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 (www.wildmeat.co.uk). 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 www.foodsafari.co.uk 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 www.wildmeat.co.uk