Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Game On

     Far too excited by the start of the season to let go of this one...
Game on!

Common Pheasant, Male/Cock


     The flesh of wild animals, birds or fish hunted for food or 'sport'.  Where possible always go for the wild option.  Farmed rabbits are a bit of a joke when compared to their wild cousins.  The exception being venison.  There are loads of great farmed venison around that would not be shown up by the wild stuff.  Deer really being an all year thing now, although it still feels like winter fare.  
     The key to success with game is to not overcook and don't get too hung up on hanging.  Nothing is worse to eat, or more of a waste, than a pheasant roasted too long or a mallard breast gone grey, forced to 'well done' by an inexperienced diner or cook.  A pheasant needs only a week hung outside your back door in cool weather.  Don't feel you have to wait until the head is ready to come apart from the body.  This is misguided taste bud bravado.  Devon is full of game, consult your local butcher...or, just befriend that mad looking fellow at the end of the bar that has a bit of a smell to him...
     One thing is for certain, we can't entirely blame the blood thirsty toffs for the waste after a shoot.  Supply and demand is the name of the game.  Eat more of it and they won't have to plough dead birds back into the land.  Personal favourites- (besides pigeon of course) hare & venison.  Wild salmon, trout and zander are equally as epic. 

Not for Canadian consumption

     And what of Canada?  The years fly by and I struggle to clutch at childhood memories... Dad bringing home bear...always fun to be scared by your food before you tuck in.  My Pa and Great Grandpa once trappers...uncles hunting...home made bullets and gun rooms.  Seems my generation just slipped through the net or- family elders were too freakin' lazy to pass the knowledge on.  There always seemed to be elk or moose about in season.  I remember the flavours being strong and the meat generally tough.  Wish I could get my hands on these beasts now and treat them with skill and respect.  Canadian game was probably never presented to me by an experienced hand.  No slow cooking to a tender end or rare tenderloins.  Just well done everything.  And what of grouse?  I remember seeing loads of grouse...don't remember anyone eating it.  So good.  The Scottish stuff can cost 30 or 40 quid a brace.   Some people eat Canadian geese over here...just can't bring myself to sample.  Just wouldn't be kosher of me.

from back door to plate.

Cock and hen at peace.

Truly Plucked.

'Moroccan Style Pheasant Salad'
 Raz el Hanout Dusted Breast, Barley 'Cous Cous' & Maddocks Farm Winter Leaves

     Game is great for terrines.  Loads of flavour, lots of trim to be used up and varying colours.  Robust wild animals marry well with fruity, tangy autumn flavours such as blackberries, quince and sloes but to name a few.   I think of terrines of coarse pate as posh meatloaf.  A chefs' favourite due to being economical, visual and quick for service.  Simply slice and serve.  The perfect dish for a 200-cover Saturday night.  I highly recommend every adventurous home cook to give terrines a go.  Once mastered, the possibilities are endless.  Great for dinner parties as you can make them five or six days in advance.  They only get better after a few days as the flavours have a chance to meld.  Interestingly, any concoction layered in a glass is called a 'verrine'.

Local Game Terrine
Rowswell Farm Quince Jelly & Pistachio

Ingredients for 1 terrine:
(I recommend Le Creuset's Volcanic Range mould for quality, style & tradition.)

1kg Game meat to include all or a selection of: 
Breasts of pheasant, pigeon, partridge and/or mallard, saddles & hindquarters of wild rabbit, hare and/or strips of venison loin.   
Reserve offal and soak in milk over night.
350gm Streaky bacon
500gm Pork sausage meat or minced pork
100gm Fresh breadcrumbs
75gm Toasted pistachios
15-20 Dried apricots
8 Crushed juniper berries
3 Cloves minced garlic
3 Slices of lemon
3 Bay leaves
3 Tbsp Flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
3 Eggs
A few sprigs of chopped fresh thyme
Splash of brandy
Splash of port or red wine
Salt & freshly ground black pepper


1)  Flatten out the bacon with the back of a knife.
2)  Line the terrine mould with overlapping slices of streaky bacon, leaving enough over the sides to cover the top of the terrine.
3) Mince 500gm of the game trims, reserve the breasts and prime cuts for layering the terrine.
4) In a large mixing bowl, combine the sausage meat or minced pork and the minced game.
5) Chop finely the drained offal and add to the mix.
6) Add the breadcrumbs, eggs, parsley, thyme, juniper, garlic, alcohol and season well.
7) Mix thoroughly.
8) Fry off a small morsel to test for seasoning.
9) Season the remaining prime cuts.
10) Line the terrine mould.  Add a layer of forcemeat followed by a layer of game pieces, followed by dried apricots and toasted pistachios.  Repeat this process until the dish is full.
11) Bang the terrine down a few times to help release any air pockets and fold the bacon over the top.
12) Place the thin slices of lemon down the centre of the terrine and top with the bay leaves.  Cover with the lid.
13) Cook at 85-90 degress Celsius for 1.5-2 hours or until you achieve an internal temperature that probes to 65  degrees.
14) Fashion a piece of cardboard the same size as the top of the terrine and cover with tin foil.
15) Remove the lid of the terrine and place the foil fashioned lid on top with a heavy object such as a brick.  Pressing your terrine overnight with ensure perfection.

To serve:

Slice a thick piece, taking care to cut evenly with a sharp, thin bladed knife and serve with quince jelly or any number of fruity, tangy chutneys.  For extra finesse you could toast some pistachios and grind to a powder to cover the edge of the terrine slices.  A big red wine to accompany, port or ale.

     Quince is very abundant around the West Country.  So fragrant and hearty...and oft forgotten.This apple pear is very simple to prepare, (Yet time consuming) as a jelly due to being pectin rich.  Plutarch reported that Greek brides would nibble quince to perfume their kiss before entering the bridal chamber.  It was a quince that Paris awarded Aphrodite.  Ancient and elegant...even if you have no designs to cook them...a bowl left on the table to slowly ripen will fill the house with a subtle perfume.

     I probably haven't finished with this topic yet...mmmm...game.  Any Canucks out there got any good recipes/anecdotes about local fare?  I need to get back to my roots. 


  1. Garlic Roasted Duck

    2 Tbsp fish sauce
    4 cloves garlic
    1 c red wine vinegar
    1 large brown onion coarsly chopped
    2 tsp juniper berries
    2 tsp fennel seeds
    4 duck wing portions
    2 Tbsp yogurt

    Combine fish sauce, garlic, vinegar, onion, berries and seeds in bowl. Place duck in shallow dish; pour over vinegar mixture. Cover and refrigerate over night.
    Remove duck from marinade, reserve marinade.
    Place duck skin-side up on wire rack over baking dish; bake uncovered about 45 minutes at 375F or until tender.
    Place reserved marinade in small saucepan; simmer uncovered about 5 min or until slightly thickened, strain. Stir in yogurt to sauce, serve with duck.

    Very good.

  2. Grilled Venison Steaks

    Prepare marinade using oranges, lemons, limes, olive oil and zest from all fruit above. Add crushed garlic, crushed mustard seed & rosemary. Place 4 venison steaks into marinade and refrigerate over 4 days, turning often. On grilling day take out early to allow meat to come to room temperature.
    Prepare barbeque grill and place meat on grill to medium rare. Let steak rest, slice against grain and serve. Very tender and full of flavour. This was a hit for us at a barbeque.

  3. We recently had a feast of grouse from our latest hunting trip; yes, I have taken all the courses and do have my hunting license.

    Bag said grouse. Bring home and prepare a large pot of boiling water and one large pot of very cold water. Grab and large bag as this is a messy business. We went outside to the deck and set up on a table. Dip grouse in hot water bath, bring out and pluck. Plunge in cold bath, slice, remove innards, keep what you might want (heart, gizzard,liver etc.)
    When you know all the feathers and pin feathers are removed and the grouse is cleaned chill overnight. Next day prepare a savoury style stuffing and stuff and roast similar to a chicken or turkey.

    Another way to cook grouse that we have enjoyed is just using the breast portion. Rub grouse breast on both sides with good quality olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Heat a cast iron fry pan and place grouse breast to sear on both sides then turn down heat and cook quickly till done. Rest and slice. So much flavour, each bite was a wonderful experience.

  4. Hi Momma! Nice one on the grouse. I have served the breasts raw as a carpaccio with a little lemon oil dressing, grated horseradish and rocket. The only prep is to freeze for an hour first, slice as thinly as possible with a thin, sharp blade and plate. Allow to come to room temp before dressing and serving.