Sunday, 12 October 2008

Yet more dance!

On Friday a bunch of us went to see the Phoenix Dance Theatre at the Arts Theatre in Cambridge, and it was completely different from Richard Alston, as expected, and just as good. (Links to all three are in an earlier posting.) We had a really great night, and Richard drove home once more, hurrah!

None of the contemporary dance we've seen before has had much of a story you could deduce, but the five pieces we saw on Friday were all story-based, with the story explained in the programme. I'll not go into too much detail, but the first piece was (and I have the programme in front of me here!) inspired by selected passages from The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams. There was no music at all, just someone reading exerpts from the play, with 5 dancers portraying 4 characters. Quite why there were two women being Amanda, dancing almost, but not quite entirely the same steps, is a mystery. Fascinating and compelling.

The other most memorable dance was called The Moore's Pavane, and was based on Othello. The four dancers were in mediƦval costume and danced to the rules of the 16th century pavane dance, with modern balletic interpolations and interpretations. This was completely magical, and worth the ticket money on its own. I plan to search for a DVD from this company, but haven't got around to it yet.

And so, on to the rest of the weekend.

Yesterday, amongst the rest of our shopping, we picked up a muntjac from the local farm shop. I'd phoned on Thursday to order one, but found they'd just had a delivery and so was able to reserve a complete carcass for myself. This is perfect. Muntjac, in case I haven't already bored you to death about it, is simply the best venison you can get. The animals are the size of a border collie dog, weighing only about 10kg when fully grown. Their meat is utterly tender and doesn't need to be hung at all, so the flavour is very mild. If you like game, there's nothing to stop you hanging it, or asking your supplier to do so, but we like it fresh.

The advantage of taking the carcass complete rather than ready-butchered, is £5 rather than £22 a kilo. You do throw away more, of course, but not that much. My muntjac weighed 6.3 kg (skinned, gutted and decapitated), of which I don't think I threw more than a kilo or so away. Well, alright, definitely less than 2 kg. The price I had to pay to get this excellent deal was to butcher the carcass myself. In truth, this is not hard to do. All you need is a very sharp small knife (I use one with an 8 cm blade), a hacksaw and some courage. Some knowledge of anatomy is useful, but in reality, you learn as you go along.

What you do is have a go, make a bit of a mess of it and waste more meat than you need to, but learn by the experience. Next time, you waste less meat. The haunches I retained entire, then I ferreted out the loins, which are the muscles that join the hips onto the rib cage (inside and out - there's lots of meat there), then took the hind-most 9 ribs on each side for a crown roast some time, then hacked off the front legs and chopped them into bits at each joint.

The haunches you roast or pot-roast, the loins and ribs you just treat like lamb equivalents, and the front legs you guess with. Although they're frozen as they are, I imagine we'll cut the meat off the bone after thawing and stir-fry or some such.

I pressure-cooked some of the bones for 15 minutes with an onion, a carrot and a bouquet-garni, but sadly, didn't think to roast the bones first, so the flavour of the resulting stock is rather bland. I'd intended to make a venison consommé but the basic stock didn't warrant it. We'll just use it as stock and it'll be fine.

We also did lots in the garden, including cleaning out the nest boxes. The tit box is built into a brick column, and was easy enough to deal with, but the sparrow terrace (3 boxes side by side) needed extra work. It's only 2 or 3 years old, but the plastic hinges had broken, and I had to replace them with brass ones. In fact, it's clear the wood is not marine ply, but just ordinary stuff, so I don't imagine it'll last that much longer. And it turns out sparrows are not that sociable, either, and you won't get more than one pair in the terrace. That's if the blue tits don't get there first, of course!


The Dotterel said...

Sounds like a sure-fire tip for beating the credit crunch (if you're prepared to get your hands bloody!). I'm always tempted to collect fresh road-kill, but my wife won' hear of it...

Rob Clack said...

Fresh roadkill can be brilliant. We've eaten mostly pheasant and rabbit, and occasionally muntjac. The key criteria are a) how badly bashed is it? (muntjac is a problem as it's body is exactly at bumper height, so you rarely find an intact one on a major road) b) how long has it been there? If you travel the same road daily, you can easily notice something that's only been killed in the last 24 hours. I'd not eat anything other than a veggie, so no badgers, foxes, etc.

We are much too squeamish about roadkill. We imagine that if it's been by the side of the road for too long it won't be edible. However, after butchering yesterday's muntjac, I put the remains in a brown (heavy duty)paper bag in our brown (composting) bin. This morning, I realised I could make good stock from the bones, so retrieved them and did exactly that. Yes, the bones had been in the bin at room temp for 24 hours, but were none the worse for that.

What we forget is that most meat is hung at fridge temperature (4° C) for several weeks before being sold. A day at 20° C is nothing.