Sunday, June 3, 2012

Nature Tastes Delicious

"I love nature.  It tastes delicious."

This is one of my favourite quotes of the year so far.  It came from my housemate Matt in the middle of a dinner table debate about spurious supermarket meat and vegetarianism, and it sums up our household's eating habits fairly well.

Rabbit is dead cheap if you buy it from your local butcher, but it's even cheaper if you have a friend who has an air rifle (and license) and know a few farmers.  In fact, that way it's free plentiful because, well, they breed like rabbits don't they?  A few friends of mine lived off rabbit for a whole summer, just substituting it in for chicken in everyday recipes.  I found a dead easy recipe by Jamie Oliver where you stick the whole rabbit, a load of un-peeled veg and a bottle of beer into a casserole and slow cook it for 12 hours.  Then you put on a pair of rubber gloves and mush what comes out into a new pan, picking out the vegetable skin and rabbit bones.  It's called 12-hour rabbit bolognese, it doesn't even taste like rabbit and you ought to try it.

The same friend also stalks deer in season and so every now and then we get a supermarket carrier bag full of venison sausages and a roast dropped round.  Venison has been getting a lot of good press recently for having the highest protein and lowest cholesterol content of any major meat, as well as being completely free range and sustainable.  If you get a chance to get your hands on some venison then I'd thoroughly recommend it, and if you happen to be in West Australia be sure to check out the Margaret River Venison Farm.

A few years ago I made a lobster snare to take spear fishing with me, in the hope of wrestling a few big crustaceans out of the cracks in the rock.  No such luck just yet, but we have thrown a lobster pot over the side of the boat a few times so far this year, left it a few days and then hauled it in.  Pulling the pot up from the depths is like waiting to get a roll of film developed, waiting to see what comes out.  We've had a few edible crab, some spider crab, juvenile dogfish (a small shark that we threw back) and, deep joy, a few lobster.

But this is what we tend to pull in loads of around the Cornish coast this time of year.  Mackerel.  Loads of them, unless there're a lot of dolphins about in which case they eat them all first.  Fishing for sea bass and bream is a lot more rewarding...when you actually get a fish.  Drop a line with some mackerel feathers into the sea however, either off the rocks at mid tide or over the side of a boat and you'll struggle to reel your line in fast enough.  Gut, slash three or four times on either side, oil, salt, pepper and onto a hot bbq grill later that day or evening.  Fresh, filling and free.

What's the point of all of this?  Well wherever you live, be it in the middle of a city, amidst the fields and woods of the countryside or next to the sea, you can eat pretty well.  Vegetable patches, pots and planters, window boxes, organic vegetable box delivery services, a good local butcher, a decent fishmonger, a fishing rod...the list goes on.  You can eat really, really, well if you grow, catch, kill or buy what's in season (asparagus, radishes, broad beans, crab, mackerel and seabass right now in the uk), it might just take a bit of forethought, some planning, and in the case of skinning and gutting rabbits a poor sense of smell or a strong stomach.

Images from top to bottom:
  • Herbs and my annual "tallest sunflower" entries on the kitchen windowsill, a.k.a. "The garden of death".
  • One for the pot, Cornwall, Spring evening 2012.
  • The Polbilly lobster pot delivers dinner and a marine biology lesson.
  • Catch of the day on a Padstow fishing boat.
  • Dinner.
  • The simplest Summer dinner?

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