Meat. A great hunk of something that used to play in the fields or fly in the sky, the ultimate in food heaven – but it can be hard to get right.
Overcooked and tough or undercooked and salmonella carrying – there’s a whole lot that can go wrong.
But fear no more. The Great British Meat Co. are teaching us how it’s done in their weekly master class.
This week, that most autumnal of birds: game.
1 | Game’s rich, distinctive flavour comes from a mix of their diet and exercise. Wild grains, grasses, berries and insects make for a more intense, developed flavour than grain alone – plus their tendancy to move a lot makes their meat lean and dense.
2 | To maximise game’s magnificent flavour, it's hung out whole to tenderise for four to five days. A decent game dealer will get rid of most of the shot from the bird, but its worth running your fingers over its surface to check for any hard bits.
3 | Plucking a feathery carcass might not sound like much fun, but if you want a real crack at the country life, you can pick up a bird a lot cheaper if you’re willing to do it yourself.
Woodpigeon are greedy little buggers, and fly dozens of miles a day searching for food. This means a firm breast muscle which works a treat pan fried with a little red wine and shalotts.
Not up everyone’s street, the herb-y tang of grouse comes from the young feather it bases its diet on. Mostly bred in Scotland and northern England’s moors, they’re pricy around August and September, before coming down in October.
This little-known wild duck feeds mostly on seeds and insects, giving it a rich texture and flavour. A whole bird doesn’t give that meat, do if you’re cooking for two or more, get one per person.
Readily available between October and April, a brace of pheasants (a male and a female bird), should only cost you the same price as a whole chicken, and will feed as many people. Roast with bacon and butter, and serve with a root vegetable mash.
This wild duck has an even deeper flavour than the domestically farmed variety. Wild mushrooms, thyme and port-based sauces work a treat with this quack-y guy.
Native English partridge is extolled by bird aficionados as tastier than the more common French species. A subtle flavour makes this a good one to try if it’s your first foray into the world of game.
The biggest factor when cooking a game bird is how old it is. To check, look at its beak and claws– younger birds’ will be soft and pliable; older one’s thicker and harder. As a rule, young birds are good roasted on a high heat for a short time. Older birds are better for braising, stewing and one-pot dishes.
The Great British Meat Company are a family butchers, established in 1953. They supply some of the top chefs and restaurants in the country. To buy their 100% British produce and get it delivered free, visit their website.