Tom Eagle is sous chef at Darsham Nurseries Café, a blogger and award-nominated pickle enthusiast. A committed omnivore, he believes that meat-eating is a privilege: we should look after our livestock and their environment, and eat the whole of the animal – or none of it!
So. We are well into Meat Free Week, and a lot of vegetables under the bridge. What about next week, though? Maybe you’re vegetarian anyway, or are planning on sticking with it for a while longer – good for you! You only have to worry about food miles, farming practices, sustainability… eating well involves so much more than simple, binary choices, and when you add animal lives to that, it becomes even more complex.
In the midst of this, it can seem like nothing’s really OK to eat any more (except perhaps Soylent, but that’s a whole other story), with so much of our diet consisting of the lesser of two evils. It’s nice, sometimes, to find something almost unequivocally good to eat – and wild meat, I think, falls into this category. Rabbits and pigeon, while often farmed on the Continent, are usually wild here – in fact, they’re generally considered as pests. They’re cheap too, especially rabbits.
People often seem to be scared of cooking game, but with a little care and attention it’s easy enough. Here, an overnight bath in brine ensures the meat stays juicy, helped along with a little bacon.
- 1 wild rabbit, jointed (2 squirrels would do just as well)
- 150g fine sea salt
- 75g granulated sugar
Mix the salt and sugar with a litre of water in a saucepan, and bring to a boil, stirring until everything’s dissolved. Leave to cool completely, then pour over your rabbit (in a suitable container). Weigh the meat down with a plate to make sure it’s submerged, and pop in the fridge overnight.
- 250g streaky bacon, cut into lardons
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 stick of celery, diced
- 1 carrot, diced
- 1 tbsp tomato puree
- a glass of white wine or cider
- 500g new potatoes, quartered
- black pepper
Drain the rabbit, and rinse under cold running water for about 10 minutes, to get rid of the salt, then place in a large saucepan, cover with cold water, and bring to the boil. Simmer for about 5 minutes to drive off the scum, then drain and rinse again.
Clean the saucepan, placing the rabbit to one side, and add the bacon. Cook over a low heat to release some fat, then add the onion, celery and carrot, stirring to coat. (As rabbit is a very lean meat, the pig fat really helps it to cook nicely). Sweat until soft, then add the puree and booze, letting it bubble away to a syrup, and tuck your rabbit bits into their vegetable bed. Pour in enough water to cover the meat, and bring to a very gentle simmer. Half-cover with a lid, and let it putter away for about two hours (adding the potatoes after one and a half), until really tender. Season with black pepper, and eat just as it is, with maybe some greens on the side.
Meat Free Week encourages people to consider all aspects of meat production and the health, welfare and environmental implications of meat consumption.
For the next seven days, Darsham Nurseries Café is offering a different meat free dish of the day to support the UK’s first Meat Free Week. A percentage of the cost of the Meat Free Week dish of the day will be donated to WLT.
The café is on the A12, next to Darsham railway station, Suffolk IP17 3PW. The café is open for breakfast from 8.30am. Lunch: 12-3pm. Drinks and cakes: 3-4.30pm. Sunday Brunch: 12-3.30pm. Reservations (01728) 667022. Website: www.darshamnurseries.co.uk/
WLT staff have their own Meat Free Week fundraising team, and have already raised more than £400. You can support Meat Free Week by sponsoring the WLT staff team.