30th April, 2011
Initially the poor blackbird was destined for the dustbin, but it looked like it had been in rude health and knowing that blackbird is a delicacy throughout mainland Europe, I decided to take it home and cook it.
I looked at Larousse Gastronomique for recipes – it suggests cooking in the same manner as thrush and other songbirds, for which it has 13 recipes! There are some fictional examples of traditional songbird trapping in French films such as, “Manon des Sources” and “La Gloire de Mon Père“. Blackbird is often roasted in the oven, stuffed with juniper berries or truffles and in Italy it’s server with polenta. In “The Wordsworth Guide to Edible Plants and Animals“, it says that blackbirds are considered a delicacy and are members of the thrush family. It mentions that the Romans kept thrushes in cages and fattened them up on millet, figs and flour.
Small birds should be plucked gently to avoid breaking the skin. Be careful to pull out the intestines in one piece, so as not to contaminate the meat with faeces.
I made up my own recipe. I put a teaspoonful of foie gras fat, a piece of garlic and the blackbird liver into a large sage leaf. I stuffed the blackbird with the leaf, sprinkled on some sea salt and cracked black pepper and wrapped it in two slices of streaky bacon. I roasted the blackbird for 15 minutes in a very hot oven and left it for 10 minutes to rest before eating.
The blackbird had a delicate flavour, like partridge. Blackbird liver is quite creamy and it melts in the mouth. The bird itself was tiny – you’d have to eat about 20 as a main meal! I can’t deny that it makes a delicious starter, but since they are endangered and protected, it’s unlikely that I’ll be eating one again.
Should you be inclined to eat wild animals that have died accidentally, do make sure that they are fresh, that their feathers or fur look in good condition and that their eyes look bright. The liver will give you an indication of health – it should look shiny and have no spots or blemishes (think of what liver looks like from the butcher). Use some common sense and ask an expert if you have any doubts. Don’t hang game when the weather is hot and flies are about.
I also looked at a third book for info on cooking and eating blackbird, “The Oxford Companion to Food“.
Please note, that trapping, shooting and killing songbirds is illegal in Britain. I only ate the blackbird because it had died accidentally (I had no hand in its death).