after about an hour, I had a delicious meal. It was as free range as it could get and this bird had had a very happy wild, carefree life, with a natural, if man-induced, inevitable end. The remaining carcass I put out for the foxes, who are hot onto anything I put out at the end of the garden.
So it’s worth remembering when you next buy a free-range chicken, or a wildfowl from the butchers, of the life of the creature you are eating….Country life is not for the faint hearted.