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Rook Pie

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    It's coming round that time of year again that the young rooks are appearing, and I have again been asked about rook pie. I tried this old recipe from "Cassell's Dictionary of Cookery", circa 1860 (I only used the breasts) and it resulted in quite a good pie.


    "The rook affords a dry and coarse meat. A pie made of young rooks is tolerable; at least, it is the best form of using these birds as food. There is, in the opinion of some, a resemblance between the flavour of the young rook and that of the young pigeon.


    Rook pie - Rooks require long stewing, or they will not be tender. The breasts are the only parts of the birds which are really worth using, and when the other portions are put into the dish, care should be taken to cut out the spine and the flesh near it to the width of three quarters of an inch, or the pie will have a bitter taste. Many cooks lay the birds in a dish, season them with pepper and salt, put a coarse flour-and-water crust over them, and then bake then for a couple of hours; the next day they remove the common crust, lay good pastry over them, and bake the pie in the usual way. The following recipe will, however be found very good:


    Take six or eight freshly killed young rooks. Skin without plucking them, and to do this cut the skin round the first joint of the legs, and draw it over the head. Cut off the necks, draw the birds, and cut away the legs, backs and wings. Cut a pound of chunk steak into neat squares, pepper these, and lay them in a pie dish, pouring over them half a teacupful of stock or water, cover the dish closely, and bake themeat until it is almost done enough, Lay the breastsof the rooks upon the steak, with a small slice of butter upon each. Sprinkle over them a seasoning of salt, pepper and pounded mace, and pour over them as much stock or water as will barely cover them. let them bake gently for half an hour, Let the dish cool, then line the edges with good pastry, cover it with the same, ornament according to taste, make a hole in the centre that the steam may escape, and bake in a brisk oven. When the pastry is done enough, the pie may be served. Time to bake, altogether two hours and a half, probable cost, uncertain, rooks being seldom sold. Sufficient for five or six persons.


    Rook Pie (another way) -Skin and draw six young rooks, and cut out the backbones. Season them with pepper and salt, put them in a deep dish with half a pint of water, lay some bits of butter over them and cover the dish with a tolerably thick crust. Let the pie be well baked."


    You have to soak the breasts of rooks in milk overnight before cooking to remove the bitter taste.

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    Its best with a nice suet crust pastry.


    Only use the breasts. You can add pigeon breasts to make them go further.


    PS don't overdo the mace or it will dominate the flavour.

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    However way you cook them, pie, casserole, whatever, dont cook them too fast.


    A slow, low heat is best or they will be tough and chewy.


    My Gran (God bless her) was an excellent country cook, famed for it in these parts, her rook pie, rabbit casserole, jugged hare, etc. etc, were fantastic. We had stuffed goose neck sausages as kids long before old Hugh Firmly-Startingstall made it.


    She used to hang rooks for at least a week by the neck ( Not the legs) and also marinade them in stout for 2 days to take the bitterness out.


    She didnt just use flappers but adult rooks as well and my Gramp was partial to a bit of squirrel!



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