Archive | Game

Recipe | Venison pasties

Its raining……nothing.

Skiing, when snowfall has been, poor gets rather tricky. Beach holidays without the sun are pretty miserable. Camping in torrential rain is not much fun ( well actually camping in any weather is not my idea of fun) and fishing weeks without water are impossible.   So when I headed up to the beats on the river Findhorn ( this is a technical term for parts of the river you fish and not a highlands music festival in case you wondered) it was somewhat alarming it had not rained in a while and none was imminently due.

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Recipe | Garlic, garlic and Pheasant casserole

Phestive Pheasant Phun…

“Welcome to Scotland, Its -6 °C”! the cheerful staff at Enterprise car hire chirped.

I think if they had looked closely at my 5 layers, hat, gloves, fur lined boots, hunched shoulders and hopping around moves, they would have been well aware that I had totally sussed that part of the situation out.

Winning top prize for the most polite and helpful car hire location ever they helped me gather my luggage which included suitcase, aprons, knives and half a butchers shop, chip through the ice cube in which my car was apparently hiding, triple checked I had everything I needed and knew where I was off to then practically waved me off with off with marching bands and a ticker tape parade. I glanced in the mirror as I slipped through the exit barrier to witness the dabbing of wet eyes and the Enterprise team dishing out moral boosting hugs (OK that last bit I actually imagined but they were just SO unbelievably nice). Heart and mood well warmed I headed northwards to Perthshire to cook for a weekend that promised to be filled with fun, pheasants and frivolity.

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Recipe | Venison Scotch egg

My Fair Lady meets Braveheart

From an early age much of my time has been spent on and off stage so I’m well aware of what it takes to make a production run smoothly. All going well on the face of it we see the actors entering and exiting at the appropriate moments,  impressively and seamlessly remembering their lines (we hope) and brilliantly drawing us into their world.   What we tend to forget as an audience member however is how much work has to go on backstage to achieve all this.

People have been working tirelessly on costumes, props and  scenery.  Directors, musicians , techies and other crew have all shed blood, sweat and probably tears to get the show on the road and not to mention the gentle cajoling , ego massaging, support and camaraderie that has gone on to hold it all together by everyone.

What has all this got to do with venison sausage rolls I hear you ask?! And how can she possibly link this thespian theme to her latest job cooking for a Highland partridge shoot? Well…

Up on the Cawdor estate near Inverness, it’s hard not to get drawn into a dramtic mood, not least because it is the home of the Scottish Play (or Macbeth for those of you who are less superstitious). Add 42,000 acres of extraordinary Highland landscape, endlessly changing light, some of the best field sport in the country and boundless amounts of fresh air and you can understand how one can easily become theatrical.

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Recipe |Wild Suckling Boar with roasted quince

whisk

Boar to death, literally.

“Where are you off to now”? my mother asks as I fly out the door.
“London then heading East to Gloucester for that pheasant shoot”
“Erm, Philippa dear, Gloucester is West of London and didn’t you say it was Herefordshire?”
“Ah yes, don’t worry, Ive got it all sussed”! then off I dashed…

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The truth is I did have my travel all sussed but my mind was a little pre occupied on what I was going to cook that weekend. My client had just emailed telling me I had two wild boar piglets to play with. I was somewhat excited and partly wondering if they meant dead, or that I would have them running round my feet in the kitchen. You never know…

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I arrived and was delighted to find out they did mean dead. I have cooked suckling pig before, though admittedly it was a quite few years ago when I worked at Moro in London. I remember slowly roasting them in the wood oven with the effect of having meat so tender that you could carve it with a cazuela. The meat is so young that the flavour is still milky and totally delicious.

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Before I arrived West in Herefordshire I managed to spend a good bit of time researching on the Internet tips and techniques on cooking suckling pigs (there was nothing on wild boar piglets having said that) though surprisingly there wasn’t that much. There were quite a few Spanish videos that involved drinking cerveza whilst watching the stuffed piglet on a charcoal pit and an excellent one by the formidable Fanny Cradock (who I could happily watch regardless of what she was actually cooking) jollily rubbing the piglets in oil, roasting them then once cooked decorating them with garlands and poking flowers in their eyes. I didn’t particularly go down either of these routes.

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Wild boar have been absent from the wilds of Britain for a good few hundred years (research tells me anything from 300 – 700 years). It wasn’t until the 1980s that it was officially recognised they were back. This was due to boar farms having a few ‘escapees’ and breeding rather well. The reestablishment of wild boar seems to not without its debate, as does the culling of them. Their numbers were probably dramatically reduced to nothing due to overhunting by humans but recent reintroduction has not been without its controversies.

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Wild boar have started to cause agricultural damage (mostly to fences and crops) and although they prefer to forage the woodland floor for food they have also started to enjoy, particularly when natural food is scarce, foraging in people’s allotments and gardens. They can be rather boisterous toward humans and dogs especially when with their young. There is also a possible risk of passing on diseases to farm animals. As they are wild it is hard to give exact numbers but numbers are certainly increasing. This helped soothe the guilt as I sprinkled the cute creatures with salt and massaged olive oil over their little bodies before popping them in the oven.

This Week,

I’m loving: Fanny Cradock videos.
Every home should have: some woods.
Mince Pie clementine ratio in grams : 3:2
I’m traveling: by train (West).
Butter cooked with : 12 packs
Eggs used : 91

Slow roast suckling wild boar with roasted quince.

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Feeds 8 -12 depending on hunger levels and size of piglet.

Although ours were tiny they yielded a fair bit of meat, there is something spectacular about cooking and serving a whole animal so I would seriously consider adding a piglet to your Christmas feasting table.

2 wild boar piglets (about 2 – 3 kilo each in weight).
20g thyme on the stalk
6 stalks of rosemary
4 heads of garlic cut horizontally in half.
1 small handful of parsley stalks
4 apples cut into quarters
6 banana shallots peeled and roughly chopped
4 tbs olive oil
3 tbs crushed juniper berries
½ bottle red wine
300ml light meat stock (could be game / beef / or chicken).

5 quince
2 tbs honey
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp crushed cardamom seeds.

Pre heat the oven to 200° C

For the quinces
Wash the fluff off the quinces and cut into ¼ ‘s.
Toss with the spices and honey then lay them on a roasting tin with the wine.
Cover with parchment and foil and place in the oven.
Bake for about an hour then once just soft remove the foil and parchment and let them caramelise on the top shelf for a further 15 – 20 mins.

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For the piglets
Make sure the wild boar piglets have their entrails removed and the cavity looks clean – with wild meat I often give it a wipe with a damp clean cloth. Stuff with the apple, shallots, thyme, parsley stalks and rosemary.
Lie them belly down in a roasting tin like an Egyptian jackal with their legs all stretching forward (sadly ours had no head but if yours do and you want to stuff an apple in it at the end place a ball of foil in its mouth whilst cooking then remove and replace with an apple when about to serve).

Sprinkle with salt then rub all over with olive oil then with the juniper berries.
Place in the oven for 30 mins on high then remove. Lower the oven to 160 ° C add the stock and wine , lightly cover with baking parchment and foil and return to the oven for 2 – 3 hours or until the meat is super tender.

Leave the meat to rest for 20 mins then shred from the bone, serve with the warm quinces . This goes really well with lots of lovely roasted veggies and greens or you could do a winter coleslaw, potato wedges and brioche buns.

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(Sunday morning survivors party)

Next postcard from … The West Highlands (yes I am sure in what direction I am heading)

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Recipe | Pheasant au Vin

whisk

 Fun and Game

At this stage in the game season I have noticed it is definitely the keen beans, the obsessed and the hardy that do most of the shooting in Scotland. It is of course still incredibly beautiful up there and yes there should still be a good bag of game to be had BUT it can also be bloody cold.

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So those that really love it and have a certain amount of experience at the climate are still game to don their tweeds and Barbours, be up and out at a reasonable hour and spend all the light the day gives standing in the great outdoors battling wind, rain and the cold in order pursue their love of field sports. I am always impressed (and possibly slightly smug as I get to spend the day in the toasty warm kitchen).

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Food, being an integral part of the weekend, needs to be plentiful, delicious, regular and warming. It was mentioned on the third day however of the long weekend that one of the guests began to feel like a fois gras duck as they pretended to waddle back out into the cold after lunch.

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We had designed the menus so firstly guests could help themselves which seems to be the most popular way these days especially when eating over a couple of days and people’s appetites vary and secondly that they contained lots of interesting vegetable dishes and winter salads to keep a healthy balance.

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It definitely should be noted that due to the tremendous energy needed all round for a shoot weekend, a lot of food is required. Long sociable dinners, early (ish) mornings, 5 to 6 hours out shooting (this in itself is impressive as lifting a gun to your shoulder at regular intervals requires  certain degree of  stamina and fitness) and of course the weather all make it a fun but full on weekend.  From a chef’s perspective, it is of course also rather full on and from a gun dog’s… well the excitement is exhausting!

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This week:

Eggs consumed: 91

Every home should have: T. Goodge China

Butter consumed: 13 blocks

Dogs ‘helping’ cook: 5

Mince pies verses clementines personally consumed: 2:1

I’m listening to: John Tavenor

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Recipe

Cooking with game at this stage in the season can require a little more love and attention. Often the meat is slightly tougher as it has been cajoled into flying about the place and had to start to contend with cooler weather.

For this dish it simply means cooking the breasts and legs separately or adding the breasts to the casserole dish at a later stage this is so they get a shorter amount of cooking time and the legs can slowly cook so everything becomes tender.

Chips of course are irresistible but I have noticed many people prefer not to be deep-frying things in their home due to the smell it can create. Homemade oven chips are a great solution and are very delicious (though if I am being honest, I would not win a chip battle against some duck fat triple fried chips).

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Pheasant au vin with confit garlic oven baked chips.

Serves 4

1 brace of pheasants plucked and cleaned

3 tbs butter

3 tbs olive oil plus

4 banana shallots peeled and chopped in half lengthways

6 bay leaves

1 small bunch of thyme

12 sage leaves

8 slices of streaky smoked bacon (Heston is currently selling a range in Waitrose which is top notch)

2 leeks washed and chopped into 2 cm chunks

1/3 bottle of good red wine (don’t cook with wine you wouldn’t drink)

12 chestnut mushrooms

400ml game stock (can be made out of the pheasant carcasses)

Confit garlic

2 heads of garlic

2 tbs olive oil

Chips

100ml veg oil

600g waxy potatoes

Pre heat the oven to 180 °C.

Peel the garlic cloves and mix with the 2 tbs olive oil. Roast in a baking dish for about 10 – 15 mins or golden and soft. Keep to one side.

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Wash and cut the potatoes into chip shape.

Bring a large pan of salted boiling water to the boil and blanch the chips in 2 batches for a couple of minutes  (you want the water to come back to a boil and bubble for a minute). Drain.

Lay them flat on a tray lined with baking paper and let them steam for a couple of minutes.

Drizzle with the veg oil then roast at the top of the oven for about 1 hour, turning occasionally.

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For the pheasant au vin

Separate the breast and leg meat

In a large frying pan, heat the 1 tbs oil and 1 tbs butter then gently sear the meat till golden.

Season with salt and pepper and remove to 2 casserole dishes (breasts in one and legs in another).

In the same pan, gently sauté the shallots in another 1 tbs of butter and olive oil, when golden, split between the casserole dishes.

Finally in the frying pan, add the last of the butter and olive oil and sauté the leeks, bacon and herbs for about 10 minutes, split between the two casserole dishes.

Deglaze the frying pan with a splash of red wine and add to a casserole dish then split the stock and red wine between the two, and lightly cover with baking paper then foil.

Bake the legs in the oven for about 1 – 1 ½ hours, the meat should be tender and the breasts for about ½ hour, they should be just cooked through.

Bring out of the oven, combine the two casserole dishes and stir through the confit garlic. Check for seasoning then serve hot with a sprinkling of parsley and the chips.

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Next postcard from party central W11 London…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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