Granny always believed that good seasonal food was the way to everyone's heart. I remember Sunday Lunches eating Beef Tongue, at the time I rather liked it but I think that may have been because there was nothing else on the menu and having run around the acre plus garden, we were just too hungry to care. I'm not so keen these days but her other love, good, fresh Game, are still dishes that I will never grow tired off.
And so, we now enter one of the great food seasons, we're so lucky in Great Britain to have an enormous plethora of Game; it may not be easy to pick-up in the supermarket, other than pheasant which is a little hit and miss. Sadly this year, M&S has decided to no longer stock Grouse which is such a shame. But, it's important to remember and I really advocate this, if you ask at your local supermarket/store, it is logged, so the more people who ask for more Game varieties, the more prevalent it will become in our supermarkets eventually. However, the good news is that any good butcher will be stocking or able to get hold of whatever game you need.
In London, Game tends to be a little more expensive but in the country, we're lucky. If you know someone who's on a shooting syndicate or have a local Farm Shop, the choice is always varied and you can pick up a Pheasant for as little as a couple of pounds. What's important is that if you get a fresh pheasant, it needs to be hung. I know, we're so squeamish these days about our meat, it's easier to get it neatly chopped and covered by cling film but honestly, there is something really satisfying if you pick up a fresh bird and hang it and then cook it.
The pheasant is a relative of the chicken so its flavour is mild unless hung, then it becomes far more flavoursome, and what muscle it has can be tough from a lifetime of running, flying, dodging traffic and scaring the living daylights out of us walkers by erupting from the undergrowth six inches from our feet. Eaten fresh, it needs long slow cooking and has very little flavour. Hung, it’s a different story as it becomes tastier and tender, with plenty of delicate flavours.
From September until January there is a wonderful selection of Wildfowl, Geese, Waders and Game birds such as Pheasant, Grouse, Partridge, Woodcock, Duck and Snipe; although I've never cooked the latter, so here's hoping for a new experience this season. I'm really looking forward to the Winter Pies, Roasts, Terrines, Stews, etc and how these wonderful meats will be reflected on the menus of our fabulous restaurants. Sadly, there are some dishes that don't work well, last year I had a pheasant risotto at a well known pub in West Brompton. They'd roasted the pheasant and then added the juices to the stock making the dish really dry but at the same time super greasy and rather tasteless.