Our selection of game birds and wildfowl are perfect for creating shows-topping seasonal dishes in the run-up to Christmas
Shooting season is well underway, and nothing heralds the onset of winter more evocatively, or deliciously, than the returof game birds to the table.
While thoughts in the weeks before Christmas may be focused on the main event featuring turkey or goose, it’s well worth taking time to explore some of the UK’s other, less considered game birds.
From rich guinea fowl and duck to plump partridge, pigeon and quail, Maws supply wildfowl to ensure you bring your best game to every winter menu, which is why we’ve included three of our favourite recipes below.
Partridge with pear, sautéed cabbage and chantrelles (serves 2)
Thanks to the famous carol, this smaller member of the pheasant family has become synonymous with the Christmas period. Partridges nest in high grasses, foraging on seeds and insects, and have a delicate, sweet flavour with slight game overtones. Partridge is perfect roasted, and delicious served accompanied by the fruits of the tree it was presented in.
2 partridges, oven ready
2 sprigs of thyme
Quarter of a savoy cabbage (shredded)
100g smoked lardons
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
100g unsalted butter
Handful chanterelle mushrooms
1 large pear
50g caster sugar
200 ml water
Preheat the oven to 190ºC (180ºC fan oven) / gas mark 5.
Make the pear puree. Peel, core and chop the pear into small cubes and add to the pan with around 100g caster sugar and 2000ml of water. The liquid should only just cover the pear and simmer for 15 minutes, until tender pear is left in light, reduced syrup. Place in blender and blend until smooth, then reserve.
Melt 25g of the butter with a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a heavy pan, add the lardons and fry for a minute or two. Then add the shredded cabbage and turn down the heat to medium to cook for 15 minutes. Stir the pan every couple of minutes or so.
Heat a small frying pan that can go in the oven, and add a tablespoon of oil. When medium hot, season the partridge with salt and pepper, add it to the pan and sear it on all sides. Once the bird is nicely browned, sprinkle thyme leaves over and put the pan into the oven for 4 minutes, then remove, turn put back for another 4 minutes. Remove the pan (using oven gloves!), place the partridge on a small plate and cover it with kitchen foil to rest.
While resting, put the pear purée in a small pan on a very gentle heat to begin warming through. Add the madeira to the partridge-roasting pan, and bubble on medium high heat to reduce. Have 25g of the butter, cold and diced waiting. Put a clean pan onto the heat and add the final tablespoon of oil and butter. Throw in the mushrooms to cook just for a couple of minutes.
Once the madeira has reduced down to a sauce-like consistency, add the resting juices from the partridge and whisk in the cubes of butter one at a time until fully emulsified into the sauce. Check the seasoning and adjust if necessary.
To serve: Carve the partridge, removing the breasts and the legs. Place a little mound of the sautéed cabbage and lardons in the middle of a warmed plate. Smear a couple of generous spoonfuls of pear purée on either side. Place the partridge on top of the cabbage, and scatter the wild mushrooms around the plate and drizzle over the sauce.
Quail with apple, date and chestnut stuffing (serves 4)
A favourite of classic French cuisine, there are hundreds of varieties of quail throughout the world. Today they are as commonly farmed for their eggs as hunted for meat, with the Bobwhite variety being the UK’s favourite. Small and plump, like many game birds, quail need to be cooked quickly with the addition of fat to avoid them drying out, and deliver very subtle gamey flavour.
4 whole quails
1 apple, cored and chopped
1/3 cup of chopped dates
100g cooked chestnuts 1
100g pork sausage meat
1 banana shallot, finely chopped
200ml dry cider
2 tbsp olive oil
Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas Mark 4.
To make the stuffing, place the chestnuts, apple, dates, shallot and sausage meat in a food processor, season and blitz together until smooth.
Using a small spoon, entirely fill the cavity of each quail with stuffing and tie each pair of legs together with string.
Place the quails in a snug roasting tray, pour the cider into the tray and drizzle the oil over the skin of the quails and season the skin.
Cook for 30 minutes, remove from the oven, transfer roasting juices to a small saucepan, cover with foil and rest for at least 10 minutes. Meanwhile simmer roasting juices in the saucepan until they to reduced to a thicker jus.
To Serve: Spoon a little of the roasting jus over each bird and accompany with classic game chips and seasonal vegetables of choice.
Smoked-Duck Salad with Walnuts and Raspberries (serves 4)
No matter whether it’s a mallard, pintail or teal, duck meat is extremely rich and full of flavour as well as being highly nutritious, with high levels of protein, B vitamins and minerals such as zinc, potassium, magnesium and iron. In this simple yet vibrant winter salad, the rich, dark flavours of meaty smoked duck breasts, crisped skin and toasted walnuts sing against sweet, tangy raspberries, bitter endive and peppery watercress.
1/2 pound smoked duck breast (skin and fat removed and reserved)
1/2 cup walnuts 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
2 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard 1 small shallot, very finely chopped
3 tablespoons walnut oil
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
6 ounces watercress
1 cup raspberries
Preheat the oven to 350°
Spread the duck skin and fat in a pie plate and bake for about 15 minutes, until crisp. Drain on paper towels, then break into pieces.
Meanwhile, spread the walnuts in a pie plate and toast for 8 minutes; coarsely chop.
In a large bowl, mix the vinegar with the mustard and shallot. Gradually whisk in the walnut and vegetable oils. Season generously with salt and pepper.
Separate endive leaves then add to watercress and walnuts and toss to coat.
Top the salad with the raspberries, sliced duck breast and cracklings and serve.