Friday, 31 October 2014

New rules of the game

Seasonal, ethical, delicious - games makes great eating. But it's time to update the recipe book

Written by Phil Vickery
My two brothers and I grew up in a small terraced house in the seaside town of Folkestone. It had a tiny garden that backed onto the main railway line to London. Playing in the street was what you did, and a trip to the park was considered a ‘day out’. Occasionally, my dad took me to the canal where we would fish for tiny roach or perch.

Then one day, my mum and dad decided they wanted to move to the ‘country’. They settled on a small, two-bedroomed house next to a farm. We were encouraged to get out and explore the fields and ponds. The farmer would let us watch the milking of the cows and the feeding of calves. Over the next couple of years, I learnt so much about wildlife – about birds’ nests, duck nests, bats, rats, newts and frogs – just from watching for hours on end.

Over the years I have continued to appreciate the wild food around us. As a chef, I have always got immense pleasure from cooking all that the countryside provides: fruit, vegetables, herbs, nuts, fish and, of course, game. One of the reasons I wrote this book was to take a new and modern approach to game cookery. I hope my recipes go some way to encourage you to cook more wild meat and fish.

Game: New Ways To Prepare, Cook And Cure, by Phil Vickery and Simon Boddy; photography by Peter Cassidy (Kyle Books, £19.99).

Partridge & Yellow Lentil Curry with Mint & Coriander


Serves 4

  • 100g dried yellow lentils
  • 4 young red-legged partridges
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 small onions, finely chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 125g dry-cure streaky bacon, cut into 2cm pieces
  • 10g good-quality chicken stock cube, crumbled
  • 200ml lager
  • salt and ground black pepper
  • 50g sultanas
  • a pinch of sugar
  • 250g ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 10 curry leaves
For the spice mix:
  • 1 tbsp black mustard seeds
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh red chilli
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp black onion (nigella or kalonji) seeds
  • 1 tbsp peeled and finely chopped fresh ginger
  • a pinch of ground asafoetida
To finish:
  • 3 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh mint
  • 4 tbsp double cream

Soak the lentils in cold water overnight, then drain. Remove the legs and breasts from each partridge. Chop off the feet and discard. Bone out the thighs and reserve the meat. Leave the drumsticks with the bone in. Cut up both sets of meat into 3-4cm chunks, but keep them separated – the thighs need to cook for a longer period of time. Heat the vegetable oil in a saucepan, add all the spices for the spice mix and cook for a minute or two, but be careful not to burn them. Add the onions, garlic and bacon, and cook briefly until the onions are slightly softened. Add the partridge thigh meat and drumsticks only and stir to coat in the onion and spice mixture.

Add the stock cube, lager, salt and pepper, sultanas, sugar, tomatoes and curry leaves. Bring to the boil and add the lentils, then reduce the heat to a simmer, cover with a lid and cook gently for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drop in the partridge breast meat and stir through, then cook for a further 10 minutes or until the breast is just cooked – do not overcook the breast or it will dry out. By now the sauce should be thick and full of flavour and colour.

Remove the pan from the stove and leave to cool slightly. Season well with salt and pepper and stir in the coriander, mint and cream, then serve with plain boiled rice, natural thick yogurt and chapatis.

Thai Quail & Crab


Serves 4

  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 250g fine green beans
  • 350g small broccoli florets
  • 25g unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 large quails
  • 2 heads of pak choi
  • 200g fresh crabmeat (claw meat)
  • 1 small bunch fresh coriander
For the dressing:
  • 50ml sunflower oil
  • 40g palm sugar 
  • finely grated zest and juice from 2 large unwaxed limes
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp peeled and very finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • ¼ tsp dried chilli flakes

Preheat the oven to 220C/gas mark 7. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil. Plunge in the beans and cook for 2 minutes, then remove with a slotted spoon and refresh in iced water. Repeat the process with the broccoli, using the same boiling water. Once both vegetables are cooled, drain them really well.

Heat the butter with the oil in an ovenproof frying pan until foaming. Season the quails well, then place breast side down in the hot butter and oil and cook for 2-3 minutes until nicely browned. Transfer the pan to the oven and roast for 10 minutes. Turn the birds over and roast for a further 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, cover the birds loosely with foil and leave to rest in a warm place for at least 10 minutes. Meanwhile, make the dressing by placing all the ingredients in a bowl, adding salt and pepper and whisking well – that’s it.

To serve, rip the leaves from the pak choi and wash well, then drain and dry on kitchen paper. Arrange the pak choi on four large plates. Add the beans and broccoli, then sprinkle over the crabmeat and coriander. When the birds have rested, transfer to a chopping board. Using a sharp knife, slice through the skin where the leg is attached to the breast, then pull the leg back on itself so that the ball and socket joint pops open and carefully pull the leg away. Carefully slice down one side of the breastbone, continuing to cut right along to the wing, then cut through the wing joint. Tease the flesh away from the crown and gently pull the breast meat away. Repeat on the other side.

Cut each breast into two nice pieces, and cut the legs in half through the joint. Cover the legs and breast meat with foil and keep warm while you repeat with the other three birds.

Arrange the warm quail meat over the vegetables, crabmeat and coriander. Finally, spoon over the dressing and serve.

Sauteed Wild Duck Breast with Apricots, Green Pepp ercorns & Five-Spice


Serves 4

  • 2-3 pinches of Chinese five-spice powder, plus extra for seasoning
  • 4 wild duck breasts, removed from the crowns, skin side scored through the fat but not the flesh
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 350g can apricots in syrup
  • 1 tbsp drained green peppercorns in brine, plus a few extra
  • 1 tbsp peppercorn brine from the jar
  • sugar, for seasoning
  • juice of 1 large lemon
  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 pak choi, cut lengthways into quarters 
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp mirin

Heat a dry non-stick frying pan. Sprinkle the five-spice powder over the duck breasts and rub in well, then season well with salt and pepper. Place skin side down in the hot pan and cook for about 6-7 minutes until the fat runs. Turn over and cook for a further 2-3 minutes. Remove the pan from the stove, then transfer the duck to a warm plate, cover loosely with foil and leave to rest in a warm place for 10 minutes. Do not leave for too long, otherwise it will overcook.

Meanwhile, put the apricots and syrup into a blender or food processor with the peppercorns and their brine and whizz well. Pour into a small bowl and season well with salt and pepper, sugar and five-spice, then add a few whole peppercorns. Heat the oil in a wok or frying pan, add half the pak choi and season with a little five-spice. Sauté until slightly wilted, then add half the soy sauce and mirin and stir well.

Spoon into a bowl, then wipe out the pan with kitchen paper and repeat. To serve, slice the duck across the grain into six or seven slices and drain well. Spoon the pak choi in the middle of a warm plate or bowl, lay the duck over and drizzle with the apricot sauce.

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