Kitty on a plate

Regular readers of Digestive Tract would know I don’t shrink from the more unusual culinary offerings that the world has to offer. Sheep’s testicle…tick, pig’s testicles …tick, brains, sweetbreads, calf’s head, rattle snake, witchetty grubs, bogong moths …had them all and love them all. But there are some things I’d have to give due consideration to before I tucked in the bib and poised the eating irons.

Take environmental author and artist Kaye Kessing, she reckons you should never boil a cat because they are far better roasted. I’d never considered that. But it did make me pause to think. Mind you, she does have a cracking recipe for feral moggy that she cooks with quandong and native lemongrass that she calls a “catterole”.

This is an environmentalist who is really sinking her teeth into the issue of feral animals. She’s been putting pussy – feral pussy – in the pot for around 17 years on her 40 hectare property in the Northern Territory. Inspired by stories of the local Aboriginals feasting on feral cat, she traps them, skins them, pan fries them and then braises them in the crockpot.

While it’s not likely to ever be a mystery ingredient in a Master Chef challenge, it does show a certain commitment to her green passion. A sort of a twist on the: use it or lose it doctrine – more a: use it and lose it mindset.

Feral cats aside, feral camels are a tasty option for the BBQ. It seems our one-million-plus camel population, reputedly the world’s largest wild camel herd, is out of control. They eat up what little vegetation there is in the desert and to add insult to injury they belch greenhouse gases. But they taste damned good. They are a bit like beef but much, much leaner … although more obnoxious.

Recently a Kiwi colleague misread my fascination of hedgehogs when I encountered them at his place on the Bay of Islands and he duly supplied me with a recipe. His largess was doubtless a response to my reputation for eating virtually anything. But this fascination was born of the shattering of my Beatrix Potter image of Mrs Tiggy Winkles and her prickly kin when the sun went down. Hedgehogs rut at a decibel level that would drown out a 747. How do hedgehogs make love? Very carefully – and noisily it would seem. Maybe their spikes had something to do with the grunting chorus that seemed to emanate from every bush. But the recipe for hedgehog was a colonial New Zealand stroke of genius. Having introduced these noisy, spiky ferals to the land of the long white cloud someone – a Maori or maybe an inventive Pakeha – had figured a cunning way to sort them out for the table.

Build a good fire and let it burn down. Roll a hedgehog in clay or mud until thickly encased and drop it into the embers and cover with glowing charcoal. When the appointed time arrives for a properly cooked hedgehog fossick the baked clay ball out of the smouldering coals. Crack it open and pull apart the clay taking with it the spikes and fur. Viola: wood-fired hedgehog.

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