A few days ago I was visited by the Estate gamekeeper, who came to tell me that the pheasant shoot was going to be taking place very near the farm. This morning, waking to the most glorious sunrise…
…. and with my thoughts full of intrigue, I waited in at home to witness my first tweed-clad shoot. I must say, even as a vegetarian, I have never felt offended by or even mildly against hunting or shooting. As long as it is done responsibly, and the animals that are killed are eaten, I understand that it is a vital part of country life and I wish to embrace it now that I have left the neat meat counters of London behind me.
Around lunchtime I heard the first cracks of guns, and peering out of my kitchen window I could see the beaters stealing through the woods around the house, waving their white flags, with the spaniels waiting patiently at their heels. I was quite excited at the thought of watching my first shoot, however when the first pheasant in his noisy, garrumphing flight, suddenly dropped heavily and silently to earth, I have to confess to an involuntary shriek bursting from my lips. I have been watching and sketching the pheasants a lot over the last few weeks – even making up stories about them going off to the office – and have enjoyed the sight of their splendidly rich feathers and ever increasing girths, parading proudly outside the farm on the lawn. Their quick demise from this dreamy existence seemed suddenly, desperately sad. Wincing at the falling bodies, I silently urged the silly pheasants to stay low and keep quiet, and crossed my fingers that the shooter might miss his target. It didn’t work.
Once the shooting had died down, I ventured out. Safely in the truck I was greeted by the lovely gamekeeper, my very own Jake straight from Withnail and I, with his land-rover swinging with the beautiful bodies of the catch. To my surprise he wanted to give me some ducks and pheasants. Not only was I thrilled by the fact a local was making me feel wholly accepted by offering me some of his bounty, but I would have the chance to cook my poor meat-deprived husband not only a pheasant or two but a duck. Poor Jake was probably not expecting my look of mild horror and bewilderment at the thought of dealing with a whole, dead, feathered friend and instead kindly offered to do the hard work for me. I will be awaiting these plucked birds with a certain trepidation and an armful of recipe books.
Because my day has so far been rather butch and grrrrrr – with the guns, dead bodies and truck driving, I am spending the afternoon making Cornish Saffron Buns, using a recipe by the marvellous Mrs Beeton. I must point out that had I realised the effort involved in making 8 buns I would have gone to the local bakery. The recipe takes quite a long time, and as I have been waffling on somewhat already, I have instead included some pictures – if you have a burning desire to bake them, the recipe can be found in the beautiful Mrs Beeton, How To Cook – here are some photos of the candied peel and saffron flecked buns to hopefully tempt you.
…steeping strands of saffron….
…the finished buns – yummy served warm with butter and lemon curd…