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Snipe 'Butcher's treat'

Serves 4

I discovered this dish a few years ago while I was staying with the game specialists Ben and Silvy Weatherall in Dumfriesshire. Ben pulled this recipe out of an old cookbook by Prue Coats, Prue's New Country Cooking. It sounded like an idea of pure genius, a snipe baked in a potato. As you might know, a snipe doesn't have an awful lot of meat on the bone, so this sounded like an ideal and fun way to serve any of those tiny game birds, which also include teal or woodcock.

4 large baking potatoes

4 oven-ready snipe

A couple of good knobs of butter

4 sage leaves

A few sprigs of thyme

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 230C/gas 8 or the hottest it will go. Cut off a small piece of potato at the base so that it sits level. Cut about 1cm off the top for the lid and carefully hollow out the flesh from the potato with a small sharp knife, a grapefruit knife or a melon baller, leaving about one centimetre of thickness of potato all the way around. You can cook and mash up the potato to serve with the snipe, or simply season and butter the pieces and roast with a little chopped onion and bacon while the snipe is cooking. Put a knob of butter in the bottom of the potato, place the seasoned snipe on top then the rest of the butter on top with the sage and thyme.

Replace the lid and bake for about 30 minutes. A snipe usually only takes about 10 minutes but the surrounding potato is protecting it from the fierce heat. Serve immediately.