Rooks were formerly commonplace fare for farm labourers, and the rookeries especially protected for that reason. There is no definitive receipt. Young rooks are to be preferred, the birds become very tough when older, and care taken to remove the very bitter-tasting backbone (Eaton 1822, Soyer 1845, Hartley 1954)
'The Rook' from 'What the Blackbird Said', 1881
Original Receipt in 'The Cook and Housekeeper's Dictionary' by Mary Eaton (Eaton 1822);
ROOK PIE. Skin and draw some young rooks, cut out the backbones, and season with pepper and salt. Lay them in a dish with a little water, strew some bits of butter over them, cover the dish with a thick crust, and bake it well.
Original Receipt in 'A Shilling Cookery for The People' by Alexis Soyer (Soyer 1845);
255. Young Rook Pudding.- If these young inhabitants of the woods and forests are eatable in pies, I do not see why we should not give them, after their wild career, a soft bed of repose in a pudding crust. Open them by the back, then draw them, divide them into two, and then into quarters; extract the big bones, leaving the flesh only; beat each piece flat, and season with salt, pepper, and a little grated ginger; make a stuffing with the liver. Lay on the crust a slice of bacon, then the birds, then a slice of steak; season with. any aromatic herbs, or chopped onions, leeks or mushrooms; add a gill of ale, or wine, gravy or water; boil one hour and a half, and serve. Pigeons may be done in the same way.
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