Crispy squirrel with cauliflower & capers

Crispy squirrel with cauliflower & capers

By
From
Gather
Serves
4
Photographer
Andrew Montgomery

I cook this delicate meat with onions, carrots, celery and herbs, very gently, until it’s fork-tender and the meat is falling away from the bone. Then I fry it hard, in shards, with garlic, rosemary and pungent salty capers so that it crisps and caramelizes around the edges – a seriously wicked treatment for this hugely underrated wild meat.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
1 oven-ready squirrel, jointed on the bone
or 4 pheasant
or 2 chicken thighs on the bone
or 1 small rabbit, jointed
2 onions
1 carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
1 celery stick, roughly chopped
2 bay leaves
2 thyme sprigs
1 small knob butter
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1/2 head cauliflower, outer leaves removed
2 rosemary sprigs
3-4 teaspoons small capers
1 garlic clove, peeled and very thinly sliced
salt
freshly ground black pepper
4 slices good-quality rustic bread, toasted, to serve

Method

  1. Place the squirrel (or pheasant, chicken or rabbit) into a small–medium pan so that the pieces of meat fit snugly in a single layer. Roughly chop 1 onion and add it to the pan with the carrot, celery, bay leaves and thyme sprigs. Cover with water. Place the pan on a high heat and bring to a simmer. Turn down the heat to low and cook, uncovered, for 1½–2 hours, skimming the cooking liquor occasionally, until the squirrel meat is falling off the bone. Once the meat is ready, strain the cooking liquid into a bowl and reserve. Discard the vegetables and set the squirrel meat aside to cool.
  2. Finely chop the remaining onion. Melt the butter with half the oil in a medium pan over a medium heat. When it’s bubbling, add the onion. Cook gently for 4–5 minutes, until the onion is soft but not coloured. Meanwhile, roughly slice the cauliflower, first trimming and discarding any rough stem. When the onions are softened, add the cauliflower to the pan. Pour over 150ml of the reserved cooking liquid and place a lid on the pan. Cook for 4–5 minutes, or until the cauliflower is just tender. Transfer to a blender, and blitz to a smooth, velvety purée. Season, then keep warm.
  3. Flake the squirrel meat off the bone, trying to keep it in larger chunks and shards. Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a medium frying pan over a high heat, and add the squirrel, chicken or game meat. Fry for 3–4 minutes, until the pieces are starting to crisp around the edges. Tear over the rosemary, add the capers and garlic, stir, and season. Fry for 3–4 minutes, tossing regularly, until the meat is caramelized, then remove from the heat.
  4. Place one slice of toast on each plate, drizzle over some olive oil and spoon the puréed cauliflower over each slice. Top with the squirrel mixture and serve straight away.
Tags:
River Cottage
seasonal
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