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Marco puts squirrel on the menu

PUBLISHED: 11:43 15 July 2008 | UPDATED: 20:53 05 July 2010

When Delia Smith recommended cooking with frozen mash to cheat your way to culinary success, she caused a stir among cooks and foodies.

But now TV chef Marco Pierre White has proved he is not one to shy away from unusual ingredients - by shooting squirrels on a north Suffolk country estate for a tasty new recipe.

When Delia Smith recommended cooking with frozen mash to cheat your way to culinary success, she caused a stir among cooks and foodies.

But now TV chef Marco Pierre White has proved he is not one to shy away from unusual ingredients - by shooting squirrels on a north Suffolk country estate for a tasty new recipe.

Mr White, who has been awarded three Michelin stars and is widely regarded as one of Britain's best chefs, came to the Somerleyton Estate, near Lowestoft, to create an original dish from local produce for his new series, Marco's Great British Feast.

He wanted to visit the historic estate to find wild ingredients for his recipes with the help of the estate's gamekeeper Arthur Whymark and deer warden Mark Burrage. The four-part ITV series sees him travel across the country to rediscover all that is good about British food - from squirrels at Somerleyton to eels in Morecambe Bay.

When Mr White, a keen fisherman and gamekeeper, came in February to film the episode, he took a tour of the beautiful 5,000-acre estate to find fresh seasonal ingredients and shot several grey squirrels himself for his dish.

The grey squirrel was introduced to the UK from the USA in the late 19th century. They are found all over the country and are often seen as a pest because they damage trees and are blamed for driving out native red squirrels, which are now a protected species.

Working with the estate's deer warden and kitchen staff, Mr White set about cooking a few of Somerleyton's resident squirrels in a new recipe.

He said: “I was surprised to discover that squirrel is considered a delicacy in certain parts of the UK and quite widely eaten. Having tried it I can see why.

“We tend to be squeamish about eating this small mammal but, when you think about it, it's no different to eating rabbit.”

The meal - squirrel with walnuts - was cooked in the kitchens at the estate's award-winning Fritton House hotel where the fruit of the day's shoot was also made into a squirrel and mushroom pie.

Produce from the estate is often used for dishes in the hotel and the nearby gastro-pub, the Duke's Head, but squirrel has not featured on the menus before.

Somerleyton estate spokesman Jennie Durham said Mr White did not live up to his fearsome reputation. She said: “He was very nice. We were all a bit worried he would be fierce, but he was utterly charming.

“He loved the hotel and the restaurant. He stayed here overnight to do the filming and had breakfast and lunch here.

The guys in the kitchen were really pleased he came.”

Mr White made his name as a TV presenter in 2007 when he fronted Hell's Kitchen. As well as working on TV, he runs several restaurants including four pizzerias with jockey Frankie Dettori and one at Chelsea's Stamford Bridge football ground.

The episode of Marco's Great British Feast featuring the Somerleyton Estate is on ITV tomorrow at 9pm.

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