Try a taste of squirrel this Invasive Species Week

Muntjac nibbles and potted grey squirrel are just two of the delicious ways people can make a difference this Invasive Species Week. The two species are just some of the invasive non-native species (INNS) in the UK and to mark Invasive Species Week, which will run from 24-30 May, BASC is calling on people to try a taste of them. BASC’s wild food officer Matt Gisby has prepared a sample menu using muntjac venison and grey squirrel.  Below, he outlines the benefits of each of the meats and gives suggestions on serving them. Grey Squirrel:Grey squirrels were imported from North America during the Victorian era. Since then, they have become one of the biggest pests in the UK. They cause considerable damage to woodlands, houses, and our native wildlife. Greys are carriers of the squirrel pox virus, which is fatal for our native red squirrels, they outcompete their smaller cousin for food and are known to predate on chicks and eggs of our native bird species.On cooking, Matt said: “The flavour and texture of grey squirrel meat is hugely underestimated. Squirrels don’t have a lot of meat, but with some careful preparation and slow cooking, you can get most of the meat off the bones.“Sometimes, it is better to use squirrel as a starter than commit a whole main course to the species. Dishes such as potted squirrel with chutney and toast can be prepared well ahead of time and make the most of the squirrel.”Muntjac deer:An invasive species originating from China, introduced in the UK in early 20th century. Able to breed year round the deer is now widespread, particularly in South and Central England. Increasing numbers of road accidents caused by muntjac and overgrazing of woodland floors are two major concerns.On cooking, Matt said: “Muntjac are an ideal deer species for home cooking. In general, muntjac meat is sweet and not overly strong, making it perfect for family meals.“Venison meatballs in tomato sauce works well with muntjac, the sauce can be made well ahead of time and alongside fresh pasta makes for an exquisite main course.“Muntjac steak with watercress pesto and garlic toast is delicious. Steaks cut from muntjac loin are perfect for this ‘nibble’-type recipe. Muntjac are not the biggest of animals so a sharing approach works well. Any leftover pesto is great as a marinade for meat on the BBQ or in pasta dishes.”To buy muntjac venison or grey squirrel meat, talk to any good butcher or game dealer or visit the Wild Meat Company’s website. Visit www.tasteofgame.org.uk for more information.Other invasive delicacies include American signal crayfish and Egyptian goose.The most recent estimated cost of Grey squirrel damage to trees in England and Wales is £37 million per year: https://rfs.org.uk/media/848494/grey-squirrel-impact-report-overview.pdfWithin the England Trees Action Plan, launched by the Government last week, as well as committing to trebling tree planting targets in five years with a £500 million fund, Defra has committed itself to developing a national deer management strategy and updating the Grey Squirrel Action Plan. Read more here:…

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Invasive species menu

In the spirit of #InvasiveSpeciesWeek we've created an invasive species menu. Check out some new Taste of Game recipes.

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Muntjac Meatballs

A classic meatball recipe that works well with muntjac, the sauce can be made well ahead of time and it also works well with pasta for a main course.

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Red signal crayfish linguine

Red signal crayfish linguine American signal crayfish were bought to the UK from North America as farmed seafood. They have now spread widely through Britain and have a negative impact on native species and the environment.  They carry a disease that kills our native crayfish, erode riverbanks by burrowing, and predate on the eggs and fry of our native fish species. Their numbers have grown dramatically, and they can be found all over the UK in all types of water bodies. Luckily, trapping these species is easy – the environment agency provides free licence and you must comply with their regulations on trap size and tag your traps. Landowner permission is often given by angling clubs as the signal crayfish have a detrimental effect on the fishing.  Simple traps with fish bait work well and result in big catches. Some studies, however, show that trapping is not a solution as it only removes the large, cannibalistic males but in some areas it has a good effect. Once caught, it is best to ‘purge’ the crays for 24 hours by keeping them in a large tank of fresh water and regularly change the water. This removes any unwanted flavour and empties their gut. They can then be cooked in several ways – treat them like mini freshwater lobsters and the possibilities are huge. Red signal crayfish linguine with courgettes and chilli Crayfish are lovely on the BBQ or just boiled and peeled if you have lots of them.  This pasta dish will be perfect for any dinner party, and the bonus is that we are helping to save our native species and protect our riverbanks. Serves: 4   Ingredients 20 American signal crayfish 500g dried linguine pasta 2 courgettes, finely diced 1 red chilli, seeds removed, finely diced 200g cherry tomatoes, halved 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped 2 banana shallots, finely diced 1 glass dry white wine 1 handful parsley, finely chopped 100ml double cream 50g grated parmesan (plus a bit extra for serving) 2 lemons olive oil salt and pepper chilli oil Instructions After purging the crayfish in fresh water for 24 hours, bring a large pot of water to the boil. Add a large pinch of salt and drop in the crayfish. Bring back to the boil and cook for 4 minutes. Remove the crayfish and allow to cool. Keep 4 large specimens to garnish the dish. Break off tails and carefully crack the tail shells for the remaining crayfish. Scoop out the meat. Remove any leftover black waste pipes you find. If the crayfish are large, crack open the claws too and remove and the meat. Season the shallot, garlic and chilli with a pinch of salt and fry gently on low heat until soft. Increase the heat to medium and add the cherry tomatoes and courgette. Cook for 3 minutes. Add a glass of white wine to the vegetables. Cook over a high heat for 3 minutes or until reduced. Then, add the double cream and turn…

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