GAME COOK­ERY

The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - - FOOD DRINK -

There’s no finer way to travel than by trac­tor trailer, which is why my fel­low stu­dents and I are in such high spir­its as we bump down the track to River

Cot­tage towed be­hind a shiny blue New Hol­land. It’s an early start for a Satur­day, the Novem­ber mist still cling­ing to Devon’s dew-damp­ened hills.

The class as­sem­bles in the train­ing kitchen, where we meet our teacher for the day. Con­nor Reed is a young, en­er­getic chef whose en­thu­si­asm for cook­ing and af­fec­tion for game are ob­vi­ous. To his im­me­di­ate left hangs what ap­pears to be a roe deer car­case; to his right sits a heap of dead ducks. Our ob­jec­tive is to turn th­ese into a num­ber of sim­ple, de­li­cious dishes, which we can use as a ba­sis for ex­per­i­men­ta­tion at home.

This course isn’t for the squea­mish. Butch­ery is a gory process, in­volv­ing the re­moval of or­gans, feath­ers and bone from what was once a liv­ing crea­ture. I’ve done this sort of thing be­fore, as have most of my fel­low stu­dents, but the amount of blood gen­er­ated could be daunt­ing to those more ac­cus­tomed to buy­ing meat from Waitrose.

Our first dish is a beau­ti­ful duck breast salad. Jerusalem ar­ti­choke and hazel­nuts min­gle on the plate, a crunchy med­ley of tex­tures be­neath my lit­tle pile of seared meat. It tastes and looks beau­ti­ful, far more so­phis­ti­cated than any­thing I’d nor­mally do with duck, and eas­ier than it looks.

Next is an amal­ga­ma­tion of my favourite things in the world – pheas­ant, leeks, cream, cider and mus­tard. Af­ter an hour on the hob this pro­foundly au­tum­nal dish is thick with flavour and, fol­low­ing the ju­di­cious ap­pli­ca­tion of fresh herbs, in­tensely aro­matic. It’s fast and fun to pre­pare, quick to cook, and rep­re­sents an imag­i­na­tive al­ter­na­tive to the ubiq­ui­tous game curry nor­mally served to beat­ers.

Our fi­nal piece of course­work is a pair of game pies. I’ve al­ways thought pas­try be­yond my ca­pa­bil­i­ties, but even I can fol­low Reed’s sim­ple recipe. Hand-rais­ing this pas­try around my mix­ture of diced veni­son, par­tridge, pork and pheas­ant is a re­ward­ing process, but nowhere near as sat­is­fy­ing as the fin­ished prod­uct. I’m ex­tremely proud to have made a pie from scratch, and plan to prac­tise fur­ther at home.

A day-long course, in­clud­ing lunch, £240; Tele­graph read­ers can re­ceive 15 per cent off quot­ing GAME15 (of­fer valid un­til Jan 31 2019); river­cot­tage.net; River Cot­tage, Trin­ity Hill Road, Axmin­ster, EX13 8TB

TWO MORE TO TRY LEITHS CHEF SKILLS, LON­DON

Fast-paced, in­ten­sive game mas­ter­classes suitable for ex­pe­ri­enced cooks. £205; leiths.com

GIN­GER PIG, LON­DON

Be­gin­ner-friendly cour­ses on feath­ered or furred game. £165; theg­in­ger­pig.co.uk

Ed Wise­man

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