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The Cleaver

03 Dec 2023 6 minute read
Autumn deer. Illustration by Kate Cleaver.

A bit of writing about being neurodivergent, disabled, ethnic and a woman in Wales.

Kate Cleaver

As November melds into early December it marks the lead up to Christmas for me. This is when I decide what to choose for Christmas presents.

This year of course that decision has been a little different as we are all being hit with the cost of everything. Just to do the Christmas meal has been an effort to look for vouchers and discounts. But in the most part I have taken whatever offer I could find, and the result has been some great savings.


One that R and I sat down to consider was the venison. I get that it is an expensive meat but there is one way you can get is cheaply and that is direct from source. I did consider not mentioning this as it has mixed reactions, but you must remember that I wasn’t always a writer living in Swansea.

Backyard stuff

Back in the year 2000 my family moved from Staffordshire to Wales. At the time I wasn’t well, so I came with them. The dream of my parents was to own a self-sufficient smallholding and they came close.

The result was that by 2010 we were eating most of what we grew, and we had a small chicken farm. Only backyard stuff but we had turkeys, geese, chickens and ducks all of which we used for eggs and meat. We also had pigs and sheep.

In all, I guess it should have been a very cheap existence but there was always vet bills and feed bills. We never sold the meat but would freeze it and eat it over twelve months or so.


What has this got to do with venison? Well, there is a local park near to me that has deer. They must thin the herd and as a result they offer the animals to the public. There is a catch though. You don’t get it butchered. I mean, it comes skinned and gutted and all the gross bits, but it is essentially a whole carcass.

My self-sufficient side immediately perked up and had a look at the website. It would be a stretch but a cheap way to get a good quality meat.

So, I took the plunge. Luckily a friend does the same and she offered to give me a hand to collect it and I could butcher it alongside hers. That is the catch. You need to know how to butcher or be willing to take the plunge and learn on the job.

Fifteen meals

So, we now have a freezer with some venison in. The odd thing is that, although it has been six years since I tried anything like this, the knowledge came back, and I was done before my friend. Although you do have to consider that I had the smallest deer I could get.

Still, I was chuffed with myself. I remembered. You may think that it is a horrid way to live, to butcher your own meat, but if you think about it there is no difference ethically between eating a plastic wrapped joint to collecting your venison from a park.

I choose to eat meat, so really, I ought to be okay butchering it. Luckily, I am, and it has resulted in a fair amount of meat. I think I worked out that I have 15 meals in all.

Now we just got to work out what to do with all the cuts of venison. That is the other issue with getting in a carcass, you use everything. So far, we have tried the roast and a stew, and I can say we preferred the stew to the roast but that was to do with venison being a very lean meat.


Apart from my venture into venison I have also decided to create hampers for the family this year. All the kids are older, and they have their own houses and apartments. They all also have their own wages and if they need anything ‘big’ then they will buy it.

I don’t want to clutter up their homes with unwanted gifts, so I decided the hamper is the way to go. I can pop in a little personal gift and then goodly bits to eat. R is very good at making jam and I love baking.

Put that all together and I think is a great idea that could be cost effective. I can even put in vegetable seeds and such. I can’t wait to design each one to fit the person.

Sugar biscuits. Photo by Kate Cleaver

Sugar biscuits

One of the things I have been trying is biscuits for the hamper. This let me come across a recipe for sugar biscuits. I gave it a little tweak and thought you all might like to have a look at it.

The biscuits are the type that melt in the mouth but are crisp. As you might think, they do contain a high quantity of sugar but here is my take on them.

Sugar Biscuits (Cleaver style)

100g icing sugar
100g butter (melted)
2 egg
1tsp vanilla or flavour of your choice. You could pop a spice in if you want.
30g cornflour (the type you use to thicken soups with)
300g plain flour – if you have it use 00 pasta flour.

Beat the sugar and butter together until it is almost white. Beat in the egg and the vanilla flavouring (I used a Madagascar vanilla essence). Fold in the cornflour and plain flour. Knead it into a soft dough. Pop in the fridge for about 30 minutes.

Once cold, roll out on a floured surface until 6mm thick. Then cut the shapes you want. I found small flowers, stars and rounds work well. Then pop them on a baking tray. Cook at 200C for about 10-15 minutes.


Then icing. I am terrible at icing but even my poor attempt doesn’t look too bad in the tin. I sprinkled mine with blue sugar sprinkles, but you can do what ever you want.

The ones I have done are only trial ones, but the final biscuits will be placed in an old Kilner jar I have cleaned up. Then a little ribbon and you have a great gift.

This recipe will make about 50 tiny biscuits or about 20 normal sized ones. I would simply have a go and I know that your icing will look ten times better than mine.

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