Timberdoodles, mud snipe, bog sucker, wood elf—all names for scolopax minor, the Woodcock or as we like to call it: ‘The King of the Game Birds’. It is well deserving of the name, the bird itself tastes amazing, it’s pretty strong on that gamey taste, its an intensely flavoured lean meat.
This magical bird is a wonderful gem of British sporting quarry, actually not just Britain, it is highly prized all over Europe, Asia and North America. It ranges from Spain and Britain all the way to Siberia and Japan.
They are a rare hunting spoil, and it really comes down to luck and skill to get one, the Woodcock still evades many a seasoned hunter. But, if you are lucky enough try one it really is a gormet’s delight, so when I got one of these treasures, I did just that!
There are many ways of preparing Woodcock, In classic french cuisine it is hung from anywhere between 4-6 days then used to create a pate. Traditionally the bird is cooked with the head on, with the brain being considered a delicacy, but if you aren’t that brave (and I don’t blame you) this recipe of Roast Woodcock with Cumberland Sauce may tickle your tastebuds!
Personally, I went for something a little bit different, and it worked nicely, I got two woodcock and filleted off the breasts. I used a recipe that originally came from Nigel Slater for a warm citrus salad with pea shoots and duck. I use my own edited version of this recipe a lot, with this meal I pan fried the Woodcock for a couple of minutes, substituted the pea shoots for fresh watercress, spinach and rocket, adding some chopped beetroot some fresh orange segments and then drizzling with the warm citrus dressing and cooked some crispy sweet potato fries on the side.
I have some more Woodcock in the freezer and will most definitely be doing this again.