FOOD & DRINK
Partridge, duck and pheasant perfect winter warmers
Wild game and great wine
IF you’re like me, you’ll have a couple of items of cutlery, crockery or glassware that you cherish with particular fondness.
Perhaps it’s a Silver Jubilee tea strainer that reminds you of your beloved grandmother, or the last two surviving Denby side plates from a 16-piece dinner set you were given as a wedding present in 1976.
Of all the items in our kitchen cupboard, the one that gives me the kookiest amount of joy is a set of Bacchus wine glasses that my parents received as a gift in the early 1980s.
The glasses themselves aren’t special, though they do have a pleasing weight to them. No, the pleasure comes from the box, depicting the glasses, a bottle of wine, a gun-belt full of cartridges, a shotgun and a pair of freshly shot ducks.
The delight stems from the fact that as a commercial image, it is so ‘of its time’ that it’s hard to imagine that it was ever allowed to exist at all – they were bought in France, which might explain a few things – much like when you flick through old magazines and find sexy, colourful cigarette adverts featuring a bevy of youthful swimwear models puffing away on a yacht. To modern eyes, it looks like a joke.
I have a suspicion that the contemporary squeamishness that makes my dead duck glasses seem so comical might be starting to affect contemporary taste buds.
More and more, I’m finding that people are turning away from game, like wild mallard, grouse, partridge and pheasant.
More than ever, I’m starting to see people pulling ‘ Yuck’ faces – the kind of expression a child would make at the prospect of a plate of oysters – at the very mention of a game dinner.
This might have something to do with the prospect of having to prepare the birds yourselves.
To me, the annual arrival in our larder of a hanging brace of pheasants was a harbinger of frosty Autumn, the reward after a leaf-crunching trudge through the countryside with the cawing of crows harmonising with yapping spaniels.
To others, two dead birds in the pantry is every childhood nightmare come true.
It’s true, game birds are hell to prepare.
Perhaps this is why so many people I know who shoot are telling me they literally cannot give them away.
However, if someone else has done the hard work for you, game is a delicious, richly autumnal, lean and healthy option, plus it’s as cheap as chips – cheaper even.
If you’re the kind of vegetarian who can’t imagine a shooting party without hearing Barber’s Adagio For Strings in your head, turn the page – don’t worry, I have a Christmassy something for you guys next month.
For the rest of you, head to Marks & Spencer where they have partridge, wood pigeon and pheasant and mallard breasts all ready-prepared for you.
This is a really simple, delicious, light winter warmer, perfect after a wind-blown ramble:
(Serves 4) ● 4 Mallard breasts ● Butter ● 1 pack of bacon lardons. ● 6 baby onions ● Chopped garlic. ● 1 punnet chestnut mushrooms, halved. ● 100g frozen peas ● 150ml chicken stock. ● Chopped parsley ● Salt & pepper. First, preheat the oven to 150˚ (fan). Then make sure all the ingredients are prepared and at hand.
Score the skin on the mallard breast and season with salt and pepper.
Heat a small amount of butter in your biggest frying pan and sear the mallard for two minutes, skin-side down.
Turn them over and fry for one minute, before putting them in the oven for no more than eight minutes.
After that, take them out, cover them in foil and leave alone while you take care of the rest of the recipe.
In the same pan, fry up the bacon for two minutes, then add the mushrooms and baby onions.
After another two minutes, add the garlic and season with pepper.
Once everything has taken on a nice, golden hue, stir in the peas and pour enough chicken stock in to cover it.
Bring to the boil, then drop it down to a simmer.
Let it bubble away for five minutes while you open a bottle of Tim’s wine recommendation.
Stir in the parsley before serving. Slice the mallard breasts at a jaunty angle.
Spoon the bacon mix into four warm shallow bowls and top with a sliced mallard breast. Serve with some lovely chunky bread.
Now, what was that wine again, Tim?