This year, Machair LIFE+ has taken the issue of goose management to Sgoil Lionacleit.
With the Adaptive Management Trial now underway (2014 will be the second season of four), there are more greylag geese being shot than there have been for many years. But what happens to all these shot birds? The obvious answer would be that they are all put on the table: a cheap, local and healthy source of protein and iron. Whilst marksmen are giving away geese to those that want them, many get put into landfill.
A very lean healthy meat, its flavour can vary depending on the bird, from sweet and tender to a strong gamey flavour. The meat can sometimes be tough, but if slow-cooked or prepared with an acidic marinade- such as citrus fruit or vinegar– it is delicious, tender and juicy, similar to venison or beef.
With the support of Sgoil Lionacleit, using popular school lunch recipes and a simpler method of processing the meat, Machair LIFE+ are running a trial to put goose meat on the school lunch menu.
This term, students on the S3 and S4 Crofting Year course have learnt all about crop protection and the SNH Adaptive Management Trial. They were then given a demonstration by marksman and ex-teacher, Phillip Harding, of how to process a goose from ‘in-feather’ to oven-ready. Then the students had a go: this time just removing the breasts/fillets which is quick and clean. Students really engaged with the process, finding that the work wasn’t as gruesome as they thought and were surprised by how simple it was to remove the fillets, taking just a few minutes each.
Following this session, the S4 Hospitality students were then set the task of finding a popular recipe for school lunch. They came up with four recipes; curry, bolognese, lasagne and burgers, to be prepared for consumer research; asking teachers, staff and students to score each dish for taste, texture and appearance amongst others. A fruity curry was found to be the champion, which will be prepared by Walter in the school canteen for a special free lunch on Thursday 30th January. Lionacleit is a community school and its canteen will be open to the public from 12.30-1pm, so come along and try it for yourselves, then tell us what you think.
Co-ordinating the project is Machair LIFE+ Community and Education officer, Hazel Smith, who adds: “This project is really important for Uist. It is vital that the next generation of crofters learn about goose management in order that a sustainable population of geese can be maintained in the future. Goose meat used to be a common dish on the Uist table, but for various reasons it seems to have become unpopular. The school dinners project aims to get everyone trying this hearty and healthy food again.”