Bunny for Nothing

A walk on the wild side
with Scott Rea

Scott Rea is an author, butcher, and cook, whose Scott Rea Project has to date attracted over 63 million viewers on YouTube. Focusing on his ‘field to fork’ ethos – and showing every stage in between – he won Best Game Butcher at the 2018 Eat Game awards, at the same event also seeing off challengers Jamie Oliver and James Martin to be crowned Game Hero.

“The Merchant Of Venison”, his latest book, is both a reference work and a hands-on guide, with the most comprehensive venison butchery section ever printed. Scott’s aim is for it to be “a book you take out to your shed, garage or cutting room: it was important to have detailed yet easy-to-follow butchery advice, so people can make complete use of their quarry, getting a higher yield and more cook-friendly cuts”. Containing some 40 stunning recipes, “The Merchant Of Venison” is now available to order from www.awaywithmedia.com

I love fresh game meat as much as the next man or woman. The odd decadent grouse, a lovely September rabbit, the first plump brace of pheasant of the season, and deer of varying species throughout the year, all in tip top condition, the peak of physical fitness and more importantly, all in one piece. That’s the glamorous side of the coin.

The flipside can be less salubrious. Living in the country, roadkill is nothing new. It’s a daily occurrence, pheasants literally throwing themselves beneath your wheels. And while some creatures end up flat as pancakes, others look pristine, as if taking a nap by the side of the road.

Depending where you live, there can be rather a bounty. The aforementioned suicidal pheasants, rabbits, (whisper it) pigeons, and the odd bonus ball, rollover jackpot, champions league winner of roadkill, a deer.

There are, of course, risks attached to gathering incidental venison. By the law of averages they’re most likely to meet their fate on a busy road, and the last time I tried to retrieve one I very nearly ended up stretched out alongside it. Almost invariably, whenever you clock one there’s a car up your (ahem) rear end, so you have no option but to drive on, thinking ‘if it’s still there on the way back and it’s still in decent nick, I’ll grab it’. But factor in that they somehow always expire miles from the nearest layby, more often than not things are just better left alone.

On the other hand: one immaculate bunny, one beautifully quiet country back road. Bingo: the stars have aligned. Plenty of time to pull over and initiate an in-depth freshness analysis, as there’s no sell-by date or barcode on this baby. The eyes are looking good and still in their sockets: always an encouraging start. All the limbs are in place – one in each corner: so far so good. The body’s intact. And finally the conclusive, most scientific, test of all. Smells as good as any bunny ever does, no worse than a live one at any rate. Into the boot and away we go.

Back home, skinned and gutted quicker than you can say knife, all that’s left is to do it justice. This Spanish-style stew (overleaf) is a warming and hearty dish that tastes fantastic. But best of all it’s practically a free meal. I guess a scrumped apple always tastes sweeter.