How to prepare snipe and how to cook it.

Q: I have been told it is best 
to cook snipe with the guts inside. I suspect that some of the more experienced Guns on the shoot are having a joke — surely 
you cannot eat the guts and even 
if you can, they cannot be tasty?

Preparing snipe by Tim Maddams

I once got into trouble at catering college for being a bit flippant with the lecturer when I told him to “pull the other one” when we were discussing this subject. I was wrong.

Snipe are worm eaters. They use their long, thin bill to sift through the mud for invertebrates and mostly feed at night. They always empty their bowels upon taking flight, so the time lapsed since they last ate and the habit of excreting upon take-off mean that the intestinal tract will be all but empty.

The guts have a flavour like no other and will enrich the finished dish no end. I roast all small fowl in a hot pan on the hob until they are well coloured all over, using just a little salt and pepper and a little lard as a minimum. I often add fresh bay, garlic and thyme.

Once the birds are coloured, I will roast them on their backs in a fiercely hot oven for about five minutes, then allow them to rest in the warm pan 
for a few minutes. Then I will scrape 
the guts into the pan, add a dash of good-quality Pedro Ximénez sherry, chopped garlic and a little butter and cook the guts for a minute or two
 more in the pan while the birds rest 
on a plate nearby. The entire contents 
of the pan then go into a mini blender for a quick blitz. These internals are then re-seasoned and used to dress 
the rest of the meat from the birds, 
like a kind of warm pâté.

Snipe on toast

Ingredients

  • 1 bird per person (snipe or woodcock)
  • 1 slice of bread per bird
  • 1 rasher of streaky bacon per bird
  • 1 or 2 slices of parma ham per bird
  • 1 oz / 25g butter per bird
  • salt and pepper
  • cream

Method

  • The oven should be set to 200 deg C, 400 deg F, gas mark 6.
  • Each snipe should be skinned, do not gut.
  • Remove the wings and the lower section of the leg (crack the bone, twist and pull to remove the sinews).
  • Wrap each bird in slices of parma ham or one slice of bacon so as to enclose the legs and secure with a cocktail stick.
  • Brush with butter and roast in a hot oven for approximately 15 minutes, then lower the heat and cook for a further 10-15 minutes.
  • Butter one round of bread per bird and grill or fry until crisp.
  • Remove the ham, breast and legs from the bird.
  • Chop the ham and arrange all on fried bread.
  • Brush with melted butter or cream and season with salt and pepper.