There are a lot of myths about game.
It’s hard to get hold of. It tastes strong, sometimes bitter. You’ll crack your teeth on lead shot. You can ruin a dish by cooking it for a few seconds too long.
As with all myths, these and most of the rest are completely untrue.
Game has a lot to offer the cook, and even more to offer the diner. It has a sense of homely exoticism about it, of something special, traditional, rooted.
Heritage in a pot.
Trish Hilferty and Ton Norrington-Davies’ book Game: A Cookbook is a detailed look at game in all its guises, and provides a useful starting point for the aspiring game cook, or more likely, the cook who’s happened to chance upon a couple of rabbits or a brace of pheasants and hasn’t the slightest clue what to do with them.
I fall firmly into this category. My experiences with game have been mixed. Some recipes have worked, others have failed in a spectacular fashion. I realise now that my techniques have been off the mark. A pheasant is not simply a small chicken. Lesson learnt.
Game: A Cookbook divides its subject into three broad sections, dealing with animals with two legs, four legs and no legs at all, essentially birds, mammals and fish. It’s a clever approach and marks the crossover in cooking methods amongst members of each group, playing on the synergies and the possibility of substitution.
There is plenty to inspire. Basic roasting techniques are covered well, with proper attention to the intricacies of dealing with different species. There’s some exotic approaches, rabbit in Thai yellow curry, an Indonesian-style roast wild duck along with plenty of traditional standards such as a venison Wellington or a startlingly old-fashioned rook pie. There’s the odd bit of charcuterie as well. Wild duck ham, a cured and dried duck breast will be in production this afternoon.
A couple of pages of stuffing recipes towards the back will come into their own next Christmas. Sage and breadcrumb stuffing should be an early shoo-in when I turn to planning Christmas dinner in December.
Hilferty and Norrington-Davies’ book is a huge triumph.
It succeeds on many levels, not merely as a stand-out cook book with accessible and engaging recipes. Above that, it’s an inspirational book, shining a light on an under used and under appreciated collection of ingredients that really deserve more attention.
Hugely successful, and worthy of a place on any cook’s bookshelf.
All photos are copyright Jason Lowe, and in my opinion, are superb. Photography often makes or breaks a cookbook, and Lowe’s pictures are a complete joy.
Thanks to Absolute Press for sending me a review copy.