Game enjoys a revival in British kitchens

Date:28-01-2014 08:58:31 read:1

Game enjoys a revival in British kitchens

Rabbit, partridge and venison sales have soared in the last year thanks to a growing trend for eating game

Rabbit sales at Marks & Spencer’s have risen 20 per cent this year prompting the introduction of new products Photo: Alamy

Game is experiencing a revival on British dinner tables as sales of rabbit, venison and partridge soar.

Partridge purchases have leapt by a massive 234 per cent while pheasant is disappearing from the supermarket shelves a third quicker than a year ago, according to The Times.

A pheasant shoot in Dorest (CHRISTOPHER JONES)

Rabbit sales at Marks & Spencer’s have risen 20 per cent this year prompting the introduction of new products including rabbit loins and pheasant with rabbit in bacon while at Waitrose venison sales have almost doubled.

The re-emergence of game as a desirable ingredient began last August when M&S stocked grouse for the first time.

It is believed middle class home cooks have been inspired by a growing trend for high-profile chefs such as Alain Ducasse and Fergus Henderson using game in their dishes.

Henderson, whose London restaurant, St John, is famed for its “nose to tail eating” using offal and game, believes people are becoming more aware of naturally-sourced foods and recipes.

He said: “Game is natural. Nature hurls it at you, one delicious creature after another.

“We begin with grouse on the Glorious 12th [of August], grey-legged partridges follow, then pheasant, woodcock and the rabbits and hares about your feet.

“My favourite of all is the first young grouse, arriving at St John five days after the 12th. It signals that seasonal change, it melts in your mouth. A treat.”

Henderson added that rabbits were “extremely tasty and of course great breeders, which makes them plentiful and the ideal romantic dinner for two”.

After years of being dismissed as the “poor man’s chicken”, rabbit is becoming a regular fixture in many top end London restaurants.

But despite its soaring popularity rabbit remains a relatively cheap meat with wild rabbit loins in M&S selling for about £2 less than free range chicken at about £8 per 500g.

Tom Harvey, M&S game expert, said: “Game is diet-friendly, it is naturally lean and full of iron.

“Who’d have thought that rabbit, which used to be seen as the poor man’s meat, is now considered high end, appearing on the menu of top London restaurants.

“As we become a nation of confident cooks, more people are giving it a go at home too.”

He added: “We’re seeing a big growing trend with customers focusing on the provenance of their food and looking for things that are just a bit more interesting.”

Rabbits were a popular foodstuff during the Second World War when meat supplies were limited.

It disappeared from many British kitchens in the 1950s and 60s as red meat became more prevalent and myxomatosis killed off much of the wild rabbit population.

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