Duck & Pheasant

The shooting season is coming to an end, but that didn’t stop R heading out with friends for an early New Year’s shoot last weekend.

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He’s been shooting several times before, but only with my father and never on his own, so this felt like one of the many necessary country initiations since we moved out of London. When I think about the quiet, skinny jean-wearing lad I met ten years ago…I’m not sure where he’s gone when I look at this…

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Sure, they’re borrowed plus fours – and he’s done a good job of making his shiny new wellies look not new at all by wading through ALL the puddles – but I am sure if I had dressed him up in all this just five years ago he’d have looked like a kid in Dad’s clothing. My mother has always said dressing well is about having “clothes for the life you live”, and I guess, slowly, (after an emergency trip to two of best country outfitters locally), we are getting there.

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So, he was lucky enough to be able to go on a friend’s private organised shoot on the local farm, and it was a perfect shooting day – grey, still and murky. Just the thing for trudging through muddy fields with friends.

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At the end of the day, when the 36 pheasants, four duck, three woodcock and one partridge had been shared out, everyone gathered – plus children – for a team photo, followed by a hearty lunch and general dissection of the day’s events. R hadn’t let himself down it seems. That goodness for that.

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Pictures like this make me feel incredibly nostalgic – my father has gone shooting since I was a little girl and cold wintery days were all about this…the endless shades of murky green, the muddy wellies, the feathers and the birds, the dogs, the guns, the sense of friendship and community, the feeling of a hot meal and a pint of ale after a long day’s walking in the woods. I have known some of these people all of my life – since I was as small as the little ones in the photo now – and it’s lovely to see it coming full circle. And – in turn – making new friends and new traditions for our family. A huge thank you to old friends for letting us be a part of the day.

After that, it was home to pluck the birds and turn them into something delicious.

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I love a good winter casserole – make sure to roast the bones and then use them for stock, which makes a much more hearty tasting stew. You can even add the roasted bones into the casserole while its cooking to add extra flavour. Include ingredients like port or cider, a little shaving of horseradish, some chestnuts and smoked bacon or pancetta, plus some onions, carrots, celery and leeks, and plenty of thyme, then reduce it down slowly, and enjoy with some chive or cabbage mash. A definite winter warmer.

 

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