Thursday, May 18, 2017

Recipes From The Woods - Jean-François Mallet

I thought I had managed to resist this book but it turns out that was wishful thinking - I kept seeing it in Scotland last month, and every time I did I wanted it more. By the time I got back to Leicestershire I was getting a little bit obsessed and had to order a copy.

I'm not quite sure how I feel about the tweed and tartan effect cover. I beer between finding it amusing or appalling depending on mood (most of the time amusing), but it's the contents that matter. I'm gathering quite a collection of game based cookbooks - this one is subtitled 'the book of game and forage' which might have been what put me off in the first place. Provincial English cities have their foraging limitations.

In this case I imagine it'll be the mushrooms I struggle to find. Somewhere local might sell a good selection of them but if they do, I don't know about it. I'm not sure how easy it would be to get snails either but as preparing them apparently necessitates 10-12 days of starving them in an airy wooden box on a bed of grass, changed daily, then rinsing them, putting them in another box with kosher salt, vinegar, and plain flour before refrigerating for 2-3 hours, rinsing them again, cooking them in their shells for 30 minutes in boiling water, removing the flesh from the shells, and cooking them for another 30 minutes before removing the black parts and rinsing them again, I'm okay with that. They definitely sound like something I'd rather have served with a flourish in a restaurant.

With the possible exception of hay (maybe a pet shop?) and woodcock (which I wouldn't cook anyway because they're scarce and should be let alone) nothing else in here should be particularly hard to source if there's a good game dealer around.

I've become much more interested in cooking and eating game over the last few years - hence the expanding collection of cookbooks on the subject - for all sorts of reasons, the most important of which are flavour related. Pheasant, partridge, and mallard especially are all also really cheap to buy, new things for me to do with them will be very welcome come the autumn. There's plenty of inspiration here, and plenty of pate and terrine recipes which look like just the reason I need to get a mincer (which I like to think would be a genuinely useful kitchen gadget to have).

The recipe that passed the flick test though was the very first one - haunch of venison roasted with cocoa. It sounds and looks really good, simply relying on a really nice bit venison to make it special, the venison and mango brochettes on the next page also look great. Hare and pear spring rolls with blueberry sauce is something else I'd like to try. I look at hares every year, and every year faced with recipes for jugged hare (doesn't totally appeal) I don't bother.

There are also plenty of rabbit recipes, and as there are plenty of rabbits, eating them seems like a good idea. I have cooked rabbit before, I think it was an elderly one (dad shot it whilst it was digging a hole in his lawn) it was certainly tough despite my best efforts and slow cooking. Trying again is long overdue.

So plenty of sensible, tempting, accessible recipes, and some beautiful photography - it's a winning combination.


  1. Oh please don't eat hares, we simply don't have enough of the beautiful things. Eat grey squirrels instead!

  2. I go with what the game guy in my local market has and he's very cost conscious so if something is in short supply and prices are high he doesn't buy it in. I don't think I saw hare on his stall last year, and I don't have another local butcher/game dealer I trust in the same way, so the hares are safe from me for now! Seriously, I do regularly check what's 'okay' to eat. I wouldn't touch woodcock or snipe even if I saw it for exactly those reasons. I would on the other hand, love to get my hands on squirrel, but never see that either (I guess because people are funny about it?)