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What should you do with a surplus of game birds?

As the season ends, you might find yourself with a freezer full of game. So Giles Catchpole advises on what to do with it.


A hearty casserole is a versatile dish that can include any game meat or vegetables of choice

It may be the case, at this time of year, that you are wondering what to do with a freezer filled with game. During the season I eat as I go, and at least half of the bags I bring home are consumed in short order. I have admitted my approval for the oven-ready bird at the end of a shooting day, and the chances are that such a brace will be on the table promptly because I really enjoy a roasted bird even if I lack the skill to pluck one to a presentable condition. (Read here for our advice on how to prepare game)

But if I snaffle a couple of brace, the second pair goes into the freezer. As will this brace and that which are brought home and breasted-out or crowned. And that leash of partridges. And the couple of woodcock — not a right-and-left, but so tantalisingly close that I brought them home to prolong the moment. Likewise the handful of teal that I snagged during a blistering evening flight in the 15 minutes after the pheasants went up to roost, just as we caught the little pond absolutely right.

There are things you can do with this much game. In the weeks that follow the end of the shooting season, you can embark on a session of entertaining. It is a chance to catch up and to make use of goodly amounts of the accumulated protein. 

If you have already roasted all your whole birds, then faisan à la Normande with apples, Calvados and cream can be made with fillets and legs and is a dinner party showstopper. If you have some woodcock, but not enough for one each, then Prue Coats’ woodcock and black truffle terrine will surprise and delight any gathering of discriminating diners. 

If the several bags of assorted defrosted stuff turn out not to be altogether what you were expecting, a hearty casserole is a handy catch-all when accompanied by a few bottles of good burgundy. Or cover everything with onions, cauliflower and your preferred curry sauce, and break out the pickles, poppadoms and cold beers. Nanny always said, “Variety is the spice of life and madras is the spice of the lively.”


A rare pleasure

I am always inclined to keep a few brace of partridges — whether whole or in bits — in reserve for the summer. A partridge spatchcocked on the barbecue of a summer’s evening with a Chablis is a rare and particular pleasure. And for those willing to go the extra mile, a classic cold game pie made with everything (pheasant, partridge, duck, deer, pigeon) will feed a bunch of people while showcasing the delicious ingredients and your outstanding culinary skills. 

A picker-up of my acquaintance routinely takes home armfuls of game from the larder, which she dismantles herself before taking to the local homeless refuge to be combined with vegetables donated by local greengrocers into a hearty stew for those in need of a hot, square meal. It is, I am told, characterised as ‘forest chicken’ for this purpose, although whether this is for ease of understanding or to avoid any social awkwardness on the part of the volunteers or the diners is something of a mystery. Either way, I think it’s a cracking idea that deserves to be both applauded and replicated. Well done.