With the shooting season imminent, the knives are out on this hot issue. Helen Hokin speaks to top London restaurateur, Richard Corrigan, as he looks back to a childhood spent shooting his supper on a farm in the Irish midlands and forward to the start of grouse season i.e. the Glorious 12th
I've been shooting for the kitchen pot since I was a boy. We always went shooting on a Sunday morning to bag a hare, wild rabbit and pheasants. It was my brother John, my dad, a few local farmers and me. Conservation was as much on the agenda as catching food, but there was no sport element involved at all.
Every animal we shot would be given a health check. When we killed rabbits we'd check their livers for disease. We'd even look out for the poor foxes; with over intensification of farming some animals find it hard to find food - even foxes can starve. We'd also keep an eye on the scrubland. Being out hunting all the time meant we could keep a check on everything.
We'd get home and it was a case of plucking, hanging and eating. Everything we shot went on the table. It's important to eat everything you've killed.
There is a small part of me that's anti-hunting; I mean people who aren't willing to eat what they've shot really piss me off. Mostly, though, the people who knock it have no real connection with the countryside. They don't understand the important role it has to play in conservation.
I don't think it's elitist - my experiences certainly aren't. I'm just a country bumpkin, happy to get by week to week, respect the environment and leave something for the next person.
There are plenty of shooting clubs around the country full of down-to-earth, country-loving members who'd be more than willing to have you. It's not all city boys in barber jackets driving round in Discovery Jeeps. Although it can get expensive if you go on a regular basis.
If you're willing to eat a couple of rashers and a sausage then you shouldn't have any qualms. Game is the last natural wild food. Give me the choice between lamb and game and I'll have game any day - lean, punchy - it's one of the greatest culinary delights. I'll try anything wild from the field once. I've tasted young crows and squirrels - they're right down there in the pecking order, though. Actually, I'm convinced the aristocracy invented rook pie for the servants so they could keep the good stuff for themselves. I've eaten roast peacock but it was so tough I almost needed a razor blade to cut it. Something that beautiful wasn't meant to be eaten.
I go up to the Pennines. It's a simple day out; you kill, clean and barbeque all out in the open air.
It's nonsense that grouse needs to be hung. I don't mind it hung sometimes but not till its head falls off.
It feels like lunch and dinner.
Shoot it, clean it, spatchcock it, throw it on the barbecue till it's medium rare and serve immediately with a bottle of Cahors.
The grouse season runs from 12 August to 10 December. For more information about grouse and other game shooting clubs contact The British Association of Shooting and Conservation.
If Richard's gamey memories made your mouth water, try his recipes
Saddle of rabbit with black pudding and mushroom juice
Mallard with pineapple and pak choi
Richard Corrigan's grouse pie recipe
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