Recipes for damaged game meat
It's a familiar routine for anyone who shoots driven game: the final birds of the day are brought to the game larder – pheasants, partridges, ducks and 'various' all hung neatly in patterned rows – before a tally is taken of the day's harvest. It's an important and conclusive part of proceedings.
Then, depending on the shoot, the 'best' of the birds – those strong in the wing and leg, and plump in the breast with little obvious damage – might be hand-picked by the keepers for the Guns. The beaters and pickers-up will follow, often being given the chance to select their own. Some work meticulously through a rail, checking legs, wings, and the prominence of breastbones; others pick the first okay-looking brace or two they see and make do.
But there's almost always a couple of brace that are deemed too damaged for the pot – 'ferret food'. Hard frozen ground, trees and fencing are the common culprits – inevitable landing areas or obstructions that shot birds might encounter en route to terra firma. Unruly dogs might also be to blame. But don't be so quick to write these birds off for use in the kitchen; let's not slip into the attitude encouraged by many of the supermarkets where only visual perfection is accepted. It's surprising what can be rescued from the carcass of a damaged gamebird. Besides, waste is ugly, and there's so much we can do with a little creativity and imagination to make use of an otherwise fine, free range and high protein source of meat. Here's a few ideas to get you started...
Burgers and sausages
It doesn't have to be summer to light the barbecue or grill. Game burgers and sausages are a popular alternative to the more traditional dishes and do not require whole, intact, and pristine breast fillets or joints. Here Tom Godber-Ford Moore offers a way to utilise game that might be more suitable for mincing.
Simple, delicious and functional, the humble sausage roll is made all the better by the inclusion of game meat. Find a recipe for pheasant sausage rolls here.
An old classic and a great way to combine the flavours of several different species. Whether using puff pastry or hot water crust pastry, this is comfort food at its best. Why not give James Golding's straightforward recipe a go.
Casseroles and stews
Warming, hearty and versatile. Tailor your game casserole or stew to suit whatever is in season. Add your favourite vegetables and achieve sublime tenderness with the drawn out cooking process.
This recipe from BASC's Taste of Game comes with an added spicy kick.
There's no need to be bound by tradition. Game just works in a curry and makes for a welcome change from the usual suspects of chicken, lamb or beef. This recipe from chef Tim Maddams works equally well with pheasant grouse, pigeon, goose, hare... (the list goes on!)
Pâtés and terrines
Enjoyed with a thick wedge of toasted home-made bread, game pâtés and terrines are popular with those who might not necessarily jump at the chance to eat the traditional roasted game dishes. Try this recipe from celebrity chef Galton Blackiston. Alternatively, give Game-to-Eat's game pâté a whirl.
The Country Food Trust
The Country Food Trust is a charity founded in 2015 whose sole aim is to feed people in need. They do this by producing The Country Casserole using gamebird meat, which is then donated to those in food poverty. In 2016, the charity has fed 20,000 people across the UK, and their aim is to feed 1,000,000 people in the next five years.
The Country Casserole contains diced pheasant breast, vegetables and herbs, and is delicious and nutritious, low in cholesterol and high in vitamins. It is manufactured in long life pouches, which do not need to be chilled and are easily prepared.
The charity distribute most of the food through FareShare, the national distribution charity that supports 2,290 other charities, but also supports individual charities when asked to by its donors.
The charity is funded by individual donors but the casseroles are also sold on the basis that for every one bought, another one is donated to charity.