I’m not into shooting birds, but I think I probably look forward to the game season with as much anticipation as those who are. I just love game birds’ rich flavours and dark lean flesh, as well as knowing they’ve eaten a wild and varied diet. If you ever need someone to introduce you to the joys of game, Tim Maddams, who used to work at River Cottage and has just written a book about game, is your man. I was lucky enough to join him in cooking this lovely dish of Pigeon with blackberries and chanterelles at Vale House Kitchen cookery school, near Bath. Easy to make (see recipe below), delicious to eat.
I couldn’t resist making game the centrepiece of a feast. So on 30 January the talented Will Holland, chef at Coast in Pembrokeshire, will be cooking a Game’s Up! Feast in Bristol. Will used to be head chef at the Michelin-starred La Becasse, in Ludlow, so knows his game. (Becasse is French for woodcock.) I can assure you we’ll be making the most of the final weekend of the shooting season.
Pigeon with blackberries and chanterelles
Rapeseed oil, for cooking
4 plump pigeon breasts (easily removed, see pp.150–3)
2 good handfuls of chanterelles, trimmed and brushed clean of grit
A knob of butter
A good handful of blackberries
A couple of handfuls of salad leaves
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Place a heavy-based frying pan over a high heat and add a little rapeseed oil. Season the pigeon breasts with salt and pepper and add them to the hot pan. Give them a minute or two, until they start to form a nice caramelised layer on the base. Now turn them over and add the chanterelles and butter at the same time. After about another 2 minutes, once the pigeon breasts are firm but not overcooked, remove them to a warm plate and set aside in a warm spot to rest.
Finish cooking the chanterelles for another minute or two, then lift them out and put them with the pigeon.
Turn off the heat and pop the blackberries into the pan to warm and release a little juice. Add any resting juices from the pigeon and mushrooms to the berries.
Divide the salad leaves between a couple of plates. Slice the pigeon breasts and arrange on the leaves, then scatter over the mushrooms. Spoon on the blackberries and sprinkle over the juices from the pan. Drizzle with a little more rapeseed oil if you think it needs it and serve with some fresh crusty bread.
From: River Cottage Handbook No15: Game, by Tim Maddams, published by Bloomsbury. Recipe image: Gavin Kingcome