You’d be hard-pressed to find a leaner and more free-range meat than game so give Tom Norrington-Davies’ flavoursome autumnal dishes a try.
I am a textbook summer baby. I thrive in the warmer months. In the winter I tend to retreat into my shell. You’d expect no less from a true Cancerian. While I don’t exactly relish the thought of the nights drawing in, there is something magical about the onset of autumn. It’s that first crisp morning that gets me, every time. I love it when it comes laced with the smell of a distant bonfire.
I also think autumn is the best time to be in the kitchen. As plentiful as summer is, there is more to get your teeth into during autumn. A pumpkin is more of a challenge than a tomato, for example.
If you like to cook seasonally, perhaps now more than ever it is the wild stuff that steals the show. Wild mushrooms and the bounty of the hedgerow can’t be missed. Then there is game. But not, it would seem, for everyone.
I find it bizarre that we don’t consume more game in the UK. It should tick all the right boxes for the ethically minded and the health-conscious. You’d be hard pressed to find meat more free-range or lean. Somewhere along the way, however, a number of myths have surrounded game that really need exploding. Shooting parties decked head to toe in Harris Tweed, and the premiums people pay for grouse around the beginning of the season (‘the Glorious 12th’) have given game a reputation as expensive ‘Hooray Henry’ food. In fact, a lot of it is cheap as chips, especially at the height of the season.
And it’s not, as many believe, hard to come by. Larger Sainsbury’s and Waitrose stores are stocking pheasant and venison, and some Sainsbury’s will have British rabbit and pigeon. Otherwise, you may need to visit a good butcher. The myths that most besmirch the reputation of game are mainly kitchen-based, but it is not hard to prepare. It doesn’t need to be almost rotten before you cook it, and it certainly needn’t be a) as tough as old boots or b) rare to the point of looking downright gory on the plate. There is a bit of machismo surrounding game cookery. Some people like it ultra-‘gamey’ and ultra-raw but, cooked carefully, it is as versatile as any meat.
One more thing: that slightly tweedy, ‘olde worlde’ image of game also makes some people think it only lends itself to rib-sticking plates of brown food. These recipes will, I hope, wipe that image from your mind. I’ve chosen ingredients that are plentiful throughout autumn and these dishes are designed to be light, flavoursome and, above all, fun to make and eat.