Sautéed badger

We hit a badger last week. We were going to a wedding dance at about 8pm, coming down a wiggly unclassified road and hit it. It had waited until we were about ten yards away and bolted across the road, flinging itself straight into the lower radiator.

In order to split the radiator it had to bend and crack open an entire flexible plastic bumper and dislocate other bits of vital internal panelling which is even now having to be specially ordered from the Czech Republic.

It obviously happens the whole time. The AA, which annually publishes a list of hilarious excuses for insurance claims, lists hitting badgers as a favourite "fancy that".

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The beast was crossing from a newly sown field to a deep den of gorse and whins. My guess is that it had spent a happy evening looking for early signs of an oystercatcher nest and a feast of eggs. As the local oystercatcher population has been increasingly feeble in recent years and the badger population is rampant, we may have a tentative link.

But we cannot say boo to badgers or else the Scottish Natural Heritage Badger Protection Squad comes over all huffy. The bugger with badgers is that they are inedible. I would not put one in this spring's clutch of raised pies filled with the annual crop of run-over rabbits, cock pheasants and the occasional hare, augmented with pickings from the bottom of the deep freeze - label-less packets of what might have been grouse or pigeon, belly of pork or pheasant breasts.

I have taken up the Game Conservancy Trust tip of not bothering to make the pastry casing in cake tins with removable bottoms, but instead plonk the raw contents in the middle of the rolled-out pastry and then manually raise the sides. With the top on they look a bit like desert-issue landmines but they don't leak liquid gelatine through pastry cracks as they cool, a problem with the cake tin version.

So forget the badger in a pie. However, Wild Foods of Great Britain, first published in 1917 and written by one L Cameron, suggests curing the hams over birch wood smoke, "after the manner used in curing bacon". Once cooked it was considered a delicacy hot or cold in Germany and Scotland, although he or she makes no mention of the English eating badger other than the fat being used by "peasants in Gloucestershire" for cooking and rubbing on their chests as cure for colds and rheumatism.

The French are more sophisticated about their badgers, although the old recipes call for a fast-running stream in which to soak the beast for 48 hours as an aid to "de-greasing". Thereafter it's a culinary Gallic riot of beaten eggs, pig's blood, ginger root, Armagnac and an entire bottle of sparkling white. And don't forget the crme frache and forest mushrooms or chestnuts.

You fry the joints, flamb in Armagnac, add ginger and cook for two hours in the wine. Mix the chopped badger liver (cooked beforehand in a little oil), the glass of blood, two egg yolks, a coffee-spoon of ginger and the crme frache, and pour into the cooking dish. Serve immediately.

As for the badger, we went back to look for it with a torch, me clutching the wheel brace in case it had to be finished off, but there was no sign of it. Not even blood on the road or car. Bang goes another free meal. Thank goodness. Though a sporran would have been nice.