Now that we’ve sadly said goodbye to summer – and the possibility of lighting the barbecue for a final fling – we’re turning our attention to all the things we have to look forward to in the kitchen. Hearty soups, deliciously meaty stews and all-round, good, old-fashioned comfort food to rival our grandmother’s.
But autumn also makes way for another seasonal trend: game. That’s right; game season is upon us – and here on the blog today, we’re bringing you some inspiration for cooking with everything from pheasant to grouse and partridge. Read on…
Carefully Select Your Meat
Now, this is arguably the most important part of ensuring you get game right. Assuming that you aren’t able to join a shoot to get your own, there are a few other ways to source game meat. Firstly, find a reputable supplier and make sure you seek out prime cuts – like loin or the breasts. If, for example, you’re cooking venison, the joins like the haunch (leg) are a good place to start. Cook them slowly and they’ll taste amazing.
But which are the most popular game birds here in the UK? Pheasant, partridge and grouse are right up there, of course. Try to buy whole carcasses of game birds, where possible. Make sure the head and feet are still attached, as this will be the best indicator of how old the bird is, as well as its overall quality.
Secondly, did you know that you can often buy pan and oven-ready game direct from your local butcher? Lastly, most supermarkets also stock game meat, as will farm shops and online suppliers. If you go down this route, make a beeline for moist cuts which are also well-shaped. Avoid dry spots, or meat that looks discoloured – and always ensure the game smells fresh.
Cook with Consideration
You don’t often see novices cooking game – and it’s for good reason. While preparing a meal with game isn’t necessarily rocket science, it is usually cooked by those who know a thing or two about being in the kitchen. Your biggest challenge with game will be to keep it moist, since the absence of a lot of fatty tissue means that it’ll dry very quickly if you overcook it. Basting is key, here, as is covering the meat while slow cooking it. Don’t forget to flavour it well, too. For example, prunes and apricots work beautifully with partridge. Have a play around with flavours, too, as many a keen cook has stumbled upon a great pairing by simply being bold enough to experiment. Another tip is to pair game meat with other fattier meats for instance a venison burger mixed with ground bacon or pancetta and an egg yolk will help keep the burgers moist and add lots of richness and flavour.
Get Your Money’s Worth
We live in an increasingly wasteful society, so it’s as important as ever to ensure you’re really getting the most out of the food you cook. When preparing game, for example, you could keep back the kidneys and livers to make pâté, adding onion or butter and garlic and spreading it on toasted bread or brioche. Make sure you store your game correctly, too. Game should be plucked and drawn (gutted) after hanging, before it can be frozen or chilled. Keep fresh game in the coldest part of your fridge and make sure you cook it (and eat it) within one to two days.
Where to start
If you’re interested in cooking with game, we recommend giving the below recipes a whirl:
Braised Venison Cobbler – Paul Welburn serves rich, braised venison haunch topped with fluffy horseradish scones for a unique twist on a cobbler.
Pan Roasted Venison Saddle, sausage, elderberry huntsman sauce, pear and parsnip purée – A more intricate and ambitious recipe. Paul Welburn’s dish featuring venison loin would excite the taste buds of your dinner party guests.
Do you have any top tips for cooking or preparing game? Do let us know by commenting below.