Wild at Heart
Game is healthy, versatile and can be locally sourced all over the UK. With grouse being the first game bird to come into season on the 12th August (Glorious Twelfth), why not begin with this tasty bird and take it from there?
Wild, natural and free range, game generally has stronger and more distinctive flavours than farm-reared meat and poultry, and is an increasingly popular choice on menus as an alternative to beef, pork, lamb and chicken. Pigeon, rabbit and certain varieties of venison are available all year round, but it’s during open season when game comes into its own with copious amounts of pheasant, partridge and grouse on offer. Low in cholesterol and high in protein, game is generally free of steroids or antibiotics so are some of the healthiest meats available.
Jack Knott from Game-to-Eat, a campaign dedicated to promoting wild British game meat, said: “The restaurant scene and celebrity chefs is where game is really exploding. There has been a change from roast pheasant, partridge and grouse to more exciting products, like squirrel pie. People are hesitant about cooking game but if you take a bit of time and do your research, it can be great fun and enjoyed by all.” From partridge carbonara to pigeon fajitas, game can now be a regular on your menu.
Tips for cooking game
- Start simple – cook something like a roast pheasant before moving on to more ‘gamey’ species such as grouse, hare and pigeon.
- Take care – be careful not to over-cook the more mature meats like grouse and venison. They can be tougher and drier if cooked quickly at a higher temperature. You must always know the age of the game as older beasts, just like mutton, need to be treated with a little more care.
Ways to cook grouse
- Flash fry in a hot pan (1 minute on each side) and then put on a slow half hour cook at around 100°C. Then allow to rest for 10 minutes. The resting is essential, to allow the meat to relax
- Another option with grouse or partridge is to crown the bird, keeping the breasts on the bone (adds flavour) and do the same technique just reducing the cooking time by 15 minutes
- Grouse is the first game bird to come into season on 12th August (Glorious Twelfth) and it ends on 10th December
- Partridge starts 1st September and ends 1st February
- Pheasant is 1st October to 1st February
- Sika Deer (Stags) 1st August to 30th April