Hailing from the pages of our winter edition, Hollie-Ella sat down with Yorkshire-born hunter and cook Rachel Carrie.
A source of inspiration for many, whether it’s her prowess with a shotgun; inspiring ethics or simply her sense of style, Rachel has become an icon for British field sports. More recently, it is her cooking skills and passion for promoting the field to fork effort and the consumption of wild game meat, that has hit the headlines. We caught up with Rachel to find out more about the girl behind the gun and what readers can expect from her book.
Rachel, can you start by telling us more about the book, how did the idea come about?
I’ve hunted since I was very young, starting out by hunting rabbits with my hawk and ferrets from as young as eight. I would help hunt and then prepare wild game for family dinners, so the field to fork concept has always just been part of ‘the norm’ for me.
I read articles about there being surplus game meat in the UK and thought I must do something about it. Game meat is delicious, it’s healthy and much more ethically sourced than conventional supermarket bought meats. I felt it was being unappreciated, likely through lack of public understanding and awareness, as well as not being marketed positively or effectively. The general response I was getting was that people were unsure how to prepare or cook game, or that they thought it would taste funny – so I set out to smash these misconceptions on social media by showing that if a busy working mum can do it – so can anyone! The response I got from sharing my dishes online was fantastic and a few people suggested a book, which got me thinking.
How long did the book take you to write?
I first approached a publisher over two years ago who turned me down. Alas, I persevered, cracked on with the book myself and thought I’ll worry about a publisher later! The real work started a year ago when I had assembled my team and really got going with the design, layout and photography. It was very full on but, I managed to make it work by sitting down to write or edit in the evenings after I had finished work. I am humbled to have had an incredible team behind me, who I learned after a while, pretty much had my style sussed, without needing too much input from me, which really helped speed things up.
We own a shelves full of cookbooks, many of which I haven’t had a chance to read. For those who are short on time or new to cooking, are there any recipes in your book that are ideal for them?
The beauty of my book is that I’m not a professional chef, nor do I claim to be. The beauty of game is that whatever you can do with chicken or beef you can pretty much do with pheasant or venison, I wanted to create a book which contained dishes that were simple and that inspired people to add their own flair to, which will hopefully turn into family classics. I wanted to show how versatile game is but also how simple cooking with it can be.
Don’t get me wrong there is a fancy section in there along with some curing and a larder section. I want people to have fun and embrace sourcing the ingredients in the larder section, plucking their birds and creating dishes to showcase game to family and friends who may be new to the concept. I really want the book to be as inspirational as it is instructional, if not more so.
What is your guilty food pleasure?
It’s totally naughty and against my food ethos but I love McDonalds fries! I often sneak into the drive through and grab a large fries if I’m passing.
What about your last meal on earth, what would that be?
Literally anything on the menu at Mike Robinson’s new restaurant The Woodsman in Stratford-upon-Avon! It’s my favourite place to eat.
Your recent appearance on ITV’s This Morning saw a hugely positive responses to your lifestyle – much of which came from vegans and vegetarians. Did that surprise you?
Honestly – yes it did. What I’ve learnt with my work in the media is that the concept of field to fork is very sellable, more so now than ever as society is making a shift to becoming more conscious about what is on their plates and considering animal welfare more and more.
There is nothing more ethical or environmentally sound than sourcing meat. I work as an Environmental Consultant and as a former vegetarian myself (surprised?), I made this link very early on and saw that the common ground between vegetarians and hunters was vital to undoing the major misconceptions held by anti-shooters.
When hunting, we’re curious to know, what’s in your kit bag?
Plenty of snacks… and baby wipes – lots of them!
Town or country?
Country, but I do love a day in the city, I won’t lie!
You enjoy foraging. Have you any tips in the book for those keen to make use of nature’s offering?
Foraging is something which I am fairly new to, but by default got into. When you are out deer stalking or shooting, you are often coming across edible plants and berries. There is a saying that goes, ‘what goes together grows together’ and I’ve found this to be true in my cooking. It is a theme which runs throughout the book and I think it’s important to show just some of what nature can provide if we look after it.
The natural environment is vital and there is less and less of it, so if we can draw value from plants and animals then in turn we’ll conserve them and the habitats they thrive in. That being said, one thing I didn’t want to do with my book was to preach, or try to turn people into hunters. It is very much a celebration of food, rather than hunting and shooting. There is a ‘where to buy game’ section in the back of the book featuring some of my favourite retailers who will deliver fresh game straight to your doorstep, whether you’re in the country or the city.
What is your favourite type of game meat?
Pigeon all day, every day.
If you could host a dinner party for anyone, (living or dead) who would be on your guest list?
My nanna – she lived in this tiny little house, but always had all the family round for Sunday dinners. She was always in the kitchen and loved feeding people, it was something she took pride in. Food is a powerful thing, it can bring people together. I would love to be able to repay her for all that she taught me.