Food Safari

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Thursday, 28 January 2010

An embarrassment of game

Game is a special treat of the autumn and winter and on the Suffolk coast we are lucky to have an abundance of wild game. Birds of the air and beasts of the field are abundant here, with plentiful grain and hedgerows for food and shelter on farmland; we also get migratory birds such as wild duck on the marshes in autumn and more unusually woodcock in mid-winter and the long-billed snipe, from which we get the word ‘sniper’ because it’s difficult to shoot.

Pheasants and partridges are usually farmed in pens before being released, but about 20-30 per cent are entirely wild here — more than in other parts of the country. The most widely available game in Suffolk is venison. Deer populations, especially Muntjac, are steadily increasing and when driving around the Suffolk lanes it’s not uncommon now to see a muntjac creeping out of the hedgerow.

Wild, as opposed to farmed, game is the gourmet’s choice - animals that have roamed freely are likely to be a little more robust in flavour and texture than their farmed counterparts, which will have had a more restricted range.

Whether you have the opportunity to shoot your own game, are given it by a friendly farmer or simply pick some up from one of the Suffolk Coast’s many independent butchers you may be left wondering how to prepare it, cook it or even what wine to drink with it.

Wild Meat in a Day is led by Robert Gooch, a Rick Stein ‘food hero’ who runs game dealer the Wild Meat Company ( Robert, who has worked in farming all his life and knows all the farms and estates from where they harvest the game. One of Robert’s butcher’s Ray Kent, who was the hugely popular Framlingham butcher for over 30 years, leads a small group through a game butchery workshop. Attendees are given a haunch of venison, a partridge or a rabbit and shown how to skin or bone it picking up many tips along the way for preparing game in your own kitchen.

Lunch, at The Anchor, Walberswick, encourages us to think about the different textures and flavours of deer species. Generally speaking, the smaller the deer, the more fine-grained and delicate the meat will be. Roe and muntjac are more gently flavoured animals while fallow deer have grainier, richer meat, and the big red deer give the most open-textured and gamey venison of all.

Gathered around a long table there’s a sense of a great celebratory feast, sharing together the fruits of the Suffolk countryside and complimented by a succession of interesting and often local beers.

For more information about Food Safari and the Wild Meat in a Day course visit or call 01728 621380

Dates for 2010
Wild Meat in a Day, The Anchor, Walberswick
Saturday 6 February
Sunday 28 March
Saturday 2 October 2,
Sunday 21 November 21

The Wild Meat Company supplies a wide range of freshly prepared game meat at farmers markets across the Suffolk Coast and via its web site

Unseasonable thoughts of samphire

I've just been ask to write about what makes foraging for wild food in Suffolk special and thought I should share them. Memories of harvesting samphire from Suffolk's tidal esturaries transported me to the height of summer when Samphire is at its best a stark contrast to this grey January!

Marsh samphire is a tidal plant of the salt marshes and mud flats. The many upspoilt creeks of the Suffolk coast at Blythburgh, Snape and Orford make Suffolk an excellent place to find it.

Not to be confused with Rock Samphire which as the name suggests grows on rocks and cliff faces. These are two totally unrelated plants which have the same name, derived from the French for St Peter - St Pierre after the fisherman saint. As a general rule marsh samphire has its feet firmly in the water and rock samphire always has its feet dry!

They also taste completely different. The former is very salty and is delicious steamed or raw. Rock samphire is very carrotty and has quite a medicinal undertone.

Marsh samphire is a delicious accompaniment to fish and seafood, being both salty and fleshy. It can be lightly steamed and served with butter. Each individual finger of marsh samphire has a central woody core and it should be held by the base and pulled through the teeth so you avoid eating the woody core. Young tips can be eaten as they are because the woody core tends to be only through the bottom half of each ‘finger’. It can be lightly batteered and deep fried to create a delicious snack, use it in salads or served simply with parmesan and olive oil.

Remember to follow the basic rules of foraging: seek permission from land owners before entering private land; keep away from roads, fields that may have been sprayed or busy footpaths popular with dog walkers. You shouldn't collect plants from a protected area such as nature reserve or Site of Special Scientific Interest and always leave a few healthy plants untouched to continue their life cycle.

When picking samphire pinch out or snip off the tops of the plants, leaving the more fibrous stems in the ground; that way, not only will you have less washing and trimming to do, there's also a fair chance that what you've left in the mud will continue to grow.

Foraging for wild food inspires you to look at sometimes everyday plants in a new light. Common weeds often have forgotten uses either culinary or herbal and it's great to get out into the countryside to connect with the natural environment.

Best of all wild food is free and often delicious!

For more information about Food Safari's Wild Food in a Day on the Suffolk coast click here: