If your usual bird-eating only amounts to the odd roast chicken, here’s what you need to know about getting your teeth into some tasty game meat.

What is game meat?

Game meat comes from wild animals that are hunted rather than raised on a farm. You might have reservations about animals that are hunted for sport or food, but these animals tend to live longer lives with freedom to roam. They also tend to have a more natural diet free from hormones and steroids.

Why eat wild game?

Game is actually quite healthy

Raw venison

The fat on wild game is relatively high in Omega-3 fatty acids (particularly wild venison), which are thought to be good for the brain – it’s what we’re always being told to eat oily fish for. It’s also lean – all that running wild means the animals are less fatty overall, and it’s lower in cholesterol too. Game also contains decent levels of iron, vitamin E, beta carotene, zinc, vitamin B(6) and selenium.

The animals roam free

Red grouse
(Thinkstock/PA)

Be it pigeon, rabbit, geese or woodcock, the animals spend their lives rambling, foraging and eating whatever they come across – game is the ultimate free-range meat.

It’s a pretty eco-friendly option

If you’re going to eat meat, it makes sense to buy cuts that are low on food miles, don’t involve intensive farming methods that can wreak havoc on the environment, and rates highly on sustainability. Deer, for instance, have no natural predators and are plentiful, as are rabbits and pigeon (squirrel too, if you’re feeling adventurous).

The industry supports the countryside

Countryside, moorlands and woodlands that are managed for game season – particularly grouse – tend to be managed in a way that benefits other species, from birds to wildflowers, and means huge tracts of land and estates remain green, rather than built up.

It tastes really good

All that living outside means the meat has more flavour too, and the cooking options are endless. Consider creamy rabbit stew, partridge risotto, roast pheasant with gravy, venison steak and pan-fried duck breast…

It’s easier to get hold of than you might think

While some farmed game (something of an oxymoron) is available in supermarkets, you can buy true wild game online and from good butchers.

Wild game dishes to try and what to drink with them

If you’re wondering what to cook for Sunday lunch and looking for inspiration, it’s time to up your game and pair deep, rich gamey flavours with a delicious glass of vino.

After all, you don’t want to rustle up any old bottle of plonk when you (well, your butcher) have hunted down the finest meats for dinner.

Indeed, the rich, meaty elements of your braised pheasant might need something soft and succulent to balance the (potential) dryness; or a broad-shouldered red with plenty of oomph to marry up with a loin of venison.

Wild game
Roasted Quails (Thinkstock/PA)

To make your meal hang beautifully together, here’s what wine to serve with what…

1. Braised pheasant

 
 
 
 
 
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Beginning today we will be featuring Braised Pheasant served a la carte! Braised for 4 hours with apple cider juice, white wine, Bailey’s, fennel seeds, green apples, pearl onions, olive oil, and a pinch of sugar. The meat is very lean and prone to drying out fast which is why we braise it – keeping as much moisture as possible. • • • Did you know, Pheasant is a very healthy alternative to chicken and other game meats? It’s a great source of phosphorus and selenium, as well as niacin. A 3.5 ounce serving from a fully cooked pheasant provides 240mg of phosphorus (24% of your recommended daily value), which works with calcium to help with bone strength and also promotes efficient metabolism. Those 3.5 ounces provide 20.0mcg if selenium, nearly 30% of the recommended daily intake, will help boost your immune system! (Helpful with cold and flu season upon us!) • • • Our Executive Chef recommends either our steamed broccolini or grilled asparagus to compliment the dish – along side a glass of Chardonnay or Pinot Gris.

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Braised pheasant, slow-cooked and tenderised, works brilliantly with a port, sherry or madeira sauce, or pan roasted with white wine.

Serve it with: We suggest a Spanish Rioja Reserva, with its black cherry fruit and herby savoury notes to match this game meat.

2. Roast quail

These small, plump game birds are ideal roasted until crispy, and served with stuffing or rice.

Serve it with: If it’s simply seasoned, the classic gamey flavour of quail work like a treat with a red Bordeaux, with its firm but elegant structure. Otherwise, if it’s coated with prosciutto and served with spinach say, serve it with an attention grabbing nebbiolo from northern Italy. The more complex the blackberry fruit, the better.

3. ‘Groussaka’ aka moussaka with grouse

The Prince of Wales is famous for his love of the countryside and has discussed a penchant for ‘groussaka,’ a twist on the Greek dish moussaka. The layers of minced lamb are replaced with grouse, and then layered with béchamel sauce and aubergine.

Serve it with: Moussaka usually tastes delicious with a bottle of Chianti (the juicy acidity of the sangiovese grape works well with lamb) but for grouse, a mature red Burgundy (pinot noir) is generally a good idea.

Only trouble is, you have to pay a princely sum, so we suggest a Languedoc red (nose out a Paul Mas label) whose herby, forest fruits will deal with the gamey flavours, especially if you want to ditch the creamy sauce.

4. Slow-cooked rabbit 

 
 
 
 
 
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Today’s brunch is anything but basic! Braised Pulled Rabbit with rocket arugula, caramelized peppers and onions topped with a poached egg! YES PLEASE 😍🙌

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Slow-cooked mildly flavoured rabbit, makes for excellent eating if swimming in a creamy mustard sauce, or tossed over pappadelle.

Serve it with: This lean, white game meat calls for the classic scenario of matching the weight of the wine with the weight of the dish. Try a light Beaujolais (made from the gamay grape) with its bright cherry fruit. Otherwise a French chardonnay, if you’re after a white option.

5. Roast venison

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Back on the menu!! Venison wellington, mushroom ketchup, blackberry and leek #wellington #venison

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Venison is incredibly versatile and this rich gamey meat can be seared, wrapped in pastry (venison Wellington), casseroled and even minced into a meatloaf, or serve as meatballs.

Serve it with: We love the idea of loin of venison served with red cabbage and creamed dauphinoise – and with so many strong flavours coming into play, we recommend a New Zealand pinot noir for thinly sliced venison. Alternatively, try an Australian shiraz to match a flavourful crust of peppery herbs and a robust sauce.

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