Bottom shelf of my freezer contains game meat. I finished off a fantastic loin of fallow deer before Christmas. Its all featered game now. The supermarkets stock dressed birds cheaply now and some farmers markets will have game dealers form local shoots.
Early season its partridge but after October its Pheasants and maybe a woodcock if lucky. A few ducks and an odd pigeon.
I am fortunate enough to be able to shoot my own and am always very grateful for any game. The whole concept of wild meat that has been free to roam and forage in the woods is much more appealing and interesting than the bloated adolescent poultry that is readily available in supermarkets.
When it comes to game there is a romanticised view of roasted birds served in a historic tableau with pewter jugs and bone handled carving forks. In reality many are overly hung and dissapointing tough.
After returning from a days shooting I hang birds for a short time. Partridge overnight and max 48 hours (plucking is much easier next day). Ducks next day and pheasant in early season its usually just overnight in the celler. In the midst of winter from late Nov through to end of January maybe 48 to 72 hours max. I am not sure that it achieves that much and unless you really like the stronger taste I think it is detrimental.
For pheasants unless I am feeling inspired to pluck I tend to make a nick in the breast skin and simply work it away with my fingers. the whole skin feathers and all can be turned inside out and the breasts removed. The legs likewise can be removed skin free.
If I’m not cooking it fresh I vacpac it and freeze it. Its a great meat for curries, stir fries and my favorites slow cooked winter stews and casseroles.
Italian Pheasant stew (serves 4)
2 pheasant breasts, cut into chunks
200g chopped belly pork (or bacon lardons)
1 cup chopped celery
3-4 carrots cut into large pieces
1 onion chopped finely
2 cloves garlic crushed
salt, pepper, italian herbs, bayleaf
2 pints chicken stock (stock cube)
borlotti beans (or other beans – drained tinned beans are fine)
mixed italian grains (eg farro/spelt/barley)
Brown the belly pork in a casserole dish. Remove and then soften the onion, celery and carrot in the rendered fat and a splash of oil. add the garlica and herbs
Add the belly pork and the chopped pheasant and stir. Add the stock and bring to a simmer.
Cook on a very low simmer for 2 hours.
Add the beans and grains and cook for a further hour until the grains are soft.
(the grains can be cooked seperately and added at the end if required).
Serve in a bowl with some steamed kale stirred in and a drizzle of rich flavoured olive oil.