Game is the most under-used food resource we have in this country, proclaimed Peter Gott, the man behind Sillfield Farm. Thats why Im so keen to get the message across about what a brilliant food it is. I used to be a gamedealer, so I still know all the best places to get game and I do a bit of shooting myself. Amid the buzzing Borough Market in the centre of London, Sillfield Farm, which is based in Cumbria, has a thriving shop, one of the first to join the market. Sausages of every kind line the shelves, as well as chickens, cheese, black pudding, pies, pâtés, cured boar ham and tempting cuts of wild boar, pork and lamb.
Sausages are clearly Peters passion. Using game, pork, lamb and wild boar, he has created a dazzling selection of recipes and it was to glean an insight into what might make the best game sausages that I went to see him. It is so simple I wish people made them more, particularly with game offcuts, which sometimes go to waste otherwise. You can use all the meat and waste nothing. A mincer doesnt cost very much, but I would recommend an electric one rather than a hand-driven one, and a sausage press will set you back £50 or so. You can get skins from almost any butcher and then away you go, Peter enthused. There are hugely popular courses at Sillfield Farm for sausage making, as at Borough Market, and Peter is a natural teacher, enthusing and encouraging ideas. However, woe betide the person who wastes anything. Jamie Olivers boys come to the farm to learn about making sausages and they sometimes have some funny ideas. Im strict though experimenting is all very well, but I dont let them go too far if I know it isnt going to work, and I can get quite angry if any food is wasted.
Peter is no stranger to the media, with numerous television and radio appearances under his belt. It has been good for business, but it also attracted the animal rights lot. One year they cut all my fences, including the one separating the farm from the motorway. What kind of people would do that? Luckily the pigs, sheep and boar dont really stray. Why would they? Understandably he is astonished that he was targeted. Pictures of his animals line the walls at his stall in the market, showing boar in woods, pigs in fields or sties filled with fresh straw. Sillfield is as far from an intensive farm as you can get. Since the first incident, Peter has been targeted again, and now he prefers not to appear in the media too much. Im pretty outspoken about game and how meat is treated in this country. But I think there is a turnaround happening.
Game is definitely more popular. Recently I took a chef to try to persuade Waitrose to include game in ready meals. I think they are quite keen. I introduced the first recipe by saying that it only had a season of 12 to 14 days. They were perplexed, but loved it. You should have seen their faces when I told them
it was rook! Sadly they didnt go for that, but Im not really surprised. Waitrose wants to introduce more game into its supermarkets, though, which is exciting. As Peter talked, he was busy preparing the first batch of sausages, a pheasant and venison creation (see recipe, right). Once the meat
was ground, he put it in a bowl and added rusk (though breadcrumbs will do), wine, seasoning, tarragon and redcurrant and chilli jam. I normally use blackcurrant for this, but lets try something new. It is important to make the mixture moist enough, Peter explained, as he mixed the whole lot together.
Well make a couple of burgers to taste it for seasoning and then well fill the skins, he said, using a small press to form a few burgers which went straight on to the griddle. I always write down recipes as I make them, so that if they are good enough I can recreate them exactly or add or subtract ingredients as necessary. If you dont write things down youll never remember the combinations and quantities you used. It will probably taste a bit saltier than it should, but that is right the salty taste lessens after a day or so. The smell of the burgers was drawing customers into the shop and with a sausage press up and ready to go, many asked if they could watch the sausages being made. Of course, said Peter, delighted by the interest.
The burgers were done, cut into bits and passed around. Making the burgers is even easier than sausages and, again, you can use every bit. It is important to incorporate the fatty bits of pheasant, as it will keep it moist. You can also add pork fat, of course, but without is a healthier sausage. The burgers were perfect. The flavour of pheasant and venison came through, with the faintly aniseed taste of tarragon and a good kick and sweetness from the redcurrant and chilli. I think that is rather good, dont you? said Peter, as he filled the sausage press with the mixture. Having rinsed the hog skins (which are tougher than pig skins and perfect for game sausages), he fed it on to the nozzle, tying a single knot in the end. Pushing the air out of the skin first, he turned the handle and the meat filled the skin. He kept going until the mixture was finished and gave the skin a deft twist to seal it, cutting off the extra length. Next, he twisted the sausage at 5in lengths, forming smaller sausages, expertly feeding one end through another to make a chain. A woman who had tasted the burgers immediately waved her hand to ask for some.
See, simple, isnt it? I wish more people made their own it really isnt very difficult, he said, as we enjoyed the rest of the burgers. You can make them and freeze them, or you can freeze the meat and then make them, but there really isnt any reason to waste any of your game, Peter concluded. And so convinced am I that I am ordering a sausage press for this season
For more information, visit www.sillfield.co.uk or tel 01539 567609.