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Braised acorn-fed grey squirrel with roasted loin and squirrel pie, garlic mash – by Craig James

Braised “acorn-fed” grey squirrel with roasted loin and squirrel pie, garlic mash

We get squirrel from a supplier in the West Country, where they are trapped primarily at this time of year to protect songbird eggs. The furs are made into hats and gloves, while the tails are made into flies for fly fishing. Public reaction has been mainly positive, although there will always be some who don’t fully understand the reasoning behind dishes like this. But I am keen on reviving forgotten traditional English dishes, and everyone who has eaten the squirrel has enjoyed it.

(Serves four)

4 squirrels
1 carrot
1 onion
1/2 bunch thyme
2 bay leaves
2 cloves garlic
1 litre brown chicken stock
4 bacon rashers
250g puff pastry
1 egg
250g redcurrant jelly
600g potatoes, mashed
150g wild garlic leaves
50g breadcrumbs

Remove the legs from the squirrel and place in a baking dish. Roughly chop the carrot, onion and garlic and place in the dish with the legs. Add the thyme and bay leaves, pour over the chicken stock, season and cook at 135°C for about 31/2 hours or until tender.

Meanwhile, separate the belly from the loin and the kidneys and liver. Discard the rest of the innards. Cut the ribcage away with a pair of scissors to leave a neat loin. Wrap the loin in bacon. I prefer to use sweet-cure streaky bacon.

When the legs are cooked, separate the hind legs from the smaller fore legs. Flake the meat off the front legs and reserve it for the pie.

Mince the livers, kidneys and bellies and season with salt and pepper. Add the flaked meat and breadcrumbs and make into four small pies using the puff pastry. Glaze the pie with the egg, and bake for 12 minutes at 175°C. Seal the loin in a hot pan and roast in the oven for eight minutes.

Strain off the cooking liquor and reduce with the redcurrant jelly until a thick sauce is obtained. Heat up the mash and add the wild garlic. Place a small spoonful of the mash on the plate and lay the two hind legs over it. Cut the loin in two and place on the mash. Generously spoon over the rich sauce and finish with the golden pie placed just in front of the mash.

Craig James, head chef, Butlers Wharf Chop House

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