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User Icon     Posted 7 months ago     by Jim Hook     

Vegetables - The Supporting Cast?

"Go outside and cut me a cabbage” was my grandmothers well used line on Sundays when we were lucky enough to have a joint for lunch. The fact that she then normally boiled it to death before serving, is another matter. She, and my grandad, tended to the veg patch (garden) religiously. It only measured about 3m square but they used every inch or mm.

Fayre Game Pursuits is all about eating game. We are in the middle of the season and there is an abundance of game to eat. Do not forget to clean, bag and label an amount for the freezer. I will come back to the subject of freezing and preserving later, remember it’s a long time between seasons.

We provide a lot of information on our web site covering anything and everything we can think of that is country pursuit related. Our tag line of ‘Field to Fork’ does what it says on the tin, or to be more precise the carcass. However, whilst I love the ‘Field’ I am probably more ‘Fork’ as my waistline bears testament to!

The ‘Field’ keeps the dogs and me fit, it provides delightful sights, sounds and smells of autumn going into winter. However, it is the cold fresh air at this time of year that I enjoy the most. “It kills the germs” was another saying from my gran; they all made sense. The field does of course give us the delicious key ingredient for so many meals enjoyed by us all over the winter.

It’s rare for us to eat meat on its own, it needs contrasting textures and flavours. In moments of weakness, late at night, when no one can see us a certain American Colonel who professes to give us a ‘finger lick’n good’ meal might feature in your life. We have all tried it, we were all young once!

What I am talking about here though are vegetables. This is the season for gorgeous roots, squashes, many fruits and fungi. We are all aware that there is a huge ongoing vegetarian revolution at the moment. I believe this has been triggered by people becoming aware of the welfare and environmental issues surrounding mass produced meat and fish. We should encourage people to understand what is in season and buy and cook those locally grown vegetables which are not only in abundance but also come with zero air miles. My gran also used to say “what grows together, goes together, my love”, so let’s encourage people to marry our wonderful veg with local wild game.

I find it sad to hear how children are not getting proper meals in the UK when locally we produce the best of ingredients. Not being able to afford good meat and vegetables is a flawed argument. By planning what we want to cook we can ensure we buy and make enough in order to use everything. Perhaps we should aim to make enough to store or freeze a few portions as well?

The news of late has been littered with stories of waste food. Pumpkins primarily produced for Halloween not being bought or when bought not eaten, simply hollowed and used to decorate a windowsill for a few nights. Not enough foreign ‘pickers’ available to gather and store bumper fruit harvests which has led to huge piles of waste fruit. Can local people not pick fruit?

The positive side of people eating more vegetables is the proliferation of ‘Farm Shops’, most of which are superb. While celebrities championing ‘ugly veg’ is admirable and should be supported please visit your local farm shop foe your field fresh produce.

Another of gran’s sayings comes back to me. “You will eat a pound of dirt before you die” She did have a way with words, did gran! With hindsight, I think she was on to something; we now sterilise and clean everything in sight and race for the sterile wipes if a child has a dirty hand! I know some learned professor of ‘cleanliness’ will contact us informing us we are wrong but kids today do have more allergies, illnesses and tummy bugs than we did back in the age of dirty hands!

Let’s get back to vegetables! What vegetables goes well with game? Short answer is they all do. There are so many recipes out there that use a wide variety of veg from roots to beets to leaves. Add fruit and preserves and you start to get the idea and an amazing meal!

I was fortunate enough recently to watch a professional head chef from a top-class restaurant in London produce four different game dishes of pheasant, partridge, venison and wild boar. He mixed a wide variety of seasonal veg to create amazing flavours. Let me tempt you!

  • Partridge with buttered celeriac, sweetcorn and wild mushrooms, a slice of smoked sausage and a lovely mustard sauce.
  • Pheasant with sauerkraut, mixed granny smith apple puree and wild chestnut grated on top of the pheasant.
  • · Backstrap of venison, warm pickled red cabbage, with cavolo nero, and a red wine, shallot and garlic reduction.
  • Wild Boar, granny smith puree and more of the corn and wild mushroom from the earlier dish.

Whilst the game might be the star of the show, without the supporting cast of cabbages, shallot, herbs, leaves, fruits and nuts it would have been a pretty forgettable one! Nobody is suggesting that we all turn vegetarian; a life without game and other meats and fish would be intolerable for me personally but it’s all about choice. We should respect those who choose not to eat meat, but they should do the same to us, it has to be a mutual respected relationship! The important thing is to eat well and eat local.

I mentioned at the beginning about freezing game for the closed season, and the same should be done with vegetables. My freezer has bags of peas, runner beans (my favourite) and broad beans amongst other things harvested during the summer gluts. I tend to, rightly or wrongly, pick the veg, wash it, slice, peel or pod depending on which it is. Next, I par-boil for no more than a minute or 2 before putting it straight into iced water to try and retain the colour. When cool I take it out of the water, allow to dry on a tea towel before sealing it in a bag and freezing.

Always label or write with a permanent pen on the outside of the bag, stating what it is, its portion size and the date. I visited a friend recently who was trying to find something in a large chest freezer, it was more of an educated guess as to what was in each bag!!

I am happy to eat less meat for many reasons, but when I eat meat, I want good meat. By that, I don’t mean fillet steak I mean any piece of the animal or bird organically reared, wild if possible which has lived with the sun and rain on its back and died without knowing it. What I don’t mean is a ‘Finger Lick’n processed bird’.

“We must not waste a scrap” Guess who? Thanks gran.

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