The temperature has dropped considerably and, while we’re not about to start shivering exactly, all talk of ‘late summer’ or ‘Indian summers’ has gone and we are thinking about all those fantastic things we love to do during the colder months.
Of course, food and wine play a huge part in keeping us entertained and, as the casserole dishes and stock pots replace the BBQ’s and picnic baskets, there’s much to look forward to. One of my favourite treats during autumn and early winter is definitely Game.
At some point in my distant past (during the 1980’s actually) I worked in a company that supplied much of the Game that was being eaten in London’s top restaurants and hotels. The Savoy Hotel, on the Strand, would order literally hundreds of birds in any given week. At that time we had our own plucking room in Mayfair and all of the birds would come down from the north overnight and we would start at around 3am to get everything prepared for the drivers to take to the customers in time for the restaurants to open. During the last thirty years many things have changed in the food industry and today we are not allowed to have feathers in our shops. The plucking is now done in factories, and that’s not a bad thing. However, from a buyer’s point of view, there are a number of tests to be carried out in order to establish the age of birds. It’s possible to gauge age by the strength of the beak and the tip of the toe. It is also possible to tell by the feathers at the tips of the wings. So, at Meat London, we insist that all of the Game birds that we buy are a) shot and b) completely intact. At the risk of blowing my on trumpet, my training, and the sheer volume of what we used to do, has left me very good at preparing game birds and it’s a skill that I am trying to pass on to our young Team at Meat. Keeping the birds intact and ‘gutting’ them properly at the last minute ensures that they reach our customers in optimum condition.
I have mentioned our suppliers before in this column and, now that I am writing about Game, I am delighted to be able to introduce The ‘Yorkshire Game’ company. Ever since my first forays into furred and feathered game way back in the early 80’s, Yorkshire Game has been a loyal and dependable supplier. On my way to opening Meat London in 2011 I worked for the Roux Brothers, Harvey Nichols and I owned The Butcher and Grill and, at every stage, Yorkshire Game have produced an endless supply of perfect Game of every description. The company was formally opened in 1983 and was taken over by its present owners in 2005, and have seamlessly continued supplying the very finest Game from Scotland and the North of England.
Popularity of Game birds and, in fact, Venison, has ebbed and flowed through the years but we are now seeing a growing interest again. The younger birds are beautiful just simply roasted with a few potatoes and green vegetables and the older birds are fantastic braised or pot roasted with pulses and maybe some root vegetables.
Venison is always very underrated, and is both versatile and very healthy, being low in fat. Why not order a Venison Roast from the Butcher this weekend as a delicious, fun alternative to the usual roasts, and start your autumn season on the front foot.
12th August – Dec Grouse
August – 31st Jan Snipe / Hare / Venison
September – 31st Jan Partridge / Wood Pigeon / Mallard
October – 31st Jan Pheasant / Woodcock