I’m a big fan of game. I don’t eat it a lot, because I don’t have a regular source of it, but I very much value the idea of eating animals that have lived wild. I buy all my regular meat from the local butcher, and most of it is outdoor-reared or free-range, but the ultimate has to be eating meat from animals that have lived most or all of their lives in the wild, right up to the moment of death.
A couple of weeks ago a friend gave us a pheasant. We hung it in the shed (from what I’ve heard and read, I wouldn’t recommend hanging a pheasant for two weeks unless you want it really gamey, but for most of that time the temperature has been around or below zero!). And yesterday, after we did a bit of research on the Internet and using the River Cottage Meat Book (a fascinating read I’d recommend to all meat-eaters), I prepared the bird. Here are some photos (I picked the less gruesome ones!):
First, I removed the wings, legs and head, and pulled out the tail feathers. The crop was full, which was really interesting – we could easily tell that her final meal had been barley and beechmast! Then I made a slit in the skin on the breast and skinned it – it was really very easy (and I’ve never skinned anything before!). The skin just came off, feathers and all, as if I was stripping off clothing – it was weird (but fascinating) to pull the legs through and see them all naked and pink! Then I gutted it, which was also easy – just a matter of scooping out all the innards. I saved the heart, because I’m actually taking a sheep’s heart into school to show to my second years this week, so I thought they might like to see a pheasant heart too!
When it was all prepared, I cooked it using a friend’s delicious method: shallots, cider, a bay leaf and some thyme, and simmered it for about 40 minutes. I added some chunks of apple about 5 minutes before the end (I was surprised by how quickly the apple cooked). Just before serving it I threw in some cooked bacon and stirred in some sour cream. It was lovely with some veg and mashed potato and there was enough left, with plenty of sauce, to have with bread as a sort of pheasant soup for lunch today.
I’m all fired up now to try cooking more game. I’m pretty sure the butcher in Bridge of Allan has wild venison. Apart from that, I’m not sure how you go about sourcing game – any ideas?