I was out looking for rabbits on a well managed campsite with lush lawns surrounded by woodland and springs. I was lucky enough to have this whole site to myself for most of the spring and summer. I’d taken my sandals off and gone bare feet. Not only does it feel amazing on a hot summer evening, I can be super quiet and sneak up more effectively. I positioned myself strategically for maximum hit points, close to a den, with a back stop, fairly well hidden and down wind. While I waited, I was treated to the pleasure of watching rabbits play in the sunset further distance away through my binoculars.
I was suddenly awakened from my dreamy state when I heard something rustling in the woods and a beautiful fallow deer popped out 10m away, a young buck with strong antler growth. It saw me eye to eye, decided I wasn’t a threat and munched on completely oblivious to my presence with an air rifle. My senses heightened and I was aware of the exact direction and rough distance of a woodpecker in the distance, sound of flowing water (possibly underground since this hill is on top of a limestone bedrock), whispering leaves dancing in a gentle summer breeze. And I gazed at this magnificent creature in this magical moment and all I could think of was ‘haaaaam’. Then, ‘mmmm, liverrrrrr’. But I manged to sober myself up from the depths of cave man gluttony and watched with a sense of gratitude as he playfully crossed my field of vision.
My next thought was, damn, I’d love to live in a place where there are oak trees and wild boars whose population needs to be controlled. My dripping bacon, juicy pork bellies, beautiful sausages of various kinds, dense ramen stocks and everything pork related will be covered and it will likely taste better than any pork we can buy out there. If you’re curious, I’ve written in more detail the ethics of meat eating here.
Rabbits and Squirrels, on the other hand, are a little trickier to cook but numerous and tree bark damage from grey squirrels is a serious concern. They’re much leaner and have tougher, gamier meat. I’ve tried marinating it and pan frying them because van living with a limited gas supply doesn’t lend itself well to slow cooking. Though, my friend with a proper kitchen cooked a tomato based rabbit stew that tasted amazing and I think slow cooking is definitely the way to go. Preferably cooked on top of a wood stove in winter. Deep frying as bite sized panko cutlets ( especially rabbit fillets) and foil cooking with wild boar lard are something I’d like to try. A cream based stew at some point too.
Hunting over populated game is probably the most ethical and environmental way to consume meat, since your action directly contributes to the regeneration of forests and ecosystems that they harbour. Plus, it slows the expansion of gigantic meat industries that bulldozes ancient forests, disregards the subjective well being of animals and remain blind to the environmental destruction down stream while we continue to ignore the existential risk of new antibiotic resistant super bugs emerging from their shit slurry. We are more aware of what this will mean with Covid still at large.
On a more hopeful note, I believe that cooking wild game really well is the most important vector in which we can get more people on board. If you’re curious, Season 3 Episode 5 of Meat Eater available to watch on Netflix is a good starting point. Steven Rinella uses the meat he’s hunted over the last season to showcase what can be done. I love his campsite cooking on fire too, but the more intricate stuff on this episode opens a lot of possibilities.
But today, I’d like to introduce the first of my auntie Kinta’s recipe. Her dishes have blown my mind more than any other and I’m unbiased when it comes to food. Sadly, her sense of taste is slowly deteriorating due to Parkinson’s disease and I’ve made it my mission to spread her recipe. For best results, please make sure to read The Tastiest Way to Process Wild Boar Part 1 and Part 2, which outlines the preliminary processes that takes place before cooking. They use the same process for venison.
Venison Tomato Stew (using a pressure cooker)
- Venison Rib/Bleast short rib – 700g
- Red wine – 1 cup
- Onions – 4 medium sized
- Carrots – 2
- Red pepper – 1
- Tinned whole tomatoes – 2 cans
- White flour – 1 tablespoon
- Bay leaf – 2
- Honey – 1 tablespoon
- Salt – 2 teaspoon
- Peppers – to taste
- Bouillon – to taste
- Olive oil (for frying) – 4 tablespoons or add butter on top
- Water – 1 cup
- Cut the tendons (really easy using tools such as the meat chopper pictured above). Lay it flat on a deep tray and cover with wine to just about flush, put a cling film over the surface of the meat and let it rest in a fridge for over 2 hours.
- Cut the onions in half top to bottom and thinly slice it along the fiber. Chop up the carrots to around 1cm thickness and red peppers to 2cm blocks.
- Once marinated, put the meat into a sieve and leave to drain well (keep the wine for stewing later). Massage in some salt and pepper.
- Heat the pan with olive oil and fry the onions, slowly turn it golden brown. Once the onions are ready, chuck in the tinned tomatoes, breaking up the whole tomatoes as you fry. Move it into a pressure cooker.
- Dust the meat, that’s been sieved in step 3, with a little less than a tablespoon of flour (if you use too much flour at this point, the final colour and flavour looses focus so be careful). Heat the pan with olive oil (2tbs) and fry at a higher temperature until you get crispy golden colours. Add the wine from step 3 into the pan.
- Add the fried venison from step 5 into the pressure cooker with onions and tomatoes. Add water, honey, salt, peppers, buillon and bay leaves. Cook under pressure for 20 minutes. Once the pressure is off, open the lid, add the carrots and red peppers, put the lid on again and stew at low heat for about 15 minutes.
It’s delicious straight away but it gets better once it’s had a chance to cool down and be reheated. Once served onto a dish, a dash of single cream and lightly steamed broccoli can make it come alive.