THE game season is in full swing and at last it is losing its reputation as a luxury food, eaten only in grand country houses.
Snipe, wild duck, shoveler, mallard, teal, widgeon, wood pigeon, partridge and woodcock are already in season.
Even if you don’t know a hunter (Marks & Spencer, as well as other supermarkets and farmers markets are beginning to sell game birds) one can experiment, escaping the tyranny of eternal chicken breast, farmed salmon and steak, the seemingly compulsory trinity of offerings on virtually every restaurant menu.
Now that pheasant and venison, at least, are more readily available, let’s become more adventurous. There’s so many more ways to cook game other than roasting and many more exciting accompaniments than gravy and bread sauce, much as I love them both.
Virtually every country has game, so it’s worth checking out recipes from around the globe. Introduce other techniques, other flavours, and a variety of wild berries, spices, dried fruit, pickles and herbs.
My favourite new book on game was written by Phil Vickery and Simon Boddy who wrote it with the express intention of introducing new ways to prepare cook and cure game. It’s like a total breath of fresh air and whereas they celebrate time-honoured traditions it’s choc-full of new recipes you’ll really want to cook and lots of excellent general knowledge about different type of game – plucking, hanging seasons. The evocative photos are by Peter Cassidy.
Here are a few recipes from Game, New Ways to Prepare, Cook and Cure by Phil Vickery and Simon Boddy courtesy of the publishers Kyle Cathie.
Warm Roast Duck with Broccoli, Radishes and Anchovy
Serves 2 as a main or 4 as a starter
I know you’re thinking this sounds a bit odd, but trust me — it works. The balance here is between the saltiness of the dressing and the richness of the pink-cooked wild duck. Oddly enough, the intense fish flavour works well in this dish and has become a favourite of mine. It also goes well with roasted saddle of hare.
2 wild duck crowns, twin breasts on the bone, wishbones removed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
4 salted anchovy fillets, finely chopped or mashed to a paste
3 tbsp roughly chopped fresh parsley
2 tbsp roughly chopped fresh tarragon
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
A pinch of sugar
15g (¾oz) rocket, finely chopped
2 tablespoons cold water
500g (18oz) broccoli, trimmed, leaving a few leaves – split any thick stalks so that all are about the same width
150g (5oz) radishes, finely sliced on the diagonal
Preheat the oven to 220C/Gas 7.
Heat the olive oil in an ovenproof frying pan.
Season the crowns inside and out with salt and pepper, then place skin side down in the hot oil and cook for 2–3 minutes until they start to colour. Transfer the pan to the oven and cook for 8 minutes.
Meanwhile, put the anchovies, herbs, extra virgin olive oil, sugar and salt and pepper in a bowl and whisk together.
Turn the duck skin side up and cook for a further 4–5 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, cover loosely with foil and leave to rest in a warm place for at least 15 minutes.
Add the rocket to the anchovy dressing and mix well with the water.
Cook the broccoli in a saucepan of salted boiling water until just tender. Drain well and keep warm.
To serve: Arrange the warm broccoli evenly on four plates and sprinkle with the radishes.
Carefully slice down either side of the breastbone to remove the four breasts from the crowns and then slice each breast at an angle. Dab the cut duck meat on a piece of kitchen towel to remove any excess blood.
Lay the duck meat over and under the broccoli, then spoon over the dressing.
Popcorn Pheasant with Spicy Dipping Sauce
On the face of it I know it sounds a bit weird adding condensed milk, but trust me it works. I picked up the idea when I was in America, and even using such a small amount really helps the flavour of the finished dish.
To me, it’s no different than marinating chicken in yogurt to tenderise it. Frying pheasant would never have been entertained when I was a young chef, but I think it does the job of sealing in the juices of this very low-fat bird very well.
Rapeseed oil, for frying
2 medium pheasant breasts, boned and skinned
3 tbsp condensed milk
2 tbsp cold water
2 medium eggs, lightly beaten
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A pinch of chilli powder
½ tsp ground cumin
2 tbsp cornflour
200g (7oz) fine-ground cornmeal or polenta
350ml (12fl oz) shop-bought mayonnaise
2 tsp roughly chopped fresh red or green chilli
3 tsp Dijon mustard
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 large unwaxed lime
2 large spring onions, roughly chopped
4 tsp chopped gherkins
3 tbsp chopped fresh tarragon
100g (3½ oz) roasted red pepper (jarred are fine), finely chopped
4 tbsp roughly chopped fresh parsley
4 tsp sugar
Pour 1cm rapeseed oil into a frying pan and heat to roughly 175C.
Cut the pheasant breasts into 2cm cubes, removing any sinew from the fillet and inner breast.
Combine the condensed milk with the water and eggs in a bowl and season well with the pepper, chilli powder and cumin. Beat together well.
Dust the nuggets of pheasant with the cornflour, then drop into the egg mixture and coat well. Repeat the same process with the cornmeal or polenta ensuring the nuggets are coated well.
While the oil is heating, mix all the ingredients for the dipping sauce together in a serving bowl, seasoning with salt and pepper.
Fry the pheasant in small batches for about 3-4 minutes until golden brown. Drain well, then sprinkle with a little salt
Serve hot with the dipping sauce separately.
Roast Snipe with Beet Curry and Crème Fraîche
These tiny birds are delicious; Clarissa Dickson Wright reckoned they were tastier than woodcock!
They are not often seen on menus these days, possibly because chefs think they aren’t worth the trouble. Well yes, I sort of agree with that, but once prepared and cooked they make a fine meal – it just depends on how many you can eat!
The sweetness of the beets in this dish offsets the curry spices and crème fraîche. Forget the knife and fork and pick the birds up to eat — all you need is a bib.
4 tbsp any oil
4 snipe, drawn and cleaned, heads removed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp any oil
½ tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp black onion (nigella or kalonji) seeds
½ tsp ground fenugreek
¼ tsp dried chilli with seeds
½ tsp ground turmeric
1 red onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tsp tomato purée
200ml (7 fl oz) game stock or chicken stock
500g (18 oz) cooked beetroot, any colour, cut into 5 mm (¼ inch) cubes
150g (5 oz) thick crème fraîche
A few sprigs of fresh coriander
Heat the oil in a saucepan, add all the spices and cook over a low heat for 1-2 minutes. Add the onion and garlic and cook gently for about 4-5 minutes until they start to take on a little colour on the edges.
Stir in the tomato purée and stock and bring to the boil, then simmer for 5 minutes or until reduced to roughly half the original volume.
Add the beetroot and cook again gently until the stock is well reduced and coating the beets nicely but not too thick. Check the seasoning and adjust if needed.
Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas 7.
Heat the oil in an ovenproof frying pan.
Season the snipe all over with salt and pepper, then place one side down in the hot oil, transfer to the oven and cook for 5 minutes.
At the 5-minute point, remove the pan from oven, turn the birds over onto the other side and return to the oven for a further 5 minutes.
Remove the pan from the oven; cover the birds loosely with foil and leave to rest in a warm place for 10 minutes.
Gently reheat the beetroot curry, trying not to break the beets up too much.
Remove the pan from the heat, add about 50g of the crème fraîche and swirl through. Keep off the heat.
To serve, place the snipe in warm bowls and spoon the curry alongside. Finish with a few sprigs of coriander and a small spoonful of crème fraîche on top of the beetroot.
Taken from GAME by Phil Vickery and Simon Boddy
Bees are under threat around the globe from a variety of diseases. Beekeepers tell me that the pollen from ivy flowers help keep the bees healthy throughout the winter months so resist the temptation to pull down the ivy. www.irishbeekeeping.ie
Home Smoking: If you adore smoked fish, meats and cheese then this is the course for you. In the space of a few hours you will learn how to build and operate your own very simple home smoker. Using our favourite recipes, we will show you how to smoke food in everything from a biscuit tin to a galvanised dustbin or timber barrel.
There is no reason why you shouldn’t be producing delicious smoked salmon, mackerel, duck breast, chicken, cheese and pancetta. We will tasting a lot of smoked foods during the course on Friday, October 30, 2-5pm. Details at: www.cookingisfun.ie
Use social and therapeutic horticulture to benefit people with learning disabilities. Thrive, the UK charity, is teaching atwo-day course on November 2 and 3 at the Cork Association for Autism.
Phone Emma Hutchinson at the association 086-7888-241 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or www.eventbrite.ie/e/therapeutic-horticulture-course-tickets-18733647845 to book a place.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved