Wild fowl of a feather

There are a large number of wild fowl that can be hunted. Their hunting seasons vary depending on the species and the country. In the UK the “Glorious Twelfth”, 12 August, is famous as the start of the grouse hunting season.

OFTEN A STRONG GAME FLAVOR

Wild fowl have a strong flavor and the meat is often tender although birds that fly long distances can be a bit tough. Most species have an elegant game flavor that is stronger than that of venison.

Boneless Quail

The meat is richer in flavour than Chicken but comparatively mild for a game species and because of their size.

Quail is ideal for quick or slow cooking where you want to impart that special gamey taste.

Expertly boned Quails are perfect as a starter or as a deliciously tender Mains treat when stuffed.

HOW TO COOK QUAIL

Pre-heat oven to 350°F. Heat a sauté pan over medium-high heat with enough olive oil to coat the bottom. Season the quail then sear them in the pan until browned on both sides, about 3-4 minutes per side. Place quail in the oven and roast until cooked through and juices run clear, about 10 - 15 minutes.

  • Wipe the bird dry and remove any feathers with tweezers.
  • Add fat under the skin, e.g. bacon and/or lard.
  • Season on the outside and on the inside.
  • Tie the bird into a neat shape for more even cooking.
  • Juices run clear = completely cooked.
  • Leave the meat to rest!

Quail

The smallest game bird. Quail are 16-18 centimeters long and have speckled plumage in brown, black and white. The male has dark stripes on its face.

European quail are found in arable land and fields. They fly south in the winter.

Quail are an appreciated bird for eating and are kept in cages, particularly for their tiny and popular eggs. The meat is quite light and similar to chicken, but with a proper gamey flavor.

HOW TO COOK QUAIL

Quail are delicious braised; brown it in a pan and then simmer under a lid in a little liquid. Or make a stew with added fat and flavor from smoked bacon for example.

Or:

Grilled quail: Slice the quail along the back and place in a dish, breast side up. Pour olive oil and lemon juice over the top and add salt, pepper and chopped herbs. Leave to rest in the fridge for an hour. Grill the quail for about 8-10 minutes until golden brown. Brush with a little honey and return to the grill for a few more minutes.

Or:

Roast in the oven at 170-180°C to an internal temperature of 70°C. Remember to add enough extra fat. The basics when roasting whole birds:

  • Remove the giblets. Save the liver, heart and gizzard (e.g. for the sauce).
  • Wipe the bird dry and remove any feathers with tweezers.
  • Add fat under the skin, e.g. bacon and/or lard.
  • Season on the outside and on the inside.
  • Tie the bird into a neat shape for more even cooking.
  • Juices run clear = completely cooked.
  • Leave the meat to rest!
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Pheasant

This impressive bird is related to the peacock and is also known as the ring-necked pheasant. They originate in Asia and were introduced to the rest of the world as a game bird.

The cock pheasant is easily recognizable by its beautiful copper-brown color, greenish black throat and red cheek patches. The coloring of the hen, the female, is more subtle. It eats everything from seeds, leaves and fruit to small animals and worms.

Pheasant meat is relatively easy to handle for beginners at cooking wild fowl. The light meat has a mild flavor that works well slow cooked.

HOW TO COOK PHEASANT

Make a stew and the meat will be wonderfully tender: Take out the pheasant. Chop onion and garlic and dice carrot and celeriac. Brown the whole pheasant with spicy sausages in a cast iron casserole dish. Add the vegetables, white wine, tomatoes and spices and simmer for an hour on a low heat, first with a lid and then without. Add beans, leek and lemon zest and simmer for 5 minutes.

Roast the pheasant whole in the oven: Cook at 170-180°C to an internal temperature of 70°C. Estimate about an hour. Cover the flesh of the meat with fat in one form or other.

The basics when roasting whole birds:

  • Remove the giblets. Save the liver, heart and gizzard (e.g. for the sauce).
  • Wipe the bird dry and remove any feathers with tweezers.
  • Add fat under the skin, e.g. bacon and/or lard.
  • Season on the outside and on the inside.
  • Tie the bird into a neat shape for more even cooking.
  • Juices run clear = completely cooked.
  • Leave the meat to rest!
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Pigeon

Wood pigeon is a very adaptable bird, you'll find it in the countryside and in cities. The only place you won't find them is in the mountains, and their characteristic cooing can be heard for miles.

Pigeons eat everything, such as grain, seeds, small animals and snails, but they especially like peas. This is why wood pigeon are often hunted in the vicinity of pea fields, which attract them.

The meat is relatively dark, with a quite mild flavor. Like all wild game, the taste varies depending on the season and what the bird has been eating.

Pigeons as food are wild and farmed. In both cases, the game flavor is quite intense.

HOW TO COOK PIGEON

Traditionally pigeon is served with light, elegant flavors: pears, grapes, Chablis, etc.

Fry pigeon breast and partner the mild game flavor with pears and port: Brown the pigeon breast in plenty of butter with garlic and sprigs of thyme. Put the meat in an ovenproof dish and bake in the oven at 150°C until the internal temperature reaches 52-54°C. Leave the pigeon to rest and serve with grilled pears and port wine sauce with star anise and balsamic vinegar.

Or:

Roast the pigeon whole in the oven at 170-180°C to an internal temperature of 70°C. Cover the flesh of the meat with fat in one form or other. The basics when roasting whole birds:

  • Remove the giblets. Save the liver, heart and gizzard (e.g. for the sauce).
  • Wipe the bird dry and remove any feathers with tweezers.
  • Add fat under the skin, e.g. bacon and/or lard.
  • Season on the outside and on the inside.
  • Tie the bird into a neat shape for more even cooking.
  • Juices run clear = completely cooked.
  • Leave the meat to rest!

In France pigeon is often turned into a confit,  cooked in fat, to do justice to the mild and delicious – but lean – meat.

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