Saturday, January 10, 2009

Game casserole with cider and sage

Finally reached the end of the first week back at work post-Christmas. The week seems to have crawled by at a snail's pace and I'm so relieved that the weekend is here. It is snowing again and far from craving the light, salady dishes that seem to be plastered across the pages of every New Year cookery magazine or recipe supplement, I'm after hearty and wholesome dishes. The New Year detox is something I've never understood - it is just too miserable to contemplate at this chilly time of year. At least that's my excuse.

Comfort is what I crave. And what could provide more comfort than flavourful casserole? Meat cooked slowly with onions, vegetables, stock and herbs - simplicity itself both to cook and eat.

Whilst many have been distressed by the
disappearance of Woolworths from our high streets. I'm afraid to report that I've secretly been rather delighted. Not that I had anything against Woolies. Just that my local branch has been replaced by a shiny new Waitrose. I can't tell you how happy this up-market supermarket makes me. Everything is just so... nice. Even me. I feel like a nicer person when I'm shopping in Waitrose. Isn't it shameful? The bad news is that my shopping bills have rocketed. Not very credit crunch friendly.

Anyway, amongst the lovely things on sale at Waitrose I found some packs of mixed game ready for casseroling. They contain a mix of pheasant, partridge, mallard and pigeon. I remembered that my mother had mentioned
a Waitrose recipe she'd tried last year for a casserole with cider and sage and so decided that a game casserole would be the perfect winter warmer to cook for a friend that came over for supper last night.

I looked the recipe up online and thought it seemed a bit strange as it had no onion/vegetable base. I decided that shallots and a little celery would be good additions and then decided that a few smoked bacon lardons would also add more depth to the dish. The result? A very tasty, hearty dish which really hit the spot on a wintery night. Served simply with jacket potatoes, carrots and peas it was unfussy and easy to prepare - it would be ideal for feeding a crowd of friends, particularly as it can be made in advance and re-heated when required. As with most casseroles, the flavour will improve on keeping!

If you aren't blessed by being within walking distance of a Waitrose (!), most butchers will sell mixed game for casseroles. Alternatively, this would work just as well with diced pheasant.

Game casserole with cider and sage
Based on
this recipe from Waitrose
Serves 4-6


700g mixed game, diced into 1 inch cubes (pheasant/pigeon/partridge/mallard or similar)
3 tbsp plain flour
5 shallots
1 stick celery
100g smoked bacon lardons or pancetta
good handful of fresh sage
250ml good quality chicken stock
250ml good quality cider
2 tablespoons creme fraiche
fresh parsley (optional)

1. Boil the kettle. Place unpeeled shallots in a jug. Pour water over the shallots and leave for a minute. Drain and peel. Chop each shallot in half, along the natural divide. Finely chop the celery.

2. Heat olive oil in a large casserole and add the shallots. Fry for a minute or so on a fairly high heat until starting to colour then add the celery and bacon and turn the heat down a little so that the shallots continue to sweat without colouring further. After 4-5 minutes when the shallots are softening, remove with a slotted spoon and set to one side.

3. Sprinkle flour over the meat and season with pepper and a little salt (go easy on the salt as both stock and bacon will be salty). Brown the meat in batches in the casserole over a high heat. Remove and set to one side with the onions. Once all the meat is browned, return the lot to the pan with the shallots/bacon and celery.

4. Chop the sage and add to pan. Stir and cook for a minute or so.

5. Pour over the cider and stock and bring to the boil. Turn heat down to a simmer, add a lid and cook for around 45 minutes. Alternatively, you could pop this in the oven at 180C for the same time or at a lower heat for longer if you have time.

6. Once cooked, remove casserole from heat and stir in the creme fraiche. Sprinkle with chopped parsley if you have it and serve!


Astra Libris said...

Oh my goodness, your casserole sounds heavenly, and absolutely perfect for these gray, chilly days... I couldn't agree with your more - this is the season for happy comfort food!

I'm so glad I discovered your blog via the No Croutons roundup... :-)

Anonymous said...

Lovely! We've made a few game casseroles, often using Waitrose recipes and they've always turned out well. I think casseroling is probably my favourite way of eating game.

Lucky you with the Waitrose, we do indeed have one within walking distance. It's hard to shop anywhere else isn't it?

Scott at Real Epicurean said...

This is right up my street - I love game, and this is a great way to cook it.

Maggie said...

Unfortunately/fortunately, I am very close to a huge Waitrose store.
We aren't game eaters, but the recipe sounds wonderful Antonia.

Beth (jamandcream) said...

My nearest Waitrose is 35 miles away - mind you my nearest woolies is 32 miles away!!! Im very jealous. Great dish

Sam said...

This looks absolutely delicious, perfect winter food!

Abitofafoodie said...

Astta Libris - welcome! I love this kind of food when it is cold - pure comfort.

Ginger - it is indeed hard to go back. It has only been open since December 4th (how sad that I know the actual date), but already I'm hooked!

Scott - it works well as the game remains quite moist and I really liked the mixture rather than having just one kind of game.

Margaret - I've made something similar to this with chicken, cider, cream and mushrooms that was good too.

Beth - probably a good thing. I end up spending a small fortune now that it is so close. It is nice to have it close by though - one of the few good things about city living I guess!

Sam - indeed it is. Just what I crave at this time of year.

Joy said...

Happy New Year! We've got a Waitrose instead of a woolies in Islington too.I also have one just by work which is very dangerous as I end up spending a fortune. Have you been to the Waitrose foodhall in John Lewis? It is all so beautiful -their marketing is spot on and even their Christmas advert made me cry. Oh dear!

Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

I remember sitting at the counter at Woolworths with my mom and having a Club Sandwich and fries. It has been gone so long being replaced by Woolco and now even that is no longer. They would never have served this upscale dish of game at Woolworths but I am inviting myself to your home:D

Frequent Traveler said...

Good Monday morning to you, Antonia.
A good supermarket is a delightful destination :)
I would have been pleased to see Woolworths replaced by Waitrose as well !

Joie de vivre said...

What nice pictures and very well explained. There is nothing shameful in change, especially if it is for the better. You have fun shopping at your Waitrose!

Peter M said...

I love that you're fearless with ingredients, like game.

It's a cold Jaunary and this stew is just the dish.

Unknown said...

Cooked this for our Christmas evening meal- amazing thanks so much!

Unknown said...

Cooked this for our Christmas Eve mask. Incredible, than you