Autumn is now upon us and it's the perfect time of year for game lovers. If you’re unsure of what game meat is, or need help on how to cook it then read on – hopefully, we can inspire you to think up some beautiful autumnal dinners! Any animal or bird that is hunted and not farmed is considered game.
You can split game into feathers and fur. Falling under the fur category would be hare, deer, squirrel and wild boar. Whereas wood pigeon, pheasant, partridge, grouse, woodcock and duck are your game birds.
Other than the obvious reason that game is free range and value for money there are many more reasons why you should be buying this widely available meat. Game is far leaner than farmed meats and because they are 'wild' animals they have no hidden antibiotics or hormones. Factory farmed animals are a huge strain on the environment so buying game helps to reduce your carbon footprint. Because game meat is more active in the wild it tends to have a lower fat content than other red meats. The benefit of the animals being able to have a natural grass-fed diet also means that the meat is higher in omega-3 fatty acids than grain or corn-fed animals.
September is the start of wood pigeon season, and offering a stronger more intense taste than chicken, it is a welcome change for autumnal meals. Their diet of grains, crops and seeds gives them a sweet, nutty flavour making them a versatile meat for your wintery dinners.
There are two types of partridge available in the UK. The red legged partridge is the larger of the two, this bird being more common than the native grey partridge. Resembling a smaller roast chicken, they have a delicate taste compared to other game birds. One bird will provide enough meat to feed one person. Beautiful roasted or in a pie!
Wild pheasants are very active birds and because of this, they produce very lean meat. Some people compare the taste to a stronger chicken, but less gamey than other birds. Like chicken it can be easy to dry out when cooking – so take extra care with that. Pheasant season is from October to February – try complimenting the bird with other berries and vegetables that are in season. If you want to try a more tender bird with a more gamey flavour then give grouse a try. It’s the same size as a small chicken and is delicious when roasted.
If you want something rich in taste, duck could be a good option for you. Many people avoid duck because they believe cooking it can be difficult – don’t be put off by this. Wild ducks have less fat than farmed ducks so when cooking just take a little extra care to stop the meat from drying out. Sweet flavours pair perfectly with the strong flavour of duck, such as orange or plumb. For something different, try in a Thai curry!
Game meat is a lot leaner than farmed meats and has a more intense flavour, making it the perfect alternative meat for warming winter stews and casseroles. Venison makes a great alternative to beef, making tasty steaks, wellingtons and pies. If you’re looking for something different, wild rabbit has a firm meaty flesh but a more subtle gamey taste that also works well in stews and casseroles – perfect for this time of year. Wild boar was actually extinct in the UK, but has recently made a comeback – due to this fact 'wild' boar is usually farmed, but don't let that put you off. It has its own unique flavour and makes a lovely ragu – perfect with pasta!