Of Hare & Rabbit

first-catch-your-hare-by-john-doylea-hareThe eating of hares and rabbits has a venerable history in Europe.

Greeks, Germans, Spaniards and Britons love rabbits and hares, as do Italians in certain regions. Most of the recipes in modern usage have their roots deep in those European traditions.

a-cute-bunnyOften maligned as ‘poor people’s food’ both rabbits and hares can make better eating than some of the larger game. Rabbits are typically tender and of a perfect eating size, one will serve a person nicely, although you can split one rabbit between two people if needs must!

mediterranean-cookery-hare-and-rabbit-imageDespite their cute and fluffy appearance, rabbits are a long overlooked source of sustainable meat. One of the primary differences that set rabbit apart from other meats is that it is one of the only animals we are prepared to eat here in the UK that is also kept as a domestic pet. I mean, who on earth wants to tuck in to Fluffy’s baby sister?

To anyone weaned on Watership Down and the Easter Bunny the very thought is mediterranean-cookery-lievre-a-la-royale-1going to be subject to a fair degree of horrified reluctance.

Hares on the other hand are not so cuddly. Larger, up to 12 lb in weight, one will serve four easily. Hares have the darker, stronger flavoured meat both are served braised by long tradition. Not having been domesticated and unlike rabbits they live in small groups and nest above ground as opposed to complex warrens of the rabbit.

The number of wild rabbits in the UK is estimated at around 50 m while hare numbers tend to hover somewhere around 4 m.

mediterranean-cookery-lievre-a-la-royale-2It should be a foregone conclusion then, that with such numbers and the common knowledge of their over-enthusiastic breeding, rabbit is a meat should be on the menu far more frequently despite the sentimental affection for the bunny.

A wild rabbit in the UK will eat more grass than a sheep, and hares can consume up to three times as much. Given a good combination of herbs and seasonings these wild animals have a subtle gaminess not at all in the ‘tastes like chicken’ category whilst hare is always wild. (about getting caught most probably!)

In England it is the brown hare that we occasionally see in mediterranean-cookery-lievre-a-la-royale-3good butchers, but in Scotland you will often find the blue or mountain hare.

Traditionally, hare should be hung undrawn; guts still inside, for seven to ten days to enhance its flavour and to tenderize the meat.

However, speaking to several chefs*, it appears this can make the meat somewhat overwhelming and so it is usually hung with its insides removed.

One of the main problems cooks face with rabbit and hare is that they both dry out rather quickly. Braising is the preferred method by the traditionalist, as is their inclusion mediterranean-cookery-lievre-a-la-royale-4in pies and casseroles. Their use in stews is also a most noble way of preparing those cute little buck-toothed bunnies!

mediterranean-foodMyself, being an unrepentant, dyed in the wool traditionalist, trained as a cook in the classical style, go along here with the recipe for lièvre à la Royale (right) that Elizabeth David gives in her 1950’s volume, A Book Of Mediterranean Food.

It is just pleasing to note that unlike the current breed of ‘celebrity chefs’ she has not added her own unique twist and claimed it as her own, purely for royalty purposes of course, but recounts it as written by Senator Couteaux in his mediterranean-cookery-lievre-a-la-royale-5Parisian Le Temps newspaper column of fifty years earlier!

*It is, and always be, my contention that there is only one chef in the kitchen, the chief cook, the man, or woman, in charge. All the others are cooks of differing levels of knowledge and experience who, pulling together under their leader produce well-presented and highly edible food. Anyone can call themself a chef but it doesn’t follow that they can cook!

To outrageously misquote the late Lady Thatcher ‘If you have to tell people you’re a chef, you aint!’



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A Very English Pudding

bb1Summer pudding or summer fruit pudding is an English dessert made of sliced white bread, layered in a deep bowl with fruit and fruit juice. It is left to soak overnight and turned out onto a plate.

The dessert was most popular from the late 19th to the early 20th century.  It first appears in print with its current name in 1904, but identical recipes for ‘hydropathic pudding’ and ‘Malvern pudding’ from as far back as 1868 have been found.

summer-pudding-14Making summer pudding is much easier if the bread is somewhat stale. This helps the fruit juices soak through the bread, which makes the pudding more pleasant. Summer pudding can be served with cream.

summer-pudding-1The fruits typically used in summer pudding are raspberries, strawberries, blackcurrants, redcurrants, whitecurrants, and blackberries. Less commonly used are tayberries, loganberries, cherries and blueberries.

Today, 29th September is Michaelmas Day, traditionally the last day of the harvest season is the feast day of Saint Michael the summer-pudding-2Archangel, the patron saint of the sea, of boats and boatmen, of horses and horsemen. He was also the Angel who hurled Lucifer from heaven for his treachery.

Originally the harvest began on 1st August and was called Lammas, or ‘loaf Mass’ where farmers made bread summer-pudding-4from the new wheat crop and gave them to their own church.

This custom ended when Henry VIII broke away from the Catholic Church and currently the festival is at the end of the season, near Michaelmas Day.

summer-pudding-7Folklore in England holds that the devil stamps on bramble bushes or as they say in some areas, spits on them. Therefore one must not pick blackberries after Michaelmas.

The reason for this belief has ancient origins. It was said that the devil was kicked out of heaven on St Michael’s Feast Day, but as summer-pudding-8he fell from the skies, he landed in a bramble bush! He cursed the fruit of that prickly plant, scorching them with his fiery breath, stamping on them, spitting on them and generally making them unsuitable for human consumption.

hampshire-summer-puddingLegend suggests he renews his curse every Michaelmas day and so no more blackberries can be gathered beyond today!

See here for further details!


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Poppy Goes Blackberrying

bb3It’s that time of year again! The hedgerows groan under the weight of the trailing, blackberry laden brambles while higher in the branches you will find both elderberry and sloe.

Poppy and I have a number of preferred locations in the area for such activities and this is the Queen Elizabeth Forest, which along with its ‘over-the-road’ adjunct of Park Wood, are ones that we frequent all year dsc00536round for pleasantly sun dappled summer afternoons, wet muddy winter ones and the all too infrequent snow filled ones.

Either way it’s a good place to be, to spend a few hours of meandering thoughtfulness amid the madness. To be quite honest it has been a calm refuge of peace, tranquillity and thick black mud for me and several generations of my dogs, of which there have been far too many to many to name here.

dsc00535But be that as it may! Seamus Heaney’s ‘Blackberry-Picking’ (right) is one of the great twentieth-century poems of disappointment, epitomising that moment when we realise that nothing will ever live up to our expectations.

bb5Heaney uses the act of picking blackberries to explore his theme. First he focuses on the picking of the blackberries, the experience of the picking of them, the eating of them, and the taking of them them dsc00537home.

It then reflects on the subsequent sense of disappointment when the hoarded blackberries are found to have fermented and there is a fungus growing on the fruit.

It encapsulates the realisation that this would always happen: soon after the berries had been picked, they would go rotten. Growing up is about reconciling ourselves to the realities of the world, and ‘Blackberry Picking’ addresses this theme.

dsc00538It’s a rite of passage that we all experience akin to the realisation that there is no such thing as the tooth fairy or, even more depressingly, Santa Claus. It pinpoints the precise moment when our clear and sunny skies of hope cloud over with disillusionment.

The taste of the blackberries, juicy, voluptuous and sweet, is a sensual experience, much like a first kiss: a thrill that, after which, there is no other.

Indeed, the fruit-picking calls to mind the biblical story from the Book of Genesis, that loss of paradise brought on when Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the forbidden tree. In doing so they gained worldly knowledge but lost their innocence.

dsc00534Ironically, nowhere in the bible is it written that the fruit of the forbidden tree is the apple. So why could it not have been the blackberry?

Apropos of nothing in particular, a further post detailing what to actually do with the harvest of today will follow shortly, well, by Michaelmas at the very least!

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To Catch A Crook

cycc1As a last foray into the ‘Eagle Annual’ for the time being here is a very innocent, very un-PC look at the world of the ‘stiff-lipped-upper-class-sergeant-Bruce-of-the-Yard’ and the lesser breed of ‘ill-educated-but-clever-lower-class-career- criminal-mastermind-Burke-the-Peterman’

The language alone is a dead give-away!

There will be a short quiz at the end to see if you have managed to spot all of the clues and solved the riddle along with our square jawed policeman!  Good Luck!

cycc2   cycc3cycc4Can You Catch A CrookI hope you all all enjoyed the stiff, right-handed upper cut from our hero to fell the villain!

So did you work it out?

If so, give yourself a well- deserved pat on the back.

The story must have been written some sixty odd years ago but the ethos and story line hark back to the era of Bogart, Cagney, Hemingway and Conrad, to the very Heart of Darkness itself!








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Wembley, 1966

WembleyThis weekend, a mere 900 years since the Norman invasion, sees the commemoration of one of this country’s finest ever achievements in the realms of international success – namely the winning of the World Cup in 1966 against Germany at Wembley Stadium!

Eagle Annual 1966England Win 1bIn a year when England achieved the unique and unenviable double of leaving Europe (European Cup and Union) twice in one week, the archive comes to the fore with an article from the 1966 England Win 1aedition of The Eagle boys annual.

Now the annual, in the age old tradition of such volumes  was published in time to be a boys Christmas present in the previous year of 1965. It has, therefore, no knowledge of the result.

England Win 2 Various pundits are arrayed to give their views on the subject with some rather interesting images.

In our current age of instantaneous information and immediate reaction it may seem strange that such a England 2delay should be built in, but then it would naturally heighten the enthusiasm and add to the build-up of tension.

England 4For the occasion BBC radio will be broadcasting the entire match-day commentary towards the end of July which will doubtless be available on the iplayer beyond that.

England 5Being at the time a mere whippersnapper of a thing in short trousers (or was it nappies? it was a very long time ago!) my memory of the event is vague but I have been reliably informed that my father, not on the whole a wealthy man hired a new-fangled colour TV for the entire month!
England Team 1966Such extravagance! But it was a good game by all accounts!

Fred by Fiddy


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English Regional Cookery

Good Housekeeping, May 1935

OECC 1The regional cookery of England, a subject close to my heart as readers of this blog will know, is presented here in an article from Good Housekeeping magazine in a novel and fun format.

As the writer suggests, it would make for a fascinating image, even in its black and white format, to adorn a wall in either the kitchen or dining room.

Good Housekeeping, July 1935

My own blogs on the Counties Of England will, hopefully, provide recipes for the numerous recipes on the map. These can be found by following the relevant link on the title bar (above)


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Radio – The Original ‘Wireless’ Device

Radio 1Given the choice between television or radio I would favour radio any day of the week.

I grew up with the classic comedy series such as the Goons, Tony Hancock, Round the Horne, The Navy Lark and I’m Sorry I’ll Read That Again to name but a few. I have even been known to drop into the BBC iPlayer on occasion just listen to some of the classics.

But be that as it may, the ‘wireless’ has a place in the history of the last century as the gathering and dissemination of news and the coverage of world events became faster and more efficient.

Radio iRadio is the technology of using radio waves to carry information, such as sound, by Radio 2systematically modulating some property of electromagnetic energy waves transmitted through space, such as their amplitude, frequency, phase, or pulse width.

When radio waves strike an electrical conductor, the oscillating fields induce an alternating current in the conductor.

The information in the waves can be extracted and transformed back into its original form.

Radio 3Radio-Times 1923The use of ‘radio’ as a standalone word dates back to at least December 30, 1904, when instructions issued by the British Post Office for transmitting telegrams specified that Radio-Times 1951“The word ‘Radio’… is sent in the Service Instructions”.

This practice was universally adopted, and the word ‘radio’ introduced internationally, by the 1906 Berlin Radiotelegraphic Convention, which included a Service Regulation specifying that “Radiotelegrams shall show in the Radio-Times 1939preamble that the service is ‘Radio'”

Radio 4The switch to ‘radio‘ in place of ‘wireless’ took place slowly and unevenly in the Radio-Times 1937English-speaking world.

Lee de Forest helped popularize the new word in the United States.

In early 1907 he founded the de Forest Radio Telephone Radio-Times 1977Company, and his letter in the June 22, 1907 Electrical World about the need for legal restrictions warned that “Radio chaos will certainly be the result until such stringent regulation is enforced”.

Radio eThe United States Navy would also play a role. Although its translation of the 1906 Berlin Convention used the Radio-Times 1969terms ‘wireless telegraph’ and ‘wireless telegram’, by 1912 it began to promote the use of “radio” instead.

Radio cThe term started to become preferred by the general public in the 1920s with the introduction of broadcasting.

Radio-Times 1966Did you know that the term ‘Broadcasting’ is based upon an agricultural term meaning roughly ‘scattering seeds widely’?

Radio abBritish Commonwealth countries continued to commonly use the term ‘wireless’ until the mid-20th century, though the magazine of the British Broadcasting Corporation in the UK has been called Radio Times since its founding in the early 1920s.

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