I reckon the stories in the newspapers have been rehashed for Christmas, because in fact it is blackcaps and other warblers which bear the brunt of the colossal Greek appetite, rather than robins. But robins will do just as well, and now is a good time of year to catch these shrill, bad tempered and aggressive creatures. The Cypriot dish is called Ambelopoulia (which sounds more Greek than Turkish to me), and here is my version of it. I think it would make a deliciously festive treat on, say, Boxing Day, when you are sick of turkey. However, you will need to catch your robins on Christmas Day because they must be marinated overnight. Catching them is not too difficult – they are very presumptuous at this time of the year and may approach within grabbing distance. However, best to copy the Cypriots and line a (low lying) tree branch with glue or resin and simply harvest them later. Better still, coat an official RSPB bird feeder with glue or resin. You might find the occasional wren or dunnock in the mix, but no matter, give them to the dog. Wrens have a rather bitter taste.
My recipe, for four people, is intended as a starter; so allow two birds per person.
-- Eight robins, plucked and with the skin cleaned with a damp cloth and rubbed in salt. Leave the intestine intact.
For the marinade:
-- The juice from six lemons
Mix the ingredients for the marinade in a Tupperware container. Coat the birds and leave them in the marinade over night, turning a couple of times. The lemon will tenderize the meat.
Next day, shove a kebab skewer or wooden skewer through the arsehole of each bird until it is securely fastened. Wipe the excess marinade from each corpse and rub over a little soft butter. Season with salt and pepper.
Heat the oil in a large heavy bottomed frying pan. When it is quite hot put the birds in the pan, with the skewers resting on the pan edge like the hands of a clock; you will need to turn the birds once every two minutes, ensuring the outside of each robin is crispy and with the suspicion of charring. You cannot beat slightly blackened robin.
Serve on a bed of garlic, chilli and coriander cous-cous, garnished with rocket. Voila.
I hope that this has been helpful. And I hope, too, that you have an absolutely wonderful Christmas. It has been a genuine pleasure debating stuff with you these last few months and long may it continue. I have the horrible feeling I might be back here on Christmas Day when, pissed and bored, I suddenly feel it is the right time to share with you more thoughts on crime statistics and race.
Happy Christmas to you all.