Friday, December 11, 2009

A good book for meat lovers

I enjoy bagging (or buying), preparing and eating meat. I offer no apologizes for this. I enjoy preparing meals and have a decent library of culinary books. Recently I was looking for a classic partridge recipe, including guidelines for hanging birds prior to cooking. A book I bought about two years ago - The River Cottage Meat Book, by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (published by Ten Speed Press) has a lot of informed and practical information on cooking all types of meat, and has an excellent treatment of all types of game - game common to the British Isles, anyway. The photography by Simon Wheeler is excellent and mouth-watering.

Fearnley-Whittingstall is a hunter and dog owner (this is the connection that justifies its inclusion on this blog...), a chef, and owner of River Cottage farm. In his introductory pages he bows to the typical British sensitivity regarding animal welfare and expresses regret that some game animals are not dispatched cleanly.  A concern that most hunters also share. 

"... As I pull the trigger and the bird falls, or the beast tumbles, I feel the gap between me and the quarry, which a moment ago seemed unreachable, closed in an instant."

And he does not shy away from straight talk about other possibly sensitive culinary subjects. Here is what he has to say about fat in food...

"Fat gets bad press. Because few of us want to ge 'fat', and because the consumption of 'fat' (the noun) has been identified as one possible cause of people becoming 'fat' (the adjective), fat the substance has been effectively demonized. Yet fat has a critical role in brokering the flavor of meat-not just meat, in fact, but in many of our favorite foods. That's why we put butter on our bread, beef fat in our Christmas pudding, and crated cheese on our pasta.

The critical thing is that many flavor-bearing molecules are soluble in fat but not in water. In addition, the flavorful substances into otherwise dry foods are far more effectively absorbed by the taste buds when combined with or accompanied by fat..." 

On hanging game...

"The other thing to say about gaminess, besides, perhaps, that not everyone likes it, is that its level, or intensity, is not a given. It can be encouraged or discouraged, according to the length of time for which the creature has hung." And there follows an in-depth discussion of hanging (or aging) all types of game.

Bottom line, I find tis book even more useful (and inspiring!) than either The Complete Meat Cookbook by Bruce Aidells and Denis Kelly or Roasting by Barbara Kaufka, both good books in their own right.


Will Pennington said...

Excellent stuff Mike, sounds like a fine book. I think I'll ask Mrs. Claus to put this in my stocking.

Ron said...

Looks interesting. Thanks for the recommendation.

Do you pluck your birds, or skin them?

Mike Spies said...

Depends on the birds. I prefer to pick the partridges and light meat grouse, and I skin sharptails and chickens. I pick doves and ducks.

Anonymous said...


mdmnm said...


I've really enjoyed "The River Cottage Cookbook" over the last year and was fortunate enough to receive the "River Cottage Meat Book" this year for Christmas. Haven't cooked anything out of it yet, but I can absolutely second your characterization of it as "inspiring". I haven't found any other cookbooks as easy to read as these two- Fearnley-Whittingstall has a great voice.


Hi, Mike --
Just ran across your column through my friend Hank Shaw's links page.

And now I see this review on a book I just received a review copy of to do a review of in the next two weeks... Along with the other River Cottage by MHW, I'd also recommend "Forgotten Skills of Cooking" by Darina Allen that'll be out in March: tons of great recipes for game/fish from the field and stream. A modern "5 Acres and a Mule for a cottage.

And column dedicated to dogs, too--My pheasant, duck and chukar maniac Brit, Ziggy, will be delighteg!

What a great find--looking forward to following you're posts!


Mike Spies said...

Cork -- I enjoy Hank's blog a great deal, that's why I linked it in the blogroll here. I check in frequently to see what's cookin'. I'll check out your blog.

Thanks for your positive comments!


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.