Wild boar and venison koftas
Wild boar are highly elusive creatures and buying their delicious meat isn’t easy either, but Rose Prince’s koftas make the hunt well worth it. Serves four.
I’d only been working for the Daily Express for a month back in 1998 when an editor called asking me to go on a wild boar hunt.
Not a shoot, mind. The only shot would be that by a photographer. I set off in my car from London for woods near Powderham in Devon at 1am to meet a stalker and the photographer with what we hoped would not be an impossible task.
“Get the picture” was ringing in my ears. There was a report that escapees from a few new wild boar farms in the south had naturalised nicely in woodlands and farmers were complaining that they were digging up their crops by night.
It was dark when I got there, exhausted and not much in the mood. We crept about for a couple of hours without a light. The stalker showed us evidence, a ‘nest’ here and there, a few furrows where they had been grubbing about among tree roots. On the point of giving up and my career going south, we heard a rustle, then the sound of trotting feet among snorting noises and a dark pig shape bolted into the distance.
The snapper fired a few clicks. That would be my only sighting, then and ever since. The story, which was published on page three, showed a generic photo from a library. Our dimly lit pig shape was not convincing.
On holiday this summer in south-west France, I sat out late, listening to a tawny owl snore in the eaves of my cousin’s house. Then I heard those snorts and snuffles again, only yards from my wicker chair, coming from under a peach tree. The boar were clearly out for a midnight feast. But did I see them? No. They are extremely good at hiding and so, once again, I had to be content with seeing only a shape.
Wild boar meat is equally rare. You can occasionally find it in the freezer section of a butcher’s shop, but aside from some (very good) pork which is from a wild-domestic pig cross, it is clearly a meat that in cooking terms has a fear factor.
Like venison, it has virtually no fat. I once roasted a haunch. Clueless as to what I was doing, I tried a simmering roast, as you might for mutton — 80°C for four hours, then rested at 50°C for an hour. By total accident, it worked and the meat was silkily tender.
Sometimes, craving that taste of wild pork, I fake it by marinating chops with plenty of crushed juniper, red wine and finely chopped thyme. I have used the same herbs in these patties.
The pork fat is essential to make the koftas light and tender.
Recipes for wild boar
Venison koftas with wild boar meat
- 6 juniper berries
- 1tbsp fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped
- 4tbsp red wine or port
- 400g minced wild boar or free range/organic pork shoulder, minced
- 200g venison shoulder or leg, minced
- 150g pork belly, minced
- 100g fresh breadcrumbs, preferably ciabatta or sourdough
- 2tbsp fresh mint, leaves only, roughly chopped
- 4tbsp fresh flat-leaf parsley, freshly chopped
- 1tbsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1tsp salt
- 300g pearled spelt, boiled until just tender, drained and cooled
- 100g/3tbsp pomegranate pips
- 3tbsp fresh dill leaves
- 4tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- A few drops of sherry or rich balsamic vinegar
- Juice of half a lemon
- Sea salt
1. To make the koftas, put the juniper berries, thyme leaves, wine and minced meats and fat into a bowl and leave for 20 minutes. Add the breadcrumbs, herbs and seasoning, then shape the mixture into eight lozenge-shaped patties. Set the patties to one side and prepare the salad that will be served with them.
2. Put the cooked spelt, pomegranate pips, dill leaves and olive oil in a bowl. Mix the ingredients lightly and then set aside.
3. Heat a grill pan or light a barbecue. Fry the koftas over a medium heat, turning every three minutes or so, until pink droplets appear on the surface. This means that the meat is hot all the way through, but will not be dry. The meat will be a tiny bit pink on the inside, which is harmless.
4.To serve the salad, add a teaspoon or two of the vinegar, plus the lemon, with the seasoning at the last minute. Spoon on to plates, next to the koftas.