When we came up with this menu, our minds were full of images involving crisp cold days, and crunchy leaves. So who could predict that our fourth supper club on the 29th September 2011 would fall on such a scorching hot day? I don’t think it made that much difference food-wise, but we definitely had to power up the air conditioner early on.
Our first course was game soup. Soup can be seen as an ‘easy option’, but not this one folks, oh no. Its official title is ‘Royal game soup’ and it’s prepared by firstly making a rich game stock using the carcasses of partridge, venison, rabbit, mallard and pigeon. These are simmered gently in water for three hours before adding vegetables and simmering again for a further two hours. Once the stock has been sieved, it goes through a few more processes involving more browned game carcasses and vegetables before metamorphosizing into something quite magical another two hours later.
It’s a popular misconception that the entire game season begins on the ‘glorious 12th’. The 12th August marks the opening of the legal shooting season for only a few game birds such as grouse, ptarmigan and snipe. It’s not until 1st September that the season begins for birds such as partridge and mallard – if you see any pheasants on sale before the first week of October, don’t buy them, they’ve either been shot illegally or are from last year and have been frozen.
After a game-bird related question and answer session with our butcher Lee Frost, we decided to serve whole partridge (with extra napkins and some finger bowls) and encouraged guests to dig in, cutlery optional. We’d marinated it for half a day in olive oil, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and pomegranate syrup. Wild game birds don’t tend to have much natural fat on them so it’s really important not to overcook them – 25 minutes with 5 minutes rest was about perfect. We presented each partridge on a seasonally inspired nest of roast root vegetables garnished with toasted almonds and a tangy apricot dressing.
Pudding-wise, we kept the menu reasonably ambiguous to see what goodies we could scrump and forage before the date. Keeping in with the theme created by using the Moroccan spices, we cooked some apples (scrumped from mum’s garden) with sultanas, brown sugar and lemon and baked them in a crispy filo pastry case.
We served these warm with some homemade damson and plum ice creams and pears (donated by supper guest Stina Willett) which had been poached in both red wine, white wine and ginger beer. Hot, cold, crunchy, fruity and creamy – a sensational dessert.