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Vinison StewWhat do you do? The Wicklow Hunter’s youngest brother calls to the office and leaves a sack. He tells me that it’s a gift from the brother. “All legal ‘an all” he assures me. I thank him profusely and check the contents. YES! It’s another venison leg, from a pretty young deer by the looks of it. This gets me thinking. 

Let’s face facts. Norway is not at the centre of gastronomic excellence. Many believe that all they know about is salting, sugaring and burying various kinds of fish and meat before digging it up again and eating it. Not the best calling card for a premium cooking reputation. However, there is another side to these weather hardened northerners. 

Be very afraid of the Wicklow Hunter’s Gun, gun, gun…

Wicklow Hunter

An image, supposedly of the Wicklow Hunter supplied to me recently.

Sorry Bunnies, when the Wicklow Hunter is out and about with his trusty .22, you can be sure that there’s going to be a date with destiny. Actually, that’s not a bad idea. Dates! Their lovely sweetness could go nicely with the slightly dry, gamey flavour of rabbit. Let’s prepare a Date with Destiny and Wild Wicklow Rabbit Casserole.

Venison

Not the sort of thing one expects to have delivered. Particularly as I’m not a butcher.

Question 1 “This early in the season, is this a piece of legally shot doe?”

Answer 1 “I’m told it is. The now infamous Wicklow Hunter tells me that they were out on a night shoot on the 31st October and ‘…just after midnight’ he downed a young doe. That brings it into the November season where that sort of thing is OK in Wicklow.”
In short: Doe.

Question 2 “What recipe are you going to use?”

Answer 2 (Here’s where the Homer like d’oh! could come into its own.) “I am going to try something totally original. I am going to cook Venison and Plum Stew.” Given that I had no real idea what to do with the venison, this was a brave outburst on my part. An outburst, fuelled by a glass or three of Rutherford Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon.
In short: D’oh!

I want you to imagine my youngest daughter. She is an innocent thing who likes small animals and fluffy things. She loves Disney cartoons. One of her favourites is Bambi. She finds the various scenes of innocence touching. When she watches it, she will be heard to say things like “Ahhh, so pretty.” and “Ohhhh, aren’t the chipmunks so cute.”

I am telling you all this because I recently suggested that I cook a rabbit stew for the family. This led to the following unfortunate conversation:

Before I start, I have to be clear. I have nothing against hunting. We need hunting in our countryside to keep various animal populations in check. Also, I don’t have issue where there is an element of real skill and hunters are killing for the table. Having said all that….

We went to my better half’s parents’ house in Tipperary last weekend. The house overlooks Lough Derg. Just across from the house is an island. Brave men from the city pay big bucks to get in touch with their inner hunter by visiting the island and shooting pheasant. The pheasant are accustomed to people on the island and are pretty tame by local account. When groups of high paying city folk come down, dressed like country squires in padded green giléts and fresh green wellington boots to ‘hunt’, the beaters have been known to have difficulty getting the birds into the air to meet their fate.

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