Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

rook Corvus frugilegus, possibly the only member of the crow family which is still eaten, although rarely, in Britain. The range of this bird extends across the boreal and temperate zones of Europe and Asia as far as China. It is known for its hoarse ‘caw’ and its habit of breeding in large colonies known as rookeries (one of which, in Aberdeenshire, comprised nearly 7,000 nests in the 1950s). Its reputation as food has never been high, but in some parts of the north of England, for example, rook pie has been an established dish. As so often, Cassell’s Dictionary of Cookery (various editions before and after 1900) gives a balanced view, to accompany a detailed recipe:

The rook affords a dry and coarse meat. A pie made of young rooks is tolerable; at least, it is the best form for using these birds as food … Rooks require long stewing, or they will not be tender. The breasts are the only parts of the birds which are really worth using.