Tim Maddams thinks grey squirrel can be delicious and gives his recipe for squirrel and wild garlic risotto

It surprises me how often people turn up their nose at eating squirrel.

Hardened pheasant Guns dismiss them as flying rats — as if eating rat were in some way different to eating rabbit or rook — and though I have seen many 
shot on rough shoots, they are often left in the bag for me rather than taken home.

Meat is very much meat to me, though, and I have to say I find grey squirrel delicious. Younger specimens shot in the autumn can be simply skinned and roasted, but older, tougher individuals need slower cooking 
to tenderise the meat.

Squirrel and wild garlic risotto – aka squizotto

Ingredients

  • 1 small onion, half finely chopped, half sliced
  • A handful of wild garlic
  • 1 skinned and cleaned 
grey squirrel
  • A sprig of thyme
  • A few peppercorns 
and a bay leaf
  • A little white wine
  • 200g risotto rice or barley
  • Salt and pepper
  • Water
  • Plenty of butter
  • 50g cheddar or parmesan

Method

1. First, we need to poach the squirrel until its meat is falling from the bones — this will handily give us the stock we need to make the risotto. In a small casserole pan that has a tight-fitting lid, sweat the sliced onion with a few peppercorns and a bay leaf for a minute or two. Add the squirrel cut into three pieces — the haunches, the shoulders and the saddle. Add some thyme and a dash of white wine and cook for a further 5 minutes.

2. Cover the squirrel pieces with water and bring to the simmer. Turn down the heat and simmer slowly with the lid on the pan until 
the meat comes away from the bones.

3. Remove the squirrel from the 
pot and allow to cool on a plate. Pass the stock through a sieve and 
set aside on the stove to keep warm. Pick the squirrel meat from the bones and discard the bones.

4. In a saucepan, sweat the finely chopped onion with a little more thyme in a good knob of butter. Add the rice and cook for a few minutes, stirring all the time. Add about half 
a glass of wine and cook until the “raw wine” flavour has left the pan — keep sniffing until the acidity vanishes.

5. Begin ladling in the stock and keep stirring until the rice is just cooked — around 15 to 20 minutes — switching to water if the stock runs out. Once the rice is more or less cooked to your liking, turn off the heat and add the squirrel meat. Stir in some chopped wild garlic and season well. Finally, add a few knobs of butter and stir 
well. Serve with grated cheddar 
or parmesan cheese if you prefer.