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Game

November 29, 2010

Game has got to be the best thing about the autumn in Britain. We are lucky in Bristol to have a good supply from the countryside which surrounds us. The farmers market has unplucked birds for realistic prices (a brace of pheasant for a fiver) which acknowledge the fact that ‘farm gate’ prices of game are very low indeed. If you live in the right place and know the right people then you are likely to be fighting off free game all season. But sadly very few of us live in the right place or know the right people and game is under represented and under appreciated in Britain’s kitchens. Game supply is random – like all wild (or semi wild) food supplies and so it’s not easy for shops to cope with. When you realise that a big shoot could bag a couple of hundred birds you see why some end up thrown away – how do you shift that much in one go?

It’s a shame, because game is a fantastically tasty and cheap source of meat, and it would be great if more people would catch on to it. I think that perhaps the notion of hunting and shooting being for the upper classes has created a mental barrier which stops people from buying game – an idea that it is expensive and exclusive, but this is not the case at all. It may be expensive to go and do the shooting, but to cook the results is, quite literally, as cheap as chips. Well, perhaps not quite: if you want snipe, or woodcock or grouse, you’re going to have to put your hand in your pocket a little deeper. But with pheasant, partridge, rabbit and venison you can eat like a king for peasant pennies.

A friend of mine’s new job has brought with it a colleague with ready supply of game birds, and he’s doing well this season so far. Much to my delight I have been cashing in on this supply of free meat and I have pheasant legs in the freezer for a rainy day’s confit to prove it.

Game is, in all honesty, best enjoyed in the countryside. You know: roaring log fire, casserole in the bottom oven, early frosts on the window pane, red cabbage, buttery sprouts and fluffy potatoes. But you can recreate that in the city. We don’t have a fire but we do have everything else, and on a frigid winter’s night, that’s a pretty appetising prospect.

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