Guy Warner: The game changers...
PUBLISHED: 10:47 31 October 2017 | UPDATED: 10:47 31 October 2017
Game is the ultimate seasonal food, so why don't we eat more of it, asks Guy?
I’m a huge fan of seasonal eating. It’s often more accessible and affordable than organic eating and not as specialised as local or artisan food. Seasonal food is everywhere you look, from local farm shops to nearby farmers’ markets to the finest restaurants in the Cotswolds.
By now, we’re surely all seasoned seasonal eaters (excuse the pun). We know when our asparagus is at its best, we go strawberry-picking in the summer and gather up crops of local apples in the autumn, but here’s the big question – when was the last time you actively tracked down a brace of pheasant, a leg of venison or a couple of partridges?
Game is one of our most seasonal foods, especially here in the Cotswolds, yet it is still not in the mainstream. Our game industry, which officially begins at the start of September and continues until the end of January, is revered around the country; as well as being a typical country pursuit, the start of the game season means there will be an abundance of great quality, great value meat over the next few months. You’d think we’d all be rushing to get our fill of this bounty but it’s still not an everyday or even weekly consideration for most households.
I think that is all starting to change though. While we may still be a bit nervous about being presented with game in its rawest form, we are happy to play with game, say, in sausages and pies – Woodchester-based Plenty Pies make a Slow Cooked Cotswold Venison Pie, marinated in Severn cider and slow roasted with wild mushrooms, pearl onions and redcurrant jelly, while Madgetts Farm near Chepstow are renowned for their game burger, a blend of Forest of Dean venison and wild boar, flavoured with garlic and mushroom. Closer to home, Martins Meats in Broadway, have a real variety of game on offer during the season including venison, partridge, wood pigeon, pheasant and even wild mallard, plus a range of venison and thyme sausages as well as venison burgers. However, despite being perfectly dressed and packaged, most of their game goes to supply local restaurants rather than members of the public.
In fact, it’s the catering industry that seems to have genuinely embraced game – on the specials board of any pub or restaurant this autumn there’ll be pigeon, partridge or pheasant, not to mention venison and in some more adventurous establishments, rabbit.
At home though game still seems a culinary journey too far. If our meat doesn’t come in neat little plastic trays, cling-film wrapped, we don’t trust it! Even chicken thighs are a bit of a push for those of us who cling to the safety of neatly trimmed chicken breasts. The good news is that today, game can be just as accessible as chicken – some shoots and most butcher’s sell ready plucked birds and even prepare cuts of meat in little polystyrene trays wrapped in cling-film to take home – just like your chicken breasts! We also sell neatly packaged, ready-prepared partridge and pheasant breasts at Warner’s Budgens, so really, there’s no excuse not to give game a go.
So, this season, I urge you to try a little game play – whether it’s a pheasant breast covered in bacon, pan-fried partridge breast or a venison sausage, you could find it’s a real game-changer.
Plenty Pies: award-winning pie-makers who make their pastry and fillings by hand. Seasonal pies include Cotswold venison and wild boar and chorizo.
Martin’s Meats: supplies quality local meat to top restaurants in the Cotswolds and nationwide. Offers a choice of seasonal game, ready dressed and packaged.
Warner’s Budgens: sells dressed and packaged pheasant and partridge breasts when in season in its four stores in the North Cotswolds.