Poultry, game and offal

It’s easy to sneer at chickens, especially if you’ve watched them at close quarters in the coop. They always make me laugh, and it would certainly be a five-setter between a chicken and a lamb in any intelligence championship.

We sneer, too, at their rather flat flavour these days – an insult to a bird which, in the good old days, had a delicious, individual taste about it. You can’t blame the chooks for tasting a bit common; blame us. We used to rail at the prices we paid for chicken, prices which meant that for most Australians, chicken was the dish for special occasions like Christmas, or Easter, or 50th birthday parties.

So they invented chicken farms, and fed the chickens anything but what they really enjoy. And as their prices came down, so, too, their flavour faded away.

But even so, chicken plays an important part in our menus; even battery chicken tastes pretty good if you work on it hard enough – stuffing tarragon under its skin makes an excellent start, marinating its breasts in spicy yoghurt mixes or full- flavoured olive oil.

And even ordinary chicken makes for a worthy stock. So we can’t complain too much. But the wheel is also turning, as it has with bread. Keen farmers are putting chickens back on diets which restore the pale yellow colour of skin and flesh, and the flavours of the old days. These chickens will cost you a bit more, naturally, but they are worth it, for special occasions.

An extra special occasion is one which has squab on the table. These young pigeons have a wonderful gamey flavour and provide deli- ciously tender flesh; they are far superior to quail in these matters. I have always found quail not quite worth the effort, especially as their price is rising inexorably to the luxury class.

Game requires not so much a special occasion, but a special need. The Europeans look forward with much anticipation to the winter and the sudden rush of game – deer, hare, wild pig, and all sorts of birds – to the market. Of all these, only hare is regularly available in this country, although venison and Northern Territory buffalo can be found at exclusive shops. Kangaroo is restricted in its distribution, with most States prohibiting its sale for consumption. Hare has a richness of flavour which is a test for those with tender palate. If you like its intense flavour, you will seek it to the ends of the earth.

What you’ll need


A poultry trivet. Chickens are best roasted if they can get a clean go at the heat of the oven. Poultry trivets are cheap and readily available, and make for a very good investment.


A strong stomach is vital if you get into the offal department. Remember, you’re dealing here with the working parts of birds and animals, and, not surprisingly, the flavour and richness are commensurate with the duties of those parts. While you are fiddling with sweetbreads and kidneys and livers, you should consider yourself lucky that the days of swinging the axe in the backyard are long gone. I think this is one skill which needs to be acquired from a hardy parent, or uncle, or brother. I missed out, I am afraid.

The recipes

A three-time loser: a chicken, stuffed, roasted,

then boiled 156

Warm chicken salad 157

Hot, hot chicken in a flash 159

Tandoori chicken, almost 161

A chicken’s inner secret 162

Gopal’s stuffed chicken breast 163

Roasted squab 164

Ox tongue, simply 166

Diary of a disaster 167

Drowned rabbit 168

Hare, on the nose 170

Hare, slow-cooked 171

Duck livers with a crispy skin 172

Brains, for those who need them, love them 173

A rose by any other name 175