Roadkill Muntjac, Food of Kings

On the way to my friend’s farm project near Reading I caught sight of a Muntjac deer that had died being hit by a car.

“What luck.” I thought as I had been wondering what to bring as a present (apart from a good bottle of red) and I already knew not to bring vegetables as they are up to their gills in the stuff. So I braked to a halt and hauled the surprisingly heavy carcass along the road and into my boot. The unfortunate beast had a shiny eye and didn’t smell, so all looked edible.

I had never prepared such a large animal before ( though have worked my way through wood pigeon, squirrel, pheasant and rabbit) and was glad of the help of a friend at the farm!

We hung the muntjac up by the front legs, although we debated about it being head down like I’d seen in some book or other…I used my green wood carving knife to cut a slit from the anus to halfway up the belly, being careful not to cut into the stomach which was starting to bloat (with pungent gas from rotting deer munch). Then we used scissors and the knife to slide under the skin to get the skin off. It was hard going even with a reasonably sharp knife, the deer’s coat was tough. We cut around each hindleg and peeled the skin down.

At this point my friend Andy had to use an axe to cut off the hooves so we could get the skin off, then he twisted off the hind legs and we had two big joints of meat already.

Obviously not expert butchery,but we got it done!

In an ideal world we’d have cut bang straight up the belly and taken off all the skin, but I went off to the side, so instead we made a cut in the neck and took pieces off the shoulder. We peeled the skin down (you have to get your hand right in there, and the aroma of butchery is powerful) and got to either side of the deer’s spine, where the tender and tasty Backstrap cut is found. This meat is in the strips either side of the spine, and is tender enough to fry like steak.

About to carve out the Backstrap (avec scissors)

As you can see, my other mistake was to puncture a hole in the abdomen and the deer’s guts fell out, leaking expired deer poo 💩 all over our hands. After a brief break to wash it all off, we finally skinned and took off the two front legs. We bagged it all up and found we had over 5.5kg of venison to hand out to friends and cook 2 big meals for the carnivorous people of the farm!

Andy made a delicious fried-sauteed thingy from the backstrap cut, we had it with homemade rosemary flatbread and greens soup. Totally delicious 😄 and worth all the hard work.

Cooking the backstrap cuts

So next time you see roadkill, remember that’s several weeks worth of high quality meat for one family, and far better for you than a McDonald’s….why not give it a try (providing it’s safe to stop, of course)….

Roadkill Muntjac, Food of Kings

A Coastal Cornucopia

Don’t miss an opportunity to taste these seaside wild plants below if you are on holiday!

I found lots of SEA BUCKTHORN bushes (Hippophae rhamnoides) when I hopped behind the sand dunes on Sand Bay dog beach in Weston-super -Mare. Myself and my 6 year old son lost no time cramming the wickedly tangy, sherberty orange berries into our mouths; my mum, however, pronounced them ‘not flavoursome enough!’. My advice is to watch out for the vicious thorns however. Sea buckthorn contains Vitamin C, A,B1, B2, B6, and Omega 7. The berry oil is used in herbal medicines to boost immunity, obesity, blood pressure and cholesterol, but there’s not much scientific evidence for any of this. Try juicing it into a smoothie with other blander fruits such as melon, or pureeing it as a sauce with game. Or freeze into an ice lolly for kids to pick at!

Sea buckthorn berries on plant. Delicious!

I first came across SEA KALE (Crambe maritima) on the shingle beach at Littlehampton, West Sussex. I worked out it was part of the cabbage (Brassica) family quite easily – the rubbery, turquoise cabbagy leaves and four petalled white flowers are a giveaway. The texture is what makes it delicious – crunchy and slightly salty and bitter. The young shoots are purple and together with the flower buds are the tenderness and tastiest part. Saute them as you would asparagus, or stir fry withsoy sauce…just don’t cook for too long, nobody likes sloppy cabbage!

Young Sea Kale

If your trip takes you near estuary mud or marshland,look out for the unmistakable transparent emerald minature cactus lookalike that is GLASSWORT/SEA SAMPHIRE (Salicornia europaea). I have found it in Cornwall and in Norfolk,where it is harvested commercially. The succulent, salty, crunchy stems are found in posh restaurants (and in Waitrose!) when it is the right season. It goes best partnered with fish. The price for just a handful is enough to make you weep. I do like the texture,but am baffled as to why there is such a racket as mostly all I could taste was salt. This is another reason to cook this plant with plenty of water and no extra salt! Add a drop of butter or olive oil once cooked.

Glasswort..if you like it salty…

I discovered ROCK SAMPHIRE (Crithmum maritimum) on the cliffs of the Jurassic Coast in Lyme Regis. This proud member of the Carrot (Apiceae) family has the umbrella-like blooms and finely divided leaves, though as it is a coastal plant the leaf fronds have narrowed into turquoise needles. It tastes of a powerful mix of toothpaste, (aniseed and fennel) and carrot. This taste and scent comes from the powerful oils it contains. Sailors used to eat this plant to prevent scurvy and it used to be more popular than the now trendy sea samphire (not related!) however it’s an acquired taste for some people. Best lacto fermented or pickled, or steamed and stir fried.

Rock samphire..it takes no prisoners with its flavour!

So next time you head to the beach, grab a bag or basket and get close and personal with nature’s larder. Just remember to only take what you need, when there is enough.

A Coastal Cornucopia