|Loose Birds & Game by Andrew Pern|
Published by Face
According to a recent Mintel report we spend £80 million on game in the UK annually and our taste for it is growing. We spent 20% more on game last year than we did in 2005 and by 2015 the value of the market is expected to be £211 million. These figures make it sound like the British like eating game but if you take a closer look - game accounts for less than 1% of the country’s total meat consumption. Eating game in this country is growing in popularity but remains a niche food, eaten by a small proportion of the population.
It is, however, welcome to see one of the country’s most talented chefs turn his hand to promoting this underutilised meat. Loose Birds & Game, written by Andrew Pern is arguably the most beautiful book published on game ever to appear in bookshops. Pern is the highly talented Michelin starred chef at The Star Inn, Harome – a quaint village set in heart of the beautiful North Yorkshire moors.
Distinctive, atmospheric photography by Drew Gardner illustrate Pern’s tantalizing, intricate recipes and provides scenic shots of the Star Inn and its surrounds. His eye for seeking out beauty on a plate, in the kitchen and during a day’s shooting is astounding. A shot of a sleek, regal toned woodcock with its beautiful needle point beak nearly broke my heart. The subtle colours and patterning of gulls egg shells and the glossy coat and pert ears of a retriever awaiting its master’s command - all give the reader a wonderful insight into why hunting for food in the wild may be more fun and less degrading than picking up a vacuum pack of pallid, flaccid, battery farm reared chicken thighs from Tesco.
Pern is a Yorkshire man through and
Hare hot pot & pan haggerty
through and he knows the county’s larder better than most. Yoadwath Mill air-dried ham with snipe; corn fed guinea fowl with summer vegetables and Lowna Dairy goats cheese, and Ampleforth Abbey ‘discovery’ apple and fennel remoulade served with a roe deer carpaccio - are delicious examples of Pern’s use of local, seasonal food which he cooks with sensitivity and passion.
Loose Birds & Game is a tour de force of the best game cooking this country has to offer. It is detailed, encyclopaedic, inspiring and highly creative. Who else would think of concocting a fallow deer pie with liquorice gravy, Scottish girolles, raspberry vinegar and curly kale colcannon?
Which brings me to the tricky question of who might buy, read and cook from this niche book retailing a penny short of £40?
My gut feeling is that this book is written by a highly talented chef for other aspiring chefs. Fans of Pern and the Star will also queue for copies. Loose Birds & Game is also the most gorgeous book to have and to hold if you are simply just interested in beautiful food.
I am less sure about who, apart from wannabe chefs, would have a bash at cooking from the book. All but the keenest home cook would be hard pressed to find the time to plan, shop for and cook most of the recipes. I fear for anyone who attempts Pern’s recipe for “Pan- fried breast of pheasant wrapped in smoked saddleback bacon with chestnut mash, black trumpet mushrooms and Perigeaux truffle” on a Saturday afternoon, for six friends, coming round for supper at 7.30pm on the same day.
Perhaps the best way to think of each of the recipes is as a culinary project. Each project is a journey which takes time and along the way you will develop skills and expertise in this specialised area of cooking.
Yes I am convinced. Despite loving this book it is beyond the time I have to spend in the kitchen and the skills I have to deploy making a meal without the backup of additional staff.
What I think home cooks want next from Pern is ‘Game made simple’ written to tie in with their skill set and the resources available for cooking game at home.
It would be great if Pern could get us Brits to line up with continental Europeans and eat more game. To do this he would have to get more on supermarket shelves, nail his colours to the mast and mount a campaign to persuade shoppers that eating game is the best thing to do to if they are worried about the dire state of intensive farming, animal welfare, food provenance, eating seasonally and reducing food miles – that is so long as they don’t eat venison imported from New Zealand by mistake.
Gulls eggs & asparagus