Either way, this year’s Great British Game Week (November 19-25) aims to help you get more from British game, writes James Waller-Davies.
There’s something quintessentially British about game, with its inextricable link to the countryside and its traditions, and it continues to fill the menus of the nation’s top restaurants. Great British Game Week aims to take this wonderfully tasty wild meat into the home kitchen, too.
The campaign, now in its fourth year, was originally inspired by Taste of Game and the Countryside Alliance’s Game-to-Eat, but this year they are also joined by the British Game Alliance’s Eat Wild team.
Annette Woolcock, development manager for Taste of Game is delighted with how the annual campaign has grown and the impact it is having: “The campaign has become a lot busier, with a lot more people involved. We want to show people just how easy, tasty, versatile and quick it is to cook with game. We’d also like to encourage people to use social media to share their game meals and their recipes. The UK now produces more game than ever before and it’s more available than it’s ever been. More and more supermarkets are stocking it, as well as there being more game dealers supplying it to the high street. We just want to encourage more people to give game a try.” Tom Adams, managing director of the British Game Alliance, an organisation set up to ensure only the best quality game reaches the consumer, is equally enthusiastic: “Through Eat Wild and the Great British Game Week campaign we want to encourage consumers to consider eating game on a regular basis and to think of game in a different way.
“So maybe, instead of chicken, for example, they may try the same recipe but with pheasant, or duck, or partridge. Game is so versatile and lends itself to wide range and variety of recipes, be that a quick mid-week meal to something more special to share with friends.”
This year’s campaign is supported by some of the UK’s most well-known and leading chefs, with Eat Wild’s recent launch featuring their lead campaign chef and Game Ambassador, Michelin starred Nigel Haworth. Also in attendance were fellow chefs Brian Turner, Shaun Rankin and Rick Stein.
Tim Maddams, former River Cottage head chef and a one-time trainee with Marco Pierre White, is a proud Game Ambassador for Taste of Game. Maddams, now chef for the Country Food Trust, a charitable organisation that provides game-based meals for people in need, and author of the River Cottage Game Handbook, has been a long-time campaigner for ethical and sustainable food, though he admits his first encounter with game was not initially the most positive.
Maddams recalls: “My first game memory was my mother gutting and skinning a hare. I remember feeling absolutely repulsed. The smell was disgusting. But I was also fascinated by its touch and the feel of the soft fur. But slowly, as the cooking progressed, the flavours and aromas filled the kitchen. When we ate it, it was delicious. I’ve been hooked ever since.”
For Maddams, who describes himself in his book as a “committed ethical foodie”, Game Week is all about encouraging people to eat better food: “Game is nutritious, healthy, free range, generally locally sourced and it’s cheap – if you eat meat, it’s the best meat to eat. It’s a no-brainer, really”, he says.
Maddams also encourages cooks to get more hands-on with their game when it comes to preparing it. “We weren’t born squeamish,” he says, “plucking your own bird breads respect and builds a connection between you, your food and the environment. It can also be a very relaxing and mindfulness thing to do”.
He is also dismissive of the suggestion that game is somehow elitist and too closely associated with exclusive fine dining: “This may have been true at one time, but not anymore. You can understand how these social myths persist, but nowadays it’s just not true. There are so many good recipes for everyday meals out there, such as a great pulled barbecue pheasant.”
The core message of the campaign is whatever you cook, you can cook it with game. The three game organisations’ websites provide a host of recipes for cooks of all abilities and for meals for all occasions. They encourage cooks to be more creative with their game, offering variations on familiar dishes, such as a game lasagne, but also a chance to be adventurous with oriental inspired dishes such as slow roast pheasant ramen or Chinese pancakes with aromatic pulled venison.
The campaign will run across traditional media and can be followed online by looking for the hashtags #GBGameWeek, #EatMoreGame, #WildGame and #TreatItLikeChicken. Details of game stockists and suppliers can also be found via the websites with everything you need to give game a go.
Traditional ramen noodles with slow roast pheasant breast (From Eat Wild)
INGREDIENTS (SERVES 4):
For the stock
20g Chilli, chopped
50g Ginger, chopped
50g Galangal, chopped
1 litre Chicken stock
20ml Fish sauce
50ml Soy sauce
For the ramen
4x Pheasant breasts
1x Tin of bamboo
1x Pre-cooked ramen noodles
30g Palm sugar
50g Fresh coriander, chopped
30g Spring onions, chopped
1. Infuse the stock
First, start infusing the stock. Bring the 1 litre of chicken stock to the boil with all of the broth ingredients. Season with soy and fish sauce, then bring back to the boil and simmer for an hour.
2. Chop the vegetables
While the stock simmers, set the oven to 160°C and julienne your leeks, carrots, and bamboo. That means slicing the vegetables into extremely skinny strips, usually around 5cm long.
3. Season & roast the pheasant
When the oven’s hot enough, season the pheasant breasts with a touch of salt and pepper, place on a baking tray and roast for around 20 minutes.
4. Strain the stock
Saving the liquid, strain your stock through a colander then reboil and check the seasoning; it should be slightly hot and salted with just a hint of sweetness.
5. Heat the noodles
Place your cooked ramen noodles in a large ramen bowl and pour the hot stock over the top. This heats up the noodles really quickly without overcooking them.
6. Plate up
Slice the roasted pheasant breast and add it to the ramen, then mix in all the vegetables, which will lightly cook in the boiling stock. Finish with a chopped coriander garnish and serve with chopsticks and a traditional ramen spoon.