Few things symbolise British winter food more than game does. Here are some of my favourite ideas for seasonal British game.
If you live in the countryside, especially in a small community, it is very likely that you will know people who shoot and will be given a brace of pheasants occasionally. In my parents’ village the local ferret man would regularly hand over a brace of rabbits for the price of a pint – his hobby nicely funded his drinking!
If you do not have a local source then buy your game from a game butcher or most supermarkets. Butchers and supermarkets have one overall advantage: you do not have to deal with the plucking or skinning, drawing and hanging which I think puts many people off.
Do not be scared of game. It tends to be a lean meat, so to stop it drying out cook it in liquid by pot roasting, stewing or casseroling. Alternatively, add some fat, bacon and pancetta being particularly popular.
From feathers …
1. Pigeon, Partridge and shiitake pate
This rich pate, packed with partridge, pigeon, pork belly & pancetta is flavoured with shiitake mushrooms and a generous amount of Madeira. The chopping and cutting is fairly time consuming, but this would make a lovely first course for a dinner party. Get the recipe.
2. Pot roast pheasant with pancetta, apples and a bread gravy
By roasting a pancetta wrapped pheasants breast, then turning at the end of cooking you get both tender meat, and crispy pancetta. Coupled with a practically self-making gravy, this recipe is a winner for a relaxed Saturday night supper when you don’t want to worry about the cooking. Get the recipe.
3. Roast grouse with braised lentils and ButterNut squash
I think the game birds lend themselves very well to being paired with the earthy flavours of lentils. In this recipe—from the wondrously, and appropriately named Ros Goodgame—grouse is swaddled in pancetta, roasted and then served on a bed of lentils and roasted butternut squash. Get the recipe.
4. Smoked wood pigeon salad
For a lighter dish I like the look of this home tea smoked wood pigeon salad with thyme and walnuts. When smoking meat at home be sure to open windows and crank the extractor fan up to highest highest setting. Alternatively substitute with ready-smoked meat if you do not want to smoke your home out. Get the recipe.
… To fur
5. Rustic Venison Pot Roast
This American venison pot roast with radish, carrot and turnips is made with the freshest of venison that had been killed and butchered the same day, then tenderised by brining in a mix of molasses and rosemary. Cooked slowly in a cast iron casserole the tough lean meat becomes tender. Get the recipe.
6. Tuscan Rabbit with Pancetta and Rosemary
This Tuscan inspired dish braises the rabbit in tomato, with fennel, herbs and pancetta and balsamic vinegar to add richness. Served the Italian way with Parmesan polenta, it is the perfect introduction to cooking with, or eating rabbit. Get the recipe.
7. Venison burgers
Venison is very lean so these venison burgers are virtually fat free. Serving a familiar dish with a different ingredient is perfect for introducing picky eaters to game. Get the recipe.
8. Hare cottage pie
Another twist on the familiar is this recipe for hare cottage pie with a twice-baked mashed potato topping. Make in a large dish for an informal family supper, or dress up in individual dishes for a more sophisticated feel. Delicious with rabbit too. Get the recipe.
9. Slow Cooked Venison Sausage Casserole
My slow cooker seems in constant use in the winter. There is something very comforting at having a meal slowly cooking all day, ready for when you get home. This winter one-pot warmer is venison sausages, slowly cooked with borlotti beans, mushrooms and passata. Delicious. Get the recipe.
10. Non-Edible Wreath
And lastly, although not edible I could not resist sharing this pheasant feather wreath, almost a reason to pluck your own so you get the feathers! Make your own feather wreath.
Read more articles from Helen Best-Shaw