Wild and Seasonal Eating in Januaryby Robert Gooch January 15 2019
On cold January nights, it can be difficult to stick to New Year resolutions to eat well. The good news is game is naturally leaner and higher in nutrients than mass farmed meats. It’s also ideal for batch cooking into nourishing soups and pies with other seasonal ingredients, including celeriac and celery.
Batch cooking is the key to healthy and satisfying eating in January. Spend a warming day in your kitchen cooking up large quantities of soups and pies then fill your freezer with individual portions. If you work outside or enjoy winter walks, you can ping some soup in the microwave in the morning and pour into a Thermos for a cockle-warming lunch. When you get home from a long, busy day, you only need to pop a premade nutritious pie in the oven to help you avoid diet-busting takeaways!
If your pocket is suffering after Christmas, batch cooking can also help you to save money. As well as being tastier and better for you than ready meals or takeaways, homemade batch cooked meals are usually more economical too. A portion of batch cooked game soup, for example, can be made for a fraction of the cost of a readymade soup from the supermarket.
After enjoying roast pheasant or partridge, never throw away the carcasses without making a batch of sumptuous game soup. If you’d rather wait until you have enough to make eight or more portions, freeze your carcasses until you have at least four.
This game soup recipe from Hugh-Fearnley Whittingstall is fantastically simple and thrifty. Hugh flavours and bulks out his soup with celeriac, which is now at the peak of its season. Celeriac has a distinctive taste like sweet celery with a hint of nuttiness. It adds incredible flavour to soup while thickening it into a satisfying and filling meal that’s high in fibre and low in calories. In Hugh’s recipe, nothing is wasted: the peelings from this knobbly root vegetable are used in the stock base.
If you have leftover pheasant meat, Hugh has another fantastic suggestion: chunky pheasant and bean soup. You might like to try your hand at a batch of royal game soup as well, made with game bird carcasses, venison bones and hare or rabbit bones plus leftover meat. Soup connoisseurs who want to make big flavour soups and stocks at home will find venison bones, lamb bones and chicken carcasses on our website.
If you’d like to try your hand at a historical classic, Mrs Beeton’s partridge soup, made with whole partridges cut into pieces, is as good today as it was 150 years ago! Just like most soups, Mrs Beeton makes use of onions, carrots and celery, all of which are widely available in January.
What could be better than a homemade pie on a dark and nippy night? Stock up on dishes or pie tins to load up your freezer ready to go straight in the oven when you get home.
If you’re baking pies to freeze, allow plenty of time for them to cool before sealing them in an airtight freezer bag. An individual sized pie can then be cooked from frozen in around 40 minutes in a moderate oven. If you want to halve this time, move your pie to your fridge in the morning so it can defrost during the day.
If you’re watching your weight or want to eat less saturated fat, only put pastry on the top of your pie. Swapping shortcrust pastry for puff pastry or filo can also help you reduce the fat content – filo pastry contains just 2.9g fat per 100g compared to 31.4g for shortcrust, according to the British Heart Foundation. Puff pastry, meanwhile, contains 26.2g.
One of our favourites recipes is this game pie from Game-to-eat, made with readymade puff pastry and our diced mixed game. This consists of around one third venison, one third pheasant and partridge, and one third a combination of wild duck, pigeon, and rabbit.
Valentine Warner’s pigeon pie is also perfect for this time of year. Many Suffolk farmers, especially those growing oilseed rape, would be delighted to see more pigeons make the journey from their fields to pies! Swap the buttery pastry for readymade puff or filo for a quicker and less fattening version.
Of course, pies don’t have to be made with pastry. They can also be topped with mashed potato, sweet potato or root vegetable mash. We love this hare pie recipe from Game-to-eat, which is packed with diced veg. We also heartily recommend this gamekeeper’s pie, which is a gamey version of shepherd’s pie, made with venison mince instead of lamb. Both are topped with potato, but sweet potato or root vegetable mash could also be used for either.
Sliced potatoes are also great pie toppers, as in this healthier fish pie recipe, which is unbeatable with Maximus’s Sustainably Caught Fish’s smoked haddock. Chris Wightman’s hot-smoked salmon is an extraordinary fish pie ingredient too. If you deserve a treat, try it in this haddock and smoked fish pie.
Brussel sprouts are the ideal accompaniment to any winter pie and provide vitamins and fibre. After the long dry summer, much of this year’s Brussel sprouts are smaller than in previous years. Don’t worry though, this just means they cook more quickly and are easier to roast. Trim them and place in a freezer bag along with a glug of cold pressed rapeseed oil and a little salt and pepper. Shake the bag then pour onto a roasting tin to roast for the same amount of time as your frozen pie.
Share your seasonal dishes
If you’ll be cooking up any of our seasonal ideas or have some wild seasonal recipe ideas of your own, we’d love to see your photos and hear your recommendations! Please share them with us via our Facebook page, Twitter or Instagram.