Game Birds: Pheasant, Partridge and Quail

I love game – whether Pheasant, Quail, Partridge, Venison or Boar.   Game meat is typically stronger in flavour than farmed meats like chicken, pork or beef. These recipes came about when a friend turned up with a Pheasant, a pair or Partridge and four Quail.   I was unsure what to do with the feathery carcasses.   Hanging them in a locked shed for a few days seemed sensible – and an internet search confirmed this.

A few days later following a chat with a nurse, a dear friend’s mother to whom I’ll always be grateful, and her practical lesson in dressing both Phesant and Partridge I had the birds ready for cooking.   I’ll spare you the details however.

Read on for a Phesant and Partridge casserole recipe – Pheasant and Partridge cooked with shallots, herbs and wine and served with Celeriac and Potato mash.   I’ll write up a recipe for Quail with rose petals and Pomegranate with delicate spicing later … male_pheasant_drawing_by_chuckrondeau-d3fxptb

Pheasant & Partridge

I assume that with a pheasant and a pair of partridge that you’ll end up with enough food for at least 6 people.   Read on for the method, make your own ingredients list from it.

  • Take the beautiful (prepared) meat and with a sturdy knife cut into even sized pieces, bones and all
  • Rub 4 tablespoons of flour into the meat (with a good slug of olive oil)
  • Add freshly ground pepper and finely chopped Rosemary, Thyme and Parsley to the meat and again, rub into the meat (then wash yr hands!) and set aside for an hour
  • Reserve some Thyme and Parsley to add later
  • Finely chop 3 shallots, a couple of sticks of celery and a carrot (chop celery and carrot v. finely indeed) – sweat these on a medium heat till golden in a generous amount of olive oil to which you have added an inch of cinammon bark
  • Whack the heat up high
  • Add the meat (flour herbs and all) to the shallots, celery and carrot, brown the meat turning frequently (you really need heat for this – anything less and you’ll end up with tough and rubbery meat, a ruination)
  • After about 4 minutes add a cup of water to the meat and ensure that the pan is thoroughly deglazed
  • Once the pan is deglazed (the water will probably have largely cooked off by now), add a good amount of water to the dish, about a litre ought to do it, added gradually in two or three stages – never at once …
  • I also add a small glass of white wine at this stage
  • You should now have a reasonable and flavoursome gravy starting to form … I add a tablespoon of Bisto dissolved in an inch of water at this stage or one of those clever little chicken stock pots, a purist might take a week to cook this by boiling bones to make a stock from start, I don’t have the time
  • Stir well, add a twist of pepper and about half the herbs you set aside earlier, stir again … turn heat down and cover to simmer gently for 5 minutes
  • Taste the gravy, add a dash more water if needed and any seasoning – cover and simmer on a v. low heat for 25 minutes

I serve this with Celeriac and Potato mash – take an equal amount of each vegetable, peel and boil well.   Once boiled, mash with a generous knob of butter, a twist of mace and a pinch of salt and if needed, two tablespoons of milk. To serve – Plop some mash onto a plate, to one side.   Ladle into the plate the lovely game and gravy.   Dust the casserole with the remainder of your fresh finely chopped Parsley and enjoy.

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Recipes: Bobotie with Marrow

Bobotie is the national dish of South Africa and is a melange of the various food cultures of that country.   Typically you would use minced meat, lamb or beef.   You can also use minced pork.   For a vegetarian alternative minced Qourn works well.   You can get a fuller history of the dish from Wikipedia.

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The following recipe is a version I make very successfully at home in London.   I use either minced lamp or minced pork and seasonal ingredients.   Autumn, as the cold and unsettled weather begins to bite, suits this dish well.   I use fresh ingredients over powders or pastes – a personal preference as the flavours are stronger and more rounded in my view.   But if you don’t have time then feel free to use ready ground ingredients or pastes – just avoid generic ‘curry’ powder or pastes, they are inferior and bear little approximation to the flavours they claim to mimic.   The guide below makes a substantial dish for 2 people, or a lighter meal for 3 people.   I serve it with roast potatoes.   You can just as easily have it with rice.   The choice is yours.   I top the dish off with a beaten egg, a little grated cheese and a tablespoon of yoghurt all mixed together and added 15 minutes before the end of cooking.

Ingredients (Bobotie)

  • Minced meat/Qourn – 500g
  • Fresh garlic – 5 cloves finely chopped or crushed
  • Shallot – 1 finely chopped (I prefer shallots, less wet than the onions and a sweeter flavour)
  • Fresh ginger – a 1 inch piece, finely chopped
  • Cumin, coriander and fennel seeds – a tablespoon of each lightly toasted (not burnt!) and then ground in a mortar and pestle, freshly ground spices have oils that add so much to dishes
  • Red or green chilli – chopped finely (de-seed if you want less fire)
  • A red/ornage/green capisum pepper finely chopped
  • A slug of vegetable oil (olive oil flattens vibrant flavours – it’s fine for richer herbal cokking in Mediterranan dishes, not so good for Asian food)
  • Cinammon bark – a good 2 inch piece to be added to the above
  • A good sized marrow cut into deep rounds of around 3 – 4 inches in depth (7.5 to 10 cm) and de-seeded (scoop out the centre and save the seeds if you’re going to replant)

Method

Turn your oven on and get it gas mark 9 (240 C or 475 F) as you’ll need a good high heat to roast the potatoes and cook off the marrow stuffed with Bobotie

  • Heat the oil for 30 seconds on a high heat, turn the heat down slightly and add the cinammon, chopped shallot and capsicum pepper, cover and cook for a couple of minutes stirring occasionally till the pepper is soft and the shallot slightly golden
  • Add the minced meat/Quorn, the chopped garlic, ginger, chilli and whole spices you toasted and ground earlier and cover (stirring occassionally) till cooked off to ensure the flavours assimilate – if needed you can add a couple of tabelspoons of water half way through cooking to deglaze the pan and ensure the mince is coated with the flavours
  • Turn down the heat, add a tablespoon of water and lots of twists of freshly ground black pepper and cover and simmer for 5 minutes

Stuffing and Topping

  • Blanche your marrow for 5 mins in salted boiling water
  • Lift the marrows out onto a lightly greased oven pan – stuff generously with the Bobotie mixture (you may have some left over which you can serve with the final ensemble)
  • Slam the lot into an oven on a very hgh heat at gas mark 9 (240 C or 475 F) for 25 minutes – this will ensure the marrow cooks in a dry atmosphere (creating a less runny dish) and allows the flavours to assimilate further
  • After 25 minutes of cooking your Bobotie stuffed marrow, top off the dish with a mixture of beaten egg with a tablespoon of yoghurt and a small amount of grated cheese (parmesan or cheddar work)
  • Return the topped off marrow to the oven for 15 minutes
  • Finally, switch on your grill and brown the topping slightly under a high heat for 2 – 3 minutes

As I mentioned at the top, I serve these with roast potatoes (obviously if you have the oven on you can prep these ahead and cook them in the same oven as the Bobotie stuffed marrow).   I usually add two or three garlic cloves to the potatoes halfway through their roasting as it adds a lovely buttery garlic flavour to them.

Serve up your Bobotie stuffed marrows with roast potatoes and add any remaining Bobotie mixture.   Though the Bobotie may be fiery, the relative buttery sweetness of a good marrow is a perfect foil, with the roast potatoes acting as a further blandishment.

Good luck – try it and let me know if it works for you.

Food Waste

Food waste bugs me. Food producers spend millions getting food to ‘look’ just right, often sacrificing flavour and nutrition in the process and consuming vast quantities of water and scarce natural resources. In addition, our lack of understanding of where food really comes from and willingness to purchase food that ‘lloks right’ helps create mountains of food waste and perpetuate an unhealthy diet.

Consider this:

If you’re shocked by those figures, consider this too:

  • 80 per cent of the secondary school pupils surveyed had been on a ‘farm visit’, presumably arranged to counter lack of understanding of food and its sources.

(see more: http://www.nutrition.org.uk/nutritioninthenews/pressreleases/healthyeatingweek)

In Britain – and this is true of much of the developed world too – we fill fridges with lots of what looks nice, not what we actually need. The cost of that indulgence is, says the Institute of Mechanical Engineers, £10bn annually. The way we consume shellfish is scandalous – our need for ease is paid for environmentally with decimated stocks. The cost, in money, energy, environmental damage and ever-scarcer water, is unquantifiable.

Our German friends – as so often in environmental matters – lead the way with an initiative aimed to reducing food waste drastically. Original Unverpackt, currently with just one branch in the Kreuzberg district of Berlin, aims to sell food largely sourced from local suppliers (to cut down transportation costs and pollution), with products sold in bulk using gravity bins (upside-down containers with a lever to help users select only exactly what they need) and with the selected products then taken away in customers own containers or borrowed and reusable containers or recycled paper bags.

curly cucumberFood is food no matter what it looks like.   This shy cucumber, curling in coy repose, made a delicious salad when peeled, sliced and pickled in rice vinegar, sugar and chilli oil. Bagged salads offer less nutrition because of the processing they’ve been through (washed in chlorine for example – so definitely not good for you).

Time to get real: Ask your supermarket what they do with waste food.

Better still, shop locally at street markets where small scale market gardeners sell food and don’t be afraid of ‘ugly’ food – it’s often cheaper, less processed, more local and just as nutritious.

Doing nothing is not an option, in fact doing nothing is complicity in the environmental destruction and spiralling cost of processed food, with all the resulting health problems we’re becoming all to aware of.

Here are some facts:

We don’t need to increase food production, we just need to stop throwng food away:

Like really, we have to stop throwing food away: