· Virtues of free meat with no additives extolled
· Retired civil servant admits to tasting labrador
Tuesday January 31, 2006
For most, a squashed hedgehog or flattened badger lying on the side of the road is a tragic sight - for Arthur Boyt it is an opportunity for a free, tasty and nutritious meal. Mr Boyt has spent the last 50 years scraping carcasses from the side of the road and chucking them, together with a few herbs and spices, into his cooking pot.
The retired civil servant has sampled the delights of weasel, rat and cat. His most unusual meal was a greater horseshoe bat, which he reckons is not dissimilar in taste to grey squirrel, if the comparison helps. Fox tends to repeat on him. He has tucked into labrador, nibbled at otter and could not resist trying porcupine when he came across a spiky corpse while on holiday in Canada.
Yesterday Mr Boyt (favourite snack: badger sandwich) announced he is ready to share the secrets of his curious culinary success with a wider audience and is writing a roadkill recipe book.
He has also been approached by Gordon Ramsay's people and may cook with the celebrity chef later this year.
Mr Boyt, 66, from north Cornwall, insisted the creatures were not a health threat if properly butchered and cooked. He said: "It's good meat for free and I know nobody has been messing with it and feeding it with hormones. By writing a book I hope to show people it's perfectly normal and healthy to eat."
Mr Boyt first tasted the pleasures of roadkill as a 13-year-old when he found a pheasant on the road, took it home and asked his mother to cook it. Later he used to cycle to his sister's house and pick up dead hares along the way for dinner. His argument is that people don't turn up their nose at an apple which falls out of a tree - so why should they recoil at the idea of meat which they chance upon?
He said: "If the animal has been dead a while and has gone green the taste is a bit bland, but if you cook them thoroughly, you can still eat it. I've been doing it all my life and never been ill once."
Mr Boyt has no regrets about eating the labrador, which he emphasises was without a collar when he found it. "There was nothing on it to show who its owner was even though it was in good condition, so I took it home and ate it. It was just like a nice piece of lamb."
Good enough to eat
Hedgehog spaghetti carbonara (serves four)
500g spaghetti, 30ml olive oil, 250g lean hedgehog, 1 medium onion (chopped), 125ml water, 60ml dry white wine, 4 eggs, 60ml double cream, 100g grated parmesan cheese · chop hedgehog into small chunks
· beat eggs and cream together in a bowl. Add half the parmesan cheese
· put pasta in boiling water
· put onions and hedgehog chunks in pan with olive oil on medium heat until onions are almost clear
· add wine and reduce heat
· drain pasta when cooked, combine it with egg, cream and cheese mix
· add meat, onions and wine without draining fat and mix thoroughly
· garnish with remaining parmesan. Serve immediately
My local newspaper did a full page article on the virtues of roadkill, even had a pic of "Grandma" reaching down to pick up a dead squirrel. Recipes included. A huge joke that somehow sailed over the heads of many in that town. The paper printed the hate mail for a month on that article.
I think the article was hitting a little too close to home for a lot of folks and that's what got them upset.
If you didn't just run over it, it's too decomposed. It's important when running over your dinner not to break open the intestinal sac and taint the meat. Aim for the head.
Now, with armadillos, they will jump when frightened so just avoid hitting them with your wheels and more than likely they'll bash themselves to death underneath your car. If out hunting on your bike, use a frame pump to whack them polo-style.
When the critter is dead, field dress it by removing the head, then removing the intestines, heart, lungs, etc. I would then skin it and drop it into some ice water in your cooler. You did bring a cooler with ice and beer in it, didn't you?
Wild game can taste, well, gamey, so soak it overnight in either salt water or some wine and vinegar.