Category Archives: Game

Game On

The game season is here and your local butcher’s shop should be stocked up with all things gamey.

You can click on my ‘game‘ sidebar to get information on some of my favourite recipes and to see how to skin a rabbit, or click on the ‘game calender‘ to see what is about and when.

As well as the flavour and value for money here’s why we should all go wild for game …..

Venison contains about half the calories of a chicken breast per portion and also a third of that in pork or beef loin. It also has one of the highest iron contents of any meat (2.4mg per 100g) – almost twice that of beef and two and a half times spinach.  One portion of venison would provide more than quarter of the recommended daily iron intake.

Rabbit contains a third more protein than chicken, 30g per 100g compared with 21g per 100g. But be careful out there, survival experts talk about ‘rabbit starvation’ to describe the fate that befell those forced to live on only this wild meat which contains virtually no fat at only 10% compared with pork at 45% and turkey at 20%. Without any fat or carbohydrate the body can’t metabolise the protein properly so make sure that you eat it with some lovely potatoes and greens.  Rabbit is also low in salt, 33% lower than chicken, and conatins 2.6g of phosphorus, a third of the RDA and 17mcg of selenium per 100g serving.

Quail is als a good choice if you are watching your fat intake, and again an all round more nutritious choice than chicken. 5g fat per 100g serving compared to 16g for a chicken breast.  It als has good quantities of niacin, iron, phosphorus, selenium and zinc.

Pheasant is one of the richest sources of protein with 41g per 100g serving compared with chicken or turkey (20-30g).  They are also rich in Vitamin B6 with a serving providing 0.74mg, just over a third of the RDA.  It is higher in iron than other fowl and also provides selenium and tryptophan.

Wood Pigeon is high in iron with one serving giving just over a quarter of the RDA,lean beef would give you arund a fifth.  It is also rich in Vitamin B3, niacin.
Charlie the Butcher

Pheasant Eggs

Well a couple of weeks ago we got a couple of egg trays of some beautiful pheasant eggs.
The colour and the size of the eggs are the first thing that caught my eye. The colour is a blue/ green a little like a country homes kitchen or a wall in Laura Ashley shop. They are the size of a squash ball. I was not too sure about how to eat these beautiful eggs, so a quick search said with celery salt. But I fancied them fried on bread so I did. The result was great, a lovely yellow colour and a delicate taste. If you see them buy them. Make a change to soak up that Sunday morning hangover. Well it worked for me with a black filter coffee. Be quick because the season runs from April to the end of June, so we only have a couple of weeks left.
I.m off to Inverness for the weekend for a wedding and hopefully a visit to a farm to see some Highland cattle.


Charlie the Butcher.

Verjuice – my special ingredient

OK- time for me to share a little secret with you !  It might well be the next big thing !

Verjuice (from Middle French vertjus “green juice”) is a very acidic juice made by pressing unripe grapes. Sometimes lemon or sorrel juice, herbs or spices are added to change the flavour. In the Middle Ages, it was widely used all over Western Europe as an ingredient in sauces, as a condiment, or to deglaze.

Picking green grapes for making verjuice. Tacuinum Sanitatis (1474). Paris Bibliothèque Nationale.

It was once used where modern cooks would use either wine or some variety of vinegar, but has become much less widely used as wines and variously flavoured vinegars became more accessible. Nonetheless, it is still used in a number of French dishes as well as recipes from other European and Middle Eastern cuisines.

The South Australian cook Maggie Beer has popularised the use of verjuice in her cooking, and it is being used increasingly in South Australian restaurants. Take a look at her website.

Maggie Beer's verjuice

Verjuice is first and foremost a flavour enhancer, adding richness and flavourful complexity to all your cooking with its balance of gentle acidity and sweetness.

Verjuice is also an elegant, delicate alternative to both vinegar and lemon juice and can be used in larger quantities than either of these in cooking. It adds zest to your food, avoiding the sharpness of both vinegar and lemon juice and therefore, does not mask flavours but rather enhances them.

It heightens the flavours of any fish, chicken, game, red meat, vegetable and fruit dishes. It is ideal for deglazing, dressings, syrups, sauces, marinades, gravies and reductions. It has an affinity with nut oils, e.g., walnut, hazelnut and peanut oil and emulsifies well with olive oil.

Range of verjuices from Verjuice UK

It isn’t always easy to get hold of but it is stocked in Harvey Nicholls Food Halls and after a bit of persuading I think that some Waitrose stores may have it on their shelves.  An alternative is to order it direct from Verjuice UK, new on-line supplier of South African sourced verjuice.

For all my meat fans I will suggest a seasonal recipe but the real deal is …….

Deglazing with Verjuice

Set aside your roast/fries/grills and any vegetables that you have cooked with the meat.
Remove excess fat from the pan, leaving approximately 1 teaspoonful. Over a medium heat, add 225 ml verjuice and using a wooden spoon, scrape up the brown bits, incorporating them into the verjuice.

Bring to the boil and reduce until jus begins to coat the spoon. Add stock or water to thin if necessary and stir in a knob of butter for richness and shine.

Tip: Resist thickening the jus.

Now, thanks to Maggie Beer, here is a recipe for you that uses verjuice to deglaze.  It will be just right for the autumn.

Pheasant with grapes and verjuice

Ingredients (serve six)
3 young pheasants
1 lemon
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
100g chilled, unsalted butter
250 ml verjuice
250 ml chicken stock
2 handfuls of grapes

Method

Step 1
Preheat the oven to 240C. Remove the second joint and wing tip from the pheasant and cut through the skin around the thigh to free the legs a little but do not remove them completely.

Step 2
Squeeze a little lemon juice into the cavity of each bird and season with the salt and pepper. Melt a little of the butter in a frying pan and brown the birds gently on all sides until golden brown

Step 3
Arrange the birds in a baking dish allowing the legs to spread.  Bake for 10-12 minutes. Remove from the oven and turn over, then cover and rest in a warm place for 15 minutes.

Step 4
Deglaze the baking dish with the verjuice and boil vigorously. Add the stock and cook until reduced by half, then beat in the remaining butter to finish the sauce.

Step 5
Less than a minute before serving add the grapes to the sauce. Carve the breasts and legs, pour over the sauce and serve immediately.

Charlie the Butcher


The glorious 12th – start of the grouse season

The Glorious Twelfth is usually used to refer to 12th August, the start of the shooting season for Red Grouse (Lagopus Lagopus Scoticus) and to a lesser extent the Ptarmigan (Lagopus Muta) in the United Kingdom. This is one of the busiest days in the shooting season, with large amounts of game being shot. It is also a significant boost to the rural economy in moorland areas. The date itself is traditional, the current legislation enshrining it is the Game Act 1831 (and in Northern Ireland, the Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985). Not all game (as defined by the Game Act 1831) have the same start to their open seasons – most begin on September 1, with October 1 for Woodcock and Pheasant.

Red Grouse

Since UK law says that the start of the season cannot begin on a Sunday, it is sometimes postponed to 13 August, as in 2001 and 2007. Because grouse are not and never have been reared to any extent for shooting, their numbers fluctuate naturally from year to year. In recent years, the Glorious Twelfth has also been hit by hunt saboteurs, the 2001 Foot and Mouth crisis (which further postponed the date in affected areas)  and the effect of sheep tick, heather beetle, the gut parasite Trichostrongylus Tenuis and severe flooding and bad weather. In some seasons where certain moors are hit by low numbers of grouse, shooting may not occur at all or be over by September.

A day’s shoot is as much a social event as a sporting one and the more traditional shoots will picnic in style at lunchtime, before resuming in the afternoon. The birds “bagged” are always counted in “brace” (twos) and in a good day’s shooting an amazing number of birds can be killed: the Duke of Westminster’s Littledale and Abbeystead estates in the Forest of Bowland still hold the British record for the largest numbers of grouse shot on a single day. On the 12th August 1915, no less than 2929 grouse were shot by 8 guns, that’s 1464-and-a-half brace if you want to use the jargon.

The Duke of Westminster's estate

Choose the best
As grouse are wild birds, rather than farmed, they should all be of pretty good quality, though the way in which they’re treated after shooting does have an impact. Look for birds that are plump, with unblemished, fresh-looking deep red skin – avoid any that seem dry, or smell ‘off’. The younger the bird, the better the flesh – a pliable breast bone, feet and legs and sharp claws all indicate that a grouse isn’t mature.

Prepare it
First, you need to remove the wishbone. Pull back the skin from the neck cavity to expose the entrance, cut round it with a small, sharp knife and snip the bone free at the bottom. Then cut the grouse’s wings and legs at the second joint – this makes for a neater-looking bird. Using kitchen paper, wipe the outside of the bird and inside the cavity. Season inside with salt and pepper, then push in some flavourings – try some sage leaves or sprigs of thyme or slices of lemon or apple. Tie the legs together with string and season the skin all over, brushing with soft butter or oil. You can also wrap the breast with pancetta or Parma ham to prevent it from drying out.

Store it
Keep the grouse in the fridge, on a tray, covered with foil or greaseproof paper for up to two days. Make sure it’s on the bottom shelf so that any juices don’t contaminate any other food; it’s particularly important to keep the grouse away from any other cooked meats in the fridge.

Cook it
Ingredients

  • brace of grouse suitably tied (trussed), plucked and drawn
  • 2oz butter
  • 6 rashers streaky bacon
  • 2 slices of white bread
  • 2 tablespoons redcurrant jelly
  • seasoning (salt & pepper)
  • giblets from grouse (for sauce)

Method

Step 1
Preheat oven to 400F. In order to maintain moistness, rub a little of the butter into the inside of the grouse (making sure the bird is well washed and dried before starting). Spoon the redcurrant jelly into the cavities of the bird then season the outside of the bird and cover with the rashers of bacon.

Step 2
Place these in a roasting tin and cover with foil. In order to roast thoroughly allow 15 minutes per pound weight of bird. Then add an extra 15 minutes to the overall time.

Step 3
Toast the bread, remove the crusts. Place the giblets in a saucepan, cover with water and simmer until tender. Strain but keep the liquid to make the stock. Remove the giblets and mash them along with some butter, salt & pepper and spread on the toast.

Step 4
Place the toast under each bird for the last 15 minutes of cooking time. Use the stock to either pour over the bird or use to make a bread sauce. Serve the grouse (with the toast still underneath) along with unsalted crisps or game chips as you will now call them.

Charlie the butcher

Goat meat

Goat – Any of numerous agile, hollow-horned ruminants of the genus Capra, of the family Bovidae, closely related to the sheep, found native in rocky and mountainous regions of the Old World, and widely distributed in domesticated varieties.

Most butchers up and down the country will sell the usual beef, pork, lamb and poultry. A little game if you are lucky. But goat ……… ?

I was talking to a friend the other day over a beer about my travels in Melbourne. I then remembered the amazing curried goat I’d had there. This got me thinking about goat.

I’ve butchered goat a couple of times and it always flies off the block. It’s becoming a popular meat in the London restaurant scene with my favourite restaurant Magdalen using it and it is also not unheard of at St John’s. I’ve done my research about goat and it is believed to make up 80% of the total meat consumption in the world. Well, they are the oldest domesticated species, and can be used for meat, diary (cheese, milk and butter) and wool. A great dual purpose animal. Its flavour, carcase size and shape is commonly compared to lamb and mutton.

I find the flavour full and strong and dark in colour. It’s cheap and makes a wicked curry or stew. It was not easy to track down, I racked my food head and decided to head down to Deptford High Street as it has a wicked range of Caribbean/Asian butchers, fishmongers and veg shops. I picked up my diced leg on the bone from Lobo Butchers in Deptford High Street, London. It cost me £5.25 a kilo, bargain of the week.

So then it was back home and recipe testing a decent curried goat dish. I wanted to make it with common ingredients available in decent food shops and easy way to make, so I came up with this bad boy curry.

Ingredients

  • Cumin seeds
  • Fenugreek seeds
  • Ground nutmeg
  • Ground coriander
  • Cardamon pods
  • Ground ginger
  • Ground cinnamon
  • 1kg diced goat
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tomatoes chopped
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 1 diced sweet potato
  • 1 small egg plant
  • Corriander leaves
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 scotch bonnet chillies
  • Water

Serves 3 – 4.

Step 1
Get all the ingredients togther. I used 1 teaspoon of each of the spices. Dry fry the cumin seeds and then put all of the spices in a bowl.

Step 2
Season the goat, add the lime juice and half of the spice mix. Leave in the fridge all day.

Step 3
Heat some oil in a pan and brown the goat off.

Step 4
Put all of the browned goat into a curry pot and add all the other ingredients and cover with water.

Step 5
Bring to a boil, then turn down and simmer for 2 hours. Keep a close eye on the pot, more water might be needed.

Step 6
Serve with some rice and enjoy.

Charlie the Butcher.

Wood pigeon

With no close season wood pigeon is a fantastic source of game all year-round. But they are best between late spring and early autumn when they have been on the farmer’s crops. They are quite pricey, I got four breasts for £6.60 from Ferness Fish and Game at Borough Market the other day but they are great. If roasting, place some streaky bacon on over the breasts and roast for 20-25 mins at 200c. Remove the bacon for the last 10 mins to fully cook, allow one per person. Thats a simple way of roasting them. I’ve also had them on the bbq!  Give them a go if the weathers good. I like to tart them up a little in a winter salad. It’s easy and well impressive.

Warm winter wood pigeon salad

Ingredients

  • 6 pigeon breasts 6 people for starter or 3 people as a main.
  • 2 thinly sliced raw beetroots
  • 1 pack of lambs lettuce
  • 1 Pomergranate
  • Olive oil, pepper and salt

Stage 1
Season the breasts.

Stage 2
Fry in a pan until plump to the touch about 2 mins either side so they pink in the middle.

Stage 3
Put the lambs lettuce, beet and pomegranate on the plates.

Stage 4
Finish the breasts and slice, give each person one breast for a starter or two for a main dish.

Stage 5
Enjoy with a good glass of full-bodied red.

I think the crunch of the raw beets and the pomegranates popping in the mouth with the gamey pigeon is all a winning recipe. Give it a go….

Charlie the Butcher.

Chop the rabbit

Rabbits are great, either running in a field or on your plate, I love ’em. The meat is packed full of flavour, very healthy and also cheap. They are becoming very popular, we sell lots each week. I always go for the wild rabbits, as I find there is a decent gamey taste to the meat. There are lots of different recipes out there from curry to pie. But there is something more to just cooking it, the skinning of a rabbit is an easy skill and also fun.

I’ve put together a step by step guide of how to……

All you need is a rabbit, boning knife, chopper or poultry cutters/shears.

Step 1
Take one gutted rabbit, still in fur.

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Step 2
When buying the rabbit, to check that it is young,  try to tear the ear. If the ear tears easily you can buy it. It will be a young rabbit which will be lovely and tender when cooked..

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Step 3
Turn the rabbit on to its back and,  starting from the cut already there made when it was gutted, cut towards its back legs.

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Step 4
Cut all the way to the end of the leg, and peel the fur off the meat.

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Step 5
Repeat this process with the other leg. Then cut through the small intestines as close to the rear legs as possible.

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Step 6
Once that’s done, lift the rabbit up and pull the skin down towards the neck being careful not to tear the meat.

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Step 7
Pull the skin all the way to the neck.

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Step 8
Repeat the way you worked on the back legs with the shoulders, peel the skin around the front legs.

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Step 9
Cut off the head with all the body fur attached.

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Step 10
You almost have an oven ready rabbit. Cut off the fur on the legs with either poultry shears, knife or chopper.

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Step 11
One oven ready rabbit, enjoy.

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…. and from one Chaz to another ribit rabbit.

Charlie the Butcher.