it’ll take some badger chops with an weed stuffed baby pigeon!
Owl curry, adder with butter and stir-fried craneflies! Meet the man who has survived on a diet of ROADKILL for 30 years
By Rob Cooper
Roadkill diet: Jonathan McGowan, 44, has dined on a diet of roadkill for the last 30 years as he shuns supermarket meats
Rat stir fries and owl curries hardly sound like the stuff you would serve your friends for dinner.
But surprisingly, Jonathan McGowan’s exotic roadkill dishes are a big hit with his guests.
The 44-year-old bachelor has lived on a diet of roadkill for the past 30 years to avoid buying meat from the supermarket.
He has shunned pre-packaged meats and instead dined on mice, moles, hedgehogs, pigeons, crows and gulls.
The taxidermist from Bournemouth, Dorset, never kills the animals himself but eats only what he finds at the roadside or in woodland.
Mr McGowan first got a taste for roadkill at the age of 14 when he cooked a dead adder that he had found.
He said: ‘The adder didn’t actually taste very nice – a bit like bacon rind. But it had piqued my curiosity and I wondered what else I could eat and what it would taste like.’
After leaving sixth form college he lived alone and turned to roadkill to save some money on his weekly food bills.
He said: ‘From a young age I was always interested in natural history and being brought up amongst the farming, hunting and shooting communities of the Dorset countryside meant I was right in the middle of everything.
‘Everywhere I looked there were dead animals; fish that had been caught, pheasants that had been shot and animals that had been run over in the road so naturally I became drawn to nature and how it worked.
‘I used to cut up dead animals to see their insides and when I did all I could see was fresh, organic meat, better than the kind I had seen in the supermarkets. So I never saw a problem with cooking and eating it.’
Mr McGowan insisted it was better to eat roadkill than meat from shops because of the way it is produced.
He said: ‘I guess at the age of 14 I just wanted to be different. But even then I understood that what I was doing was better than eating meat in the shops because of how it was produced.
‘There was a broiler production unit close to where I was living where there was always three layers of chickens – a dead, rotting layer at the bottom, a squashed layer in the middle and a layer at the top where they could barely move.
Appetising meal? From owl curries to squirrel pie, Jonathan, 44, has sampled every form of wildlife over the years including, pigeon, heron and duck
SQUIRREL FOR LUNCH? A DAY’S MEALS MADE FROM ROADKILL
Breakfast: Usually cereal
Lunch: ‘Quite often I’ll do a stir fry with a dead bird of prey or perhaps a small squirrel.’
Dinner: ‘Typically I’ll have fresh fish I have caught myself or maybe a spaghetti bolognese using a meat like venison, pheasant or pigeon.’
‘I saw how dirty farm animals were and how unhealthy they were. I was also used to going to the cattle market where the treatment of the animals by the farmers was grotesque. I wasn’t happy about what I saw at all.’
Mr McGowan, who gives presentations in schools and colleges, has long extolled the virtues of his diet to friends who have been surprisingly open to the idea of roadkill dinner parties.
His owl curries are often popular, as are his rat stir fries.
JONATHAN’S ROADKILL PIGEON AU VIN’
1) Take one 8oz roadkill pigeon breast and wash it in warm water which will partially cook it.
2) Place it in foil with 100ml of red wine and cook it thoroughly for around half an hour on a low heat.
3) Mix in with onion and a white sauce and continue to cook it again for another 20 minutes.
Serve with celery and parsnips. It also goes well with chips and roast potatoes.
RECIPE FOR ROADKILL BADGER STEW
1) Skin one badger and cut into pieces before browning in a frying pan with butter until pieces are golden and stiff,
2) Flambée with glass of Armagnac and pour over one bottle of dry, sparkling wine, then simmer gently for two hours.
3) Mix cooked, chopped badger liver, a glass of pig’s blood, two egg yolks and a pot of crème fraîche and serve immediately
Serve with wild mushrooms or chestnuts.
RECIPE FOR OWL CURRY
1) Brown the onions and celery in a frying pan for around 10 minutes on a high heat
2) Add the owl, turning until cooked through
After about 5 minutes, turn down the heat and add the veg, sultanas, coconut, curry paste and some cumin and turmeric. Simmer for around ten minutes
3) Shortly before serving, mix in the cream and stir well
Serve with pilau or long grain rice
Another speciality is pan-fried craneflies, served with olive oil, celery and raisins.
Mr McGowan said: ‘It’s a bit like a Waldorf salad, only with daddy-long-legs. I don’t eat the legs though, that would be weird.
‘My friends all think it is great, especially if they get to try some. Fox is often a favourite too, as is rabbit.
‘They can see it’s good meat and that it’s healthy eating, although I think a lot of them are put off the idea of picking up dead animals themselves and having to prepare them.
‘It’s not something everyone can do. I have grown up around nature and know just by looking how an animal has died and how long it has been there.
‘I am careful, obviously, not to eat anything that I don’t think is fresh and if I don’t know how an animal has died I will perform an autopsy on it first.
‘I found a raven recently that had been poisoned, probably with strychnine, and that is something that other people would probably not think to look out for.
‘I do have to be careful, but I have never been sick from anything I have ever eaten.’
REAL FAST FOOD: THE ROADKILL JONATHAN HAS EATEN
Lunch? Mr McGowan slices open a pigeon. He loves to eat it marinated and cooked with red wine
After cooking an adder at the age of 14, which he said tasted like bacon rind, Jonathan McGowan has dined on a huge variety of animals he’s found.
The taxidermist lists fox, venison and deer among his favourite meats – but he has eaten everything the countryside has to offer over the years.
With thousands of animals being found dead at the roadside every year, Mr McGowan has varied if – on the face of it – slightly unedifying pickings.
He has eaten mice, moles, hedeghogs, squirrels, rats, foxes, badgers, hares, rabbits, deer, stoats, weasels, polecats, otters, wildcats, pheasants, finches, thrushes, ducks, geese, pigeons, owls, crows, gulls, blackbirds and cormorants.
He says many animals taste much better than people would expect.
Foxes – ‘There’s a common myth that you cannot eat them but they are most delicious. It is a lean meat and there is never any fat. Young foxes are always very nice and they taste slightly like chicken.’
Mice – ‘They taste weird – there is no other food quite like them. They aren’t particularly nice and have a very bitter flavour. They are of course so small that they are almost worthless.’
Rats – ‘They are most delicious and it is a misconception that they are dirty. They are quite like pork but quite salty. They are delicious and the meat is great on its own. I would not eat city rats but in Dorset they are very good.’
Pigeons – ‘I don’t eat town pigeons but wood pigeons are very nice. They are very large and very irony. It’s best marinated and I love to have it with red wine.’
Moles – ‘They are horrible and have a rancid taste. They have an unpleasant taste in their skin to ward off predators. Wild animals don’t eat them. I’ve only had one once and never again.’
Hedgehogs – ‘When you get in it’s all fatty meat. It’s not nice but okay if you like eating fatty foods.’
Squirrels – ‘They are most delicious. They provide a good firm white meat which is quite similar to rabbit but not as overpowering. Not many animals taste like what they eat but squirrels do have a nutty flavour. It’s fantastic stuff.’
Wild cats – ‘You do get a few wild cats in Dorset as you do in Scotland. They have a very nice flavour but they are very rare.’