If you're having people round who have never eaten game before, this could be just the thing
This easy and delicious recipe for pheasant meatballs from Tom Godber-Ford Moore is a real classic. Polpette are simply meatballs, sometimes cooked plain and sometimes, as is the case here, cooked in a spicy sauce of some kind.
Tom has played down the chilli in this version to allow for the subtle gamey flavour of the pheasant to come through, though you could definitely crank that up a bit more. The Neapolitans are not renowned for half measures. More traditionally made with veal and pork in Napoli, this recipe works very well indeed with the suggested pheasant, though partridge, rabbit or venison would all work as well or even a mixture.
The basic idea for an Italian meatball is certainly an old one; there is an ancient Roman text about cookery that contains various examples, so we know that this is a tried and tested idea that has survived the test of time.
The addition of breadcrumbs in the mix is terribly Italian, but I had a version once in Calabria where they added ground walnuts as well as, or instead of, the breadcrumbs.
This is one to serve to people who haven’t eaten game before.
An easy way to put together the classic dish of roast pheasant
Game cookery recipe: A fantastic game cookery recipe using pheasant and an excuse to raid the freezer!
Pheasant meatballs in a sweet and spicy tomato sauce
For the polpette (pheasant meatballs)
170g pheasant mince
1 tsp fennel seeds
good pinch of dried oregano
10g onion, finely chopped
½ tsp Garlic powder
Pinch of salt and pepper
For the tomato sauce
½ tsp fennel seeds
½ tsp flour
200g chopped tomatoes
½tsp red wine vinegar
Pinch of dried chilli flakes
½ tsp dried oregano
½ tsp dried rosemary
1. Mix all the ingredients for the polpette together well.
2. Form the mixture into golf ball-sized balls and fry on a medium heat until browned on all sides.
3. Add the fennel seeds for the sauce and fry for 30 seconds.
4. Add the flour and fry for 30 seconds more.
5. Add the tinned tomatoes and all remaining sauce ingredients.
6. Allow to simmer for approximately 7 to 8 minutes until the meatballs are cooked through and the sauce is reduced somewhat. This can, of course, be done in the oven, at 180°C for 15 to 20 minutes. Depending on how juicy the tomatoes are, you may want to add a little water, but the sauce should be quite thick to coat the meatballs.
7. Serve with hot pasta or rice and ideally some chopped parsley or basil stirred through at the end.
Recipe kindly donated by Tom Godber-Ford Moore for The Country Food Trust. Tom created The Game Chef and it knows a thing or two about being creative with the countryside’s finest. Based on Exmoor, it provides the very best game meat products in the country.
The spicy warmth and subtle flavour of The Game Chef’s pheasant polpette make this classic a perfect introduction to eating game meat