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Mrs Beefy's Cookery Corridor
Hello, readers. Thank you all for your responses to my last column, Cooking For Herbert Beale, Leeds LS4. I received a very nice letter from a Mr Beale in Yorkshire saying he'd been sent my recipe by a friend and enjoyed it greatly. His friend had clearly infringed my copyright - the proof was in the pudding - but she agreed to settle out of court. I've treated myself to a new pinny out of the rather handsome proceeds.

This time I'm going to tell you how to cook a family of baboons. In Victorian times, Cook would usually keep a pen of baboons in the kitchen garden for the traditional St Swithen's Day meal. Nowadays, with the popularity of high-rise flats, few of you will have access to your own "troop" which is rather a shame, but shouldn't put you off attempting this delightful, old-fashioned roast.

People often say to me, "Baboons? Aren't they terribly expensive?", but really, nothing could be further from the truth. One can purchase a ticket to one of the many Safari Parks set in inferior stately homes for around 15 (check for special offers) and sacks are available from any good garden centre for mere pennies. I had to laugh reading Delia Smith's recipe where she advises, "Pull up sharply and bundle four to six baboons into your car." Really! Take it from me, this is doing it the hard way. The method I employ is to identify the leader of the troop and then lure her (the hierarchy is organised around females) into your vehicle with boiled sweets. The key is to get the animal to sit in a child's seat you've placed in the rear, then a quick flick of the straps - practise on a medium-sized dog until you get the movement down pat - and it's securely fastened.

If you're cooking for one, at this point you can simply place a wide-brimmed hat on your baboon and drive away with the guards none the wiser. Otherwise, use its cries to attract its fellows into your car, clubbing and sacking each one in turn until you have enough for your table. Don't be distracted by their thrashing claws - the real inconvenience is the creatures' powerful jaws. A mature baboon can easily take your hand off at the wrist, which will be problematic when it comes to preparing the sauce.

Once you've returned home you can begin readying the baboons for cooking. A length of heavy pipe and a Stanley knife will accomplish the job, but I prefer to hire a chainsaw, strip down and then have my husband release the group into the bathroom en masse - it's a great way of getting rid of tension! Be sure to keep the baboons' clawed hands to use as decoration for the meal. Your guests will often want to take one home with them as they make fine conversation pieces and can be used in any number of minor rituals.

Pre-heat the oven - yes, I know I always say that, but it really does make all the difference - and cook each baboon for three hours on gas mark 4. You can now get microwaves that will hold a whole baboon but the carcasses have various hollows and air pockets and tend to go off with the force of a land mine. Some Japanese manufacturers do allow for damage from exploding baboons in their warranties, but it's best to avoid having that argument in your local branch of Comet, I've found.

Once your baboons are cooked - the outside should be crispy but meat still moist - serve with new potatoes and a mushroom sauce. I'm not one for watching my weight, but I find I can rarely finish a whole baboon in one sitting. Nevertheless, one per guest, with perhaps a side plate of salad, is the way to go. A central roast of one of the higher apes is perfectly acceptable, but with baboons the experience is diminished without the hunched figure on a plate in front of each guest. As a complement, I find a bottle of Tizer goes down well.

And that's it! As always, keep it simple... and happy eating!
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