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Game season comes and goes every year and sometimes we don’t get around to cooking any before it’s over, which is a shame as we love the flavours. This year, however, we got ourselves organised and made this rich and full-flavoured pheasant ragu for pasta. Your butcher should be able to order a pheasant for you if it’s not something they usually stock.

Wine Suggestion: Find yourself a good Nebbiolo with a little bit of age on it. Sitting in our cellar was a Pira Luigi Barolo Marenca from 2012. A combination of fresh, dried and morello cherry flavours with classic rose and tar aromas; massive, under-stated power, elegantly refined and opening up beautifully over a number of hours. At eight years old this is still evolving nicely and has a good life ahead of it … wish we had a few more!

Pheasant ragu for pasta – serves 4

  • 250ml chicken stock
  • a handful of dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1 pheasant
  • 80g pancetta cubes
  • 2 shallots, sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • a bay leaf
  • 125ml white wine
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley
  • ½ lemon
  • 400g tagliatelle, cooked to serve
  • Parmesan, to serve

Bring the chicken stock to a simmer, then add the mushrooms and leave them in the hot stock while you brown the pheasant.

Brown the pheasant in a heavy-based casserole dish in a little olive oil, you want it to be nicely coloured on all sides. When the pheasant is browned, add the pancetta cubes and allow to brown. Add the shallots and garlic and stir for a minute before adding the bay leaf. Pour in the white wine and bubble for a minute. Add the stock and the mushrooms, leave any gritty bits behind in the pan. Season well and bring to a simmer, then cover with a tight lid and cook gently for about an hour or until the meat starts to fall off the bones.

Remove the pheasant from the pan and discard the bay leaf. Let the pheasant cook for a bit, then strip the meat off the bones and tear into pieces. Meanwhile, simmer the sauce to thicken it a little and cook the tagliatelle in lots of salty water.

Return the shredded pheasant to the sauce with the chopped parsley and a squeeze of lemon juice. Toss with the tagliatelle and serve with Parmesan.

(Original recipe by Lulu Grimes in Olive Magazine, October 2014.)

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braised-venison.jpg

A little nod to game season and a great winter stew. Don’t be tempted to buy anything too lean as you need the fat to stop the venison becoming dry when slow-cooking.

Wine Suggestion: This dish needs a juicy red wine with structure, but not too many dry tannins. Tonight we tried Domaine Rochette’s Morgon, a good cru Beaujolais, and were delighted how well it worked.

Braised Venison – serves 8

  • 2 carrots, roughly chopped
  • 140g turnip/swede, roughly chopped
  • 2 onions, roughly chopped
  • 3 celery sticks, roughly chopped
  • olive oil and butter, for frying
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1kg boned haunch or shoulder of venison cut into large chunks
  • 5 tbsp plain flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp redcurrant jelly
  • 450ml dry red wine e.g. Rioja
  • 450ml beef stock
  • 2 sprigs of thyme
  • 1 bay leaf

Heat the oven to 180C/Fan 160C/Gas 4.

Fry the vegetable in a little oil or butter in a heavy casserole for about 5 minutes or until golden. Add the garlic and fry for a further minute, then set aside.

Put the venison into a plastic bag with the seasoned flour and shake to coat. Add a little oil and butter to a large frying pan and fry the venison over a high heat until well browned. Scoop out with a slotted spoon and add to the casserole with the vegetables. You will need to do this in batches so you don’t overcrowd the pan. Add a little more oil and butter with each batch if needed.

Add the redcurrant jelly and wine to the frying pan and bring to the boil, scraping any crusty bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the wine mixture to the casserole dish, then add the beef stock, thyme, and bay leaf. Season and bring to the boil, then cover and cook in the oven for 1½ hours or until tender. Check the seasoning before serving. We enjoyed ours with some dauphinoise potatoes and green cabbage.

(Original recipe from BBC Good Food)

 

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Roast Guinea Fowl with sage and lemon mash

Our butcher had some guinea fowl on the counter and February is the month for a two person dish. This 1.2 kg bird gave enough for two people plus delicious sandwiches the following day.  Guinea fowl tastes like really flavoursome chicken so a good way to try out game birds with tastes that aren’t too unfamiliar. Don’t worry too much about the size of your bird, just follow the usual timings for roast chicken.

Wine suggestion: if you’d like a white wine seek out the Sartarelli Verdicchio Superiore Tralivio or for a red an earthy Pinot Noir like the Sylvain Loichet Cotes du Nuits Villages. Neither will disappoint.

Roast guinea fowl with sage & lemon mash – serves 2

  • 1 small guinea fowl, about 1kg
  • 1 onion, thickly sliced with the skin left on
  • ½ a small bunch of sage
  • 75g softened butter
  • 1 small lemon, zested
  • 6 rashers of streaky bacon
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • 350ml strong chicken stock
  • 350g floury potatoes peeled and cut in to large chunks
  • 2-3 tbsp cream/milk
  • 2 handfuls of watercress to serve

Heat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6.

Put the onion in the bottom of a small roasting tin that will fit the guinea fowl snugly. Finely chop 5 sage leaves and mix with 50g of the butter, the lemon zest and seasoning. Push some of the butter mixture under the skin of the bird, then rub the rest all over. Stretch the bacon strips over the breast, then halve the zested lemon and put inside the cavity with the remaining sage. Place the bird on top of the onions and roast for 15 minutes.

Lower the oven temperature to 180C/160C fan/gas 4 and continue to roast for another 35-45 minutes or longer if your bird is bigger than 1kg. Check the bird is cooked by piercing the inside of the thigh and making sure the juices are clear.

Meanwhile, boil the potatoes until tender, then drain and mash with the remaining butter and a splash of milk/cream.

Lift the bird onto a platter and keep warm. Scoop the lemon halves from the cavity and keep aside. Pour the roasting juice into a jug and leave to settle, the fat will rise to the top. Spoon 1 tbsp of the fat back into the tin. Put the tin over a low heat and stir in the flour. Gradually add the stock and any meat juices (discard the extra fat from the jug). Mash some of the reserved lemon pulp into the mash with some salt and pepper.

Carve the bird and serve with the lemon mash, gravy and watercress.

(Original recipe from BBC Olive Magazine, February 2014.)

 

Roast Guinea Fowl with sage and lemon mash 2

 

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We made this as a Sunday night dinner for two and it is rich and packed full of flavour. Pheasant is appropriately in season in Ireland at the moment, as are apples, so a perfect choice.

Roast Pheasant with Apple and Calvados – to serve 2-3

  • 1 plump young pheasant, about 725-900g
  • 10g butter
  • 4-5 tbsp Calvados
  • 225ml cream or 125ml cream and 125ml chicken stock
  • 25g butter
  • 2 desserts apples

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/gas 4.

Heat a casserole, just large enough to fit the pheasant. Season the cavity and spread the 10g of butter over the breast and leg. Place breast-side down in the casserole and allow to brown over a gentle heat, then turn over and season. Cover with a tight lid and cook for 40-45 minutes in the oven.

To check if it is cooked, poke a fork between the leg and the breast, the juices should be completely clear with no pink.Transfer to a serving dish and keep warm.

Carefully strain and de-grease the casserole juices. Bring to the boil, add the Calvados and carefully light with a match. Shake the pan and when the flames have gone out, add the cream (or stock and cream). Reduce by boiling until the sauce thickens, stirring now and then, taste for seasoning.

Peel, core and dice the apples and fry in the 25g of butter until golden. Carve the pheasant and arrange on a hot serving dish or on individual plates. Cover with the sauce and serve with the apple. We also had some colcannon on the side.

Wine Suggestion: You need a powerful and earthy red, balanced with good acidity for this dish. We drank a 2005 Cornu Corton-Bressandes Grand Cru 2005 on the inspiration of one of Jono’s customers who was looking for an opinion; we heartily endorse it as it had the depth and personality to stand up to the rich and powerful flavours with it’s own power, depth and freshness. Superb. Burgundy and game work really well.

(Original recipe from Darina Allen’s Ballymaloe Cookery Course, Kyle Cathie Limited, 2001.)

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