Wild and Seasonal Eating: Octoberby Robert Gooch October 12 2018
Deciding what to cook for dinner is never more exciting than it is in October. The game season is in full swing and autumnal fruits and vegetables provide depth and sweetness to comforting meals.
Pheasant, squash and hazelnuts
Pheasant is now set to become a staple for lovers of game. Versatile and excellent value, creative cooks could enjoy it a different way every night of the week for the entire season if they wished! We will soon have a strong supply of fresh and flavourful birds, when pheasant shooting begins in earnest.
Young birds are ideal for roasting. For a roast with a difference, why not try Jason Atherton’s spiced roast pheasant with pumpkin, homemade granola and bread sauce? This seasonal recipe is a delicious way to serve pumpkin, which is now at its best, along with hazelnuts.
If you struggle to find ripe hazelnuts on the trees, it’s because squirrels often strip them. Experienced foragers pick them early and ripen them at home. On the plus side, eating all those hazelnuts makes squirrels particularly good to eat right now! Use Gill Meller’s recipe as your guide for cooking squirrel with butternut squash and hazelnuts.
If you’d like to test your culinary skills, try this recipe for pheasant dumplings with squash broth and pumpkin oil. These Asian style dumplings are made with kabocha or acorn squash, but you could use other varieties grown locally.
Other ways with pheasant
For a quick and easy meal, juicy pheasant breasts can be pan fried and dressed or served with simple sauces. This warm pheasant salad with wild mushroom dressing cooks in just 10 minutes and is a great way to combine pheasant with autumn wild mushrooms and the last of the season’s nectarines.
National Curry Week runs from 22nd October, providing a perfect excuse to cook up a warming pheasant curry. This red curry recipe works very well with partridge, grouse, pigeon, goose, hare, squirrel or wild boar too.
Of course, October is also the month to celebrate wonderful British apples, especially on Apple Day on the 21st. What better dish for this special day than Mary Berry’s Highland pheasant with apples, made with dessert apples and cream?
If you love the classic flavour combination of wild boar with apples, add some apples to your roasting tray once your joint is cooked. While your wild boar rests, bake the apples until soft to serve alongside your meat.
Figs and walnuts
If you haven’t had your fill of sweet and juicy figs yet, snap them up while you can. Figgy accompaniments to game are a treat for the tastebuds.
We also love Pierre Koffman’s roast wild duck with figs recipe, which he recommends serving with puréed potatoes and braised cabbage. Opt for dark green Cavolo nero or kale and sauté them to prevent them tasting bitter. Both these brassicas are crisp and full of flavour in October, as well as vitamins and minerals.
Medlars and quinces
Medlars are an ancient fruit that, despite being avidly consumed a century ago, are only rarely eaten these days. This is probably due to their bizarre and rather unattractive appearance, as well as the fact that they can only be eaten after they have been ‘bletted’. This involves ripening them until they start to decay and the flesh becomes soft. This makes them very sweet with a flavour most akin to very ripe dates.
Bletted medlars can be made into medlar jellies, which are delicious served with all types of game. Try this recipe from The Telegraph or Nigel Slater’s recipe, which uses apples too. Nigel adds medlar jelly to pheasant juices to spoon over carved birds.
You can also spoon a little medlar jelly into gravy for venison, wild boar or lamb to add richness and sweetness. If you don’t have time to make your own, try a jar from a specialist producer.
Quinces are another ancient fruit that can only be eaten after bletting or cooking. They can also be made into full-flavoured preserves or poached until tender to accompany roast game. Try the Urban Huntsman’s wild rabbit terrine with quince chutney or this roasted pigeon salad with poached quince.
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.