As the game season continues, so does our appetite for cooking with exciting ingredients - pheasant, grouse, partridge, venison - and each creature brings its own unique and distinct flavour to the table.
Natural and healthy, wild meat and birds are used to make the most delicious dishes and are also one of the most nutritious forms of protein available. Wild game is entirely organic and free-range and as these animals and birds are more active, the meat is generally lower in cholesterol and fat (venison has less fat than a skinless chicken breast). Venison, rabbit, pigeon and grouse have impressive health credentials; their natural diet means they are free of harmful antibiotics and growth hormones - and venison in particular is rich in iron. There are usually very few miles from ‘farm to fork’ which means wild game is sustainable, ethical and leaves little or no carbon footprint. No wonder sales of game are rising.
Currently on our menu at The Rose & Crown in Fletching, near Uckfield, is a creamy Wood-fired Pheasant and Macaroni Cheese, made with flavoursome, fresh game meat and strong Cheddar. It’s the ultimate comfort food, especially after a long, damp, Autumnal walk and since pheasant is a white meat with a fairly mild flavour, it’s a good option if you’ve never tried game before.
Another of our favourites – and perfect for bonfire night - is a Bay, Juniper & Harveys Ale Venison Casserole served with Celeriac Gratin & Chefs Farm Kale. Juniper is a classic accompaniment to venison – it infuses it with its distinctive, botannical flavour, supported by the warm, woody bay. This hearty casserole is a real crowd-pleaser and can be easily cooked in either a slow cooker or in the oven for a no-nonsense, family-friendly winter warmer.
There’s much more to cooking with ale than just a steak and ale pie and we enjoy cooking with Harvey’s Ale; it has very little carbonation and its crispness cuts well through meats, especially rich ones like game. Above all, it adds a rich, warm flavour that is distinctive without being overpowering.
Based in the Sussex Down market town of Lewes, just north east of Brighton, Harvey's brewing heritage dates back to 1790 - the time of George III, William Blake and Jane Austen. Seven generations of John Harvey's dynasty have managed the brewery since then - and five family members from the seventh and eighth generations are current custodians of the business.
Lewes really comes alive at the time of year and on November 5th, thousands of visitors descend on the picturesque town for carnival-style processions, fires and firework displays for the (now legendary) Bonfire Night. Known simply as ‘The Fifth’, the event is based across several venues and locations around the historic county town, each with their own themes, costumes and parades – and the highlight for most visitors and townsfolk is the burning effigies of controversial public figures. As well as honouring the failure of the 1605 Gunpowder Plot by burning a traditional Guy Fawkes ‘scarecrow’, celebrities and politicians are also cremated; recent subjects have included David Cameron (in boxer shorts, holding a pig) Jeremy Clarkson, ex-FIFA president Sepp Blatter, Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump and Osama bin Laden.
Wherever you are and whatever you’re planning this bonfire night, stay safe and have fun!