They threaten song birds — and apparently pester pigeons — but grey squirrels are also delicious when they’re deep fried, says Cai ap Bryn. Makes four.
This squirrel recipe (that I think may be the best way to cook squirrel) nearly cost me my relationship. With limited game in the freezer, I needed something and I needed it quickly. Then I had a great idea. Why not despatch some of the fat, tasty squirrels in the garden?
That evening, as the sun was going down, I glanced out of the back window and saw a lovely, plump-looking squirrel standing on a branch. Excellent, I thought, as I darted to get my air rifle. I quietly opened the door enough to poke the barrel through and rested the fore-end on my knuckles, which were grasping the door frame. I dropped the crosshairs right behind the ear and fired. The squirrel dropped like a stone. (Read more on air rifles for squirrels)
The best way to cook squirrel
I gutted and skinned it, then rinsed the carcass and began my prep. When interrogated on the squirrel’s provenance, I was given away by my father-in-law, who had watched from an upstairs window. He liked the idea of the squirrel cull, but I still got a slapped wrist.
I’ve made barbecue rabbit bonbons so I was sure this would be good. I prefer squirrel to rabbit as it has a nuttier taste (believe it or not), but the meat yield is low.
I used a barbecue sauce, but other flavours could be used, even curry. This recipe makes four pulled squirrel bonbons and I would recommend using three squirrels to make the task worthwhile.
- 1 whole squirrel, oven ready (makes four bonbons)
- Marinade — ¼ tsp paprika, ¼ tsp garlic powder, ¼ tsp black pepper and ¼ tsp salt mixed in with 2 tsp olive oil
- 1 ltr chicken stock
- 50g seasoned flour (½ tsp salt and ½ tsp pepper)
- 1 beaten egg
- 50g panko breadcrumbs
- Vegetable oil
- 2 tbsp barbecue sauce (if you don’t have any, make a quick version following the description in the method)
- About four hours before cooking, coat the squirrel with the marinade. Once ready, brown the squirrel lightly on all sides in a lightly oiled pan.
- Place in a small oven dish with enough chicken stock to cover around half the squirrel.
- Cover with a lid (or foil) and braise gently for two to two-and-a-half hours at 150°C, turning occasionally. If the stock reduces too much, add a little more. It is important to ensure the squirrel does not dry out.
- When the squirrel meat peels away from the bones with ease, it is ready. Place all the meat in a bowl with a tablespoon of stock to keep it moist. Add two tablespoons of good barbecue sauce and a decent crack of black pepper and salt. To make your own barbecue sauce, follow these simple steps: heat a tablespoon of soy sauce, two tablespoons of ketchup, a tablespoon of brown sugar, a pinch of cayenne and two teaspoons of red wine vinegar. Take two tablespoons from the mixture and there should be some left over for presentation.
- Prepare a coating for the bonbons: a small bowl of plain seasoned flour, an egg beaten in another bowl and a bowl of panko breadcrumbs.
- Roll the pulled grey squirrel meat into balls. If there is too much liquid, drain off a little until the balls are firm. Each squirrel should make four balls.
- Gently roll the balls in the flour, then dip into the beaten egg and roll delicately in the crumbs.
- Place into hot oil (about 185°C) and cook for three minutes, until golden brown. Make sure there is enough oil to cover the bonbons — a small pan works well for a litre of vegetable oil.
- Serve on a board and decorate. I used some chipotle ketchup, with wild garlic mayonnaise as a base.
- To make a wild garlic mayonnaise, simply blanch 25g of wild garlic leaves in simmering water until soft, then remove and quickly place in ice to preserve the flavour and colour. Blitz with around 75g of mayonnaise and a little squeeze of lemon juice. The mayonnaise should be pale green.
A note on grey squirrels
It’s extraordinary to think that the ubiquitous grey squirrel hasn’t actually been here for all that long. It’s generally believed that they arrived in the 1890s. Equally, it’s shocking that there are people in their fifties and sixties who remember red squirrels in places such as Norfolk. You won’t need me to tell you that when grey squirrel numbers rise, red squirrel numbers tumble. Happily, you can do your bit by eating the enemy. Not many people do so in the UK, but they love them in the US, especially in the south where they certainly know the best way to cook squirrel.