Game

Game

By
Skye Gyngell
Contains
6 recipes
Published by
Quadrille Publishing
ISBN
9781844006212
Photographer
Jason Lowe

Feathered game, in all its manifestations, tastes of the land on which it lived and fed. It has a mossy, woodland flavour with all the complexities that the particular landscape offers, but it is also majestic and glorious. I associate game strongly with England and, more broadly, Europe. It reminds me of fresh air, sport, a big hunger and deep robust red wines. Without doubt, it becomes very much central stage in any dish.

The beauty of game is that each variety has a unique, deep and satisfying flavour, providing nuances of taste that are not found in other meats – the delicate slightly livery taste of pigeon, for example, or the musty earthy taste of grouse. Game works beautifully with autumn’s bounty of produce – wild mushrooms, root vegetables, nuts, Brussels sprouts and other brassicas, delicate cauliflower purée, even pomegranates and quince. Game offers so many possibilities that I’m always eager for the start of the season towards the middle of August, when the first grouse appear.

Careful thought and consideration is needed when pairing game with other ingredients. Understandably, bread very often features – in the form of breadcrumbs or bread sauce – as it provides a foil for game meats that have a very strong taste. Grouse, perhaps the most intensely flavoured of all the birds, certainly benefits from this coupling and I often serve it on toast. All game, though very different in taste, has a sense of woodland about it – moss, berries, mushrooms etc. – so these flavours also complement the birds in cooking. The delicate, earthy characteristics of girolles and porcini, for example, work well with partridge, mallard and quail.

Strictly speaking, quail and guinea fowl are classified as poultry rather than game these days, as they are now protected species. Those that you buy will have been farmed, hence their milder taste. As with chicken, seek out free-range birds for optimum flavour.

Game often has a dark appearance and a very strong smell because it has been hung, but you need to be assured that it is in good condition for eating. The fat should be creamy and fairly intact, and the aroma should be decent, albeit strong. Always check game birds for shot too, as the resulting damage can give the meat a taste of metal. Also, torn flesh can dry and harden around the edges – cooking will not improve or mask this damage.

I strongly recommend that you look for a reputable game dealer or butcher, who deals with small hunters and suppliers. Our game dealer, Albert, or ‘Albert the Grouseman’ as we call him, has dealt in game for many years and always brings us only the very best of what he can lay his hands on. A one-man band, he only ever ‘sees what he can do’ and his produce never disappoints.

Like Albert, I believe it is best to wait until there is something really good and worthy of cooking than to eat game in less than perfect condition. Our game arrives plucked, hung and ready to eat. We give it a quick wipe over with a clean damp cloth and place it in a sealed large plastic container with space and air surrounding it, then store it in the fridge and cook within a few days of purchase.

Never has nature seemed more noble or majestic than in the lay of the feathers of game birds. Soft like velvet, with both vibrant and muted hues – of amber, rust, choc0late and blue – man could not have created anything quite like this beauty.

Recipes in this Chapter

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