Par­tridge, duck and pheas­ant per­fect win­ter warm­ers

Caernarfon Herald - - FRONT PAGE -

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?

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