The start of the game season, the Glorious 12th, when grouse season begins in August, this beautiful little bird gives a great distinct flavour and quite strong in taste. Classically chefs would roast the grouse on a trivet then serve it with watercress, game chips, red current jelly, seasoned crumbs, with the game liver made into a pate served on a crouton. Roasted root vegetables served in the juices from the roasting tray, all washed down by a great claret, an big bold Italian Tuscan, a Napa Valley Zinfandel, a fruit beer, or try mead, the great old English honey beer. Grouse was a very regal rich dish, but where would it be cooked? Well The Ritz in London, Wiltons of St James and a few of the other great traditional classical restaurants like Rules of Covent Garden.
So the game season is on. Grouse is certainly an acquired taste, very expensive and rare to find, and from a chefs point of view difficult to get right. But there’s an amazing variety of choices pheasant, wild rabbit, partridge, hare, teal, mallard, wood pigeon, boar, venison, wild pigeon and woodcock, plus a few more not so well known varieties.
Game is exceptionally healthy, full of vitamins, minerals and irons. It is very lean, because all game is active. When cooking care must be taken because game can become dry and tough, roast it with plenty of basting and wrap it in bacon, it also lends itself to casseroling.
I really enjoy a great game pie, a rich ragout of hare with papperdelle pasta, a wild rabbit risotto with parma ham and sage, pigeon salad with crispy bacon and black pudding or venison with a bitter chocolate sauce. Game makes great sausages, try a venison burger for a change.
So come on my foodies or budding Jamies, Gordons, Delias, or Nigellas get cooking, get creative and cook game this autumn.
Game is tricky to get hold of but try Round Green Farm near Barnsley or the Chatsworth farm shop. Some of the country pubs can be a hub for game with the local farmers or hunters, you never know what a couple of pints may bring.
Many years ago when I was a cook one of my signature dishes was roast saddle of venison, celeriac mash, Mr Koffman’s cabbage, a venison gravy flavored with bitter chocolate and raspberry vinegar, an amazing dish borrowed from a great restaurant called Le Tante Clare.