Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Release Date: July 2015
Synopsis: A thoroughly practical guide to identifying, preparing and cooking with feathered and furred game. Seasonal, Local, Organic, Wild – take the Slow Road to River Cottage with this, the fifteenth in a series of essential books about food and the great outdoors.
For many of us, game is a meat group that is pigeon-holed (pun not intended) into the outlandish category. There is a common belief that it is reserved for the high society, whose tastebuds are perhaps refined for the unconventional and exotic, but the truth is that game is a lot more attainable whilst being a versatile ingredient, than the stigma would otherwise have us believe.
Supermarkets present meat to us, de-feathered, de-boned and so far from its natural state that the idea of dealing with a whole pheasant or pigeon or deer, is, for the majority of us, an alien concept. The irony is – as Hugh Fearley-Whittingstall puts it in ‘The River Cottage Handbook [No.15]: Game’ introduction – that at one point, all meat used to be game.
Whilst my family and I have gone down the free range route (thanks, in part, to River Cottage), I put my hands up in admitting that I haven’t ventured very far into the world of game. I can count on one hand the number of times I have tried it, but, when I think about it, I can recall each and every meal (all 5) as being deep in flavour, and pleasantly different to the norm. Venison, Pheasant, Duck, Boar and Rabbit are the meats I have tried, and for most of us, Duck is probably the only one that the British public can say they have tried – thanks to the good old Chinese takeaway! So why don’t we eat more game?
Rather than answering the question in article format, I genuinely cannot recommend Tim Maddams‘ (former Head Chef at the River Cottage Canteen in Axminster) River Cottage Handbook enough, as it not only answers this question, but educates and inspires. If you are open to trying new things, and are up for an adventure, go get a copy of the handbook and join Tim as he tackles a wide range of topics, including; hunting & shooting, game species, buying & preparing game, as well as over 30 recipes to try out.
As with the River Cottage Handbook [No.14]: Pigs & Pork, where Gill Meller recalls his first encounter with a wild Boar, Tim recounts a poignant memory that connects with the material:
“I remember the first time I ate game. It was a very significant event, a turning point that was to shape my life and my career. I had just turned seven and my mum was given a hare by a local farmer. I remember the stink of the guts as she cleaned out the animal, the crackle of the sinews as she removed the skin and the high, gamey aroma of the meat, which was slowly transformed into a savoury delight during an afternoon of slow cooking. And I remember the astonishing flavour of the stew. I was hooked, and there was no going back.”
Tim gains the readers’ respect right from the off, and his love and knowledge for the subject matter shines through from page to page.
There’s an incredibly handy guide to plucking and gutting a bird, with easy-to-follow instructions and photos. There are also similar guides for Rabbit and Deer. And before you ask “where do I buy said Rabbit or Deer”, that topic is covered too, with advice on where to procure your meat from (and where not to).
As mentioned, there are some fantastic recipes to get stuck into. Some of my favourites to try out will be: duck ‘bacon’ and eggs, game broth and gamekeepers pie – all of which look delicious and will have you salivating in no time at all!
Like with the previous River Cottage Handbooks, there are some truly beautiful accompanying images and illustrations throughout.
Whether you are game for trying it out (pun intended), on the fence, or off down the hill waiting for the beaters, Tim’s handbook will appeal and deliver. Highly recommended!
Buy The River Cottage Handbook [No.15]: Game on Amazon.co.uk for just £10.49.