Potted squirrel with sourdough

4
1 hour 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 grey squirrels, jointed into 6 pieces
  • 150g of smoked streaky bacon, cut into lardons
  • 1 banana shallot, sliced
  • 1 celery stick, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 sprigs of thyme
  • 6 juniper berries
  • 500ml of dry cider
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • sourdough bread
  • watercress
  • olive oil

Method

1
I use a crock-pot for the first stage of braising the meat but you could also use a casserole and your oven on a very low setting, approximately 120°C. Start by layering the bacon down first, add the jointed squirrel and then scatter over the remaining vegetables, spices and herbs
2
Season generously and pour over the cider. Set the crock-pot to low, cover and then leave for 6-8 hours. The principle point here is to melt the bacon into submission and cook the squirrel meat until very, very tender
3
Leave to cool then pour the stock through a sieve, reserving the liquid. Add the squirrel and as much of the bacon as possible to a bowl. Using your hands, pick the squirrel meat - this is a little bit fiddly and time consuming but you want to make sure that no tiny bones remain. Pick the meat over a metal bowl and listen out for any pings
4
When you have removed all the meat, combine with the bacon and mash together with a fork. Transfer to a food processor if you want a smoother pâté but I prefer it rough (no giggling at the back). If the mixture is a little bit dry, add a spoonful of leftover liquor but not too much
5
Spoon the mix into ramekins and put to one side. Take your block of unsalted butter and clarify by heating and melting in a saucepan on the hob, skimming any scum that rises to the top, whilst the chalky deposits fall to the bottom. The golden stuff in-between is what you are after
6
Carefully pour the clarified butter over the top of the squirrel, leaving just a thin layer, and place in the fridge to chill for an hour. Before serving, take the ramekins out of the fridge and bring to room temperature
7
When ready to serve, toast your sourdough and dress the watercress lightly in olive oil. Arrange on a plate with the potted squirrel and a scattering of pickles