#44 English Game Pie, #45 Cumberland Sauce


I invited Clive from work to help me finish off the last of the game I got from Bury Market last night in the form of (#44) English Game Pie. Looking through the ‘Stuffing, Sauces and Preserves’ chapter of English Food for something to go with game, I found (#44) Cumberland sauce. I’ve never had it before, and had no idea what it was. Everything was straight-forward, though the pie had lots of preparation. Anyways, here’s what I did…

The day before I simmered a brace of pheasants and a pigeon (essentially everything I had!) in a very light chicken stock along with a good seasoning and a bouquet garnei of parsley, bay leaves and thyme springs. Jane recommends between 2 and 4 birds. It took an hour and a half for the meat to become tender enough for me to pull the meat from the bone with relative ease. I cut the meat into chunks and kept them in a sealed tub topped up with the stock so it didn’t dry out over night and reserved the remaining stock.

Next day I arranged the meat in one large dish, and a smaller, as I made an extra one for my PhD supervisor too. Then hard-boiled and quartered three eggs and tucked them between the pieces of meat along with small rolls of grilled bacon (though not in yours Jason, don’t worry!), and chopped parsley. Next, I fried a large onion and about 8 ounces of mushrooms in 2 ounces of butter until they were golden. A tablespoon of flour was mixed in to the mushrooms and onions and stirred around so that the butter got absorbed, and then stock was added a ladelful at a time until a thick sauce had developed – about the thickness of double cream. Make sure the sauce is seasoned very well. It was simmered for about 5 minutes, and I added extra stock whenever the sauce thickened too much. The sauce was poured over the meat and then a puff pastry covered the pies. The large pie was cooked at 200 degrees for 20 minutes and then the oven was turned down to 170 for a final ten.

The Cumberland sauce was very easy. Make sure you make it in advance as it should be served cold. Whisk together a jar of redcurrant jelly and a teaspoon of Dijon mustard in a pan over a low heat. Meanwhile blanch the thinly pared peel of a lemon and an orange that have been cut into matchsticks for 5 minutes, then drain. Once the jelly has melted, add the peel, the juice of the two fruits, 5 tablespoons of port, plenty of black pepper and salt and ground ginger to taste (I used a scant teaspoon). Pour into sauce boat. Easy peasy.

FYI: Cumberland sauce is, in fact, German – the recipe was brought over with the House of Hanover in the late Eighteenth Century, and is named after George IV who was the Duke of Cumberland.

#43 English Game Pie – 10/10. This is my first full point dish I think! It was absoluely delicious. Although I’d never had it, there was something very familiar and comforting about it. It was also, for me, the epitome of English Food. The meat was beautifully tender, and he sauce had turned into a delicious gravy and the salty bacon added an extra dimension. The full flavour of the pheasant and pigeon coped very well with the rich Cumberland sauce…

#44 Cumberland Sauce – 8/10. A perfect complement to the game. Although it was very rich and sweet, the savory additions such as the pepper and mustard allowed you to add loads. All in all a fantastic meal!

#33 Stewed Pigeons in Foil

The first of the game dishes made with the produce from my trip to Bury Market. I’ve not had woodpigeon before, and wasn’t too sure if it would be too gamey. I have tried to cook it before but it was so tough it was inedible. My mate John came over for tea and I thought I’d try and do (#33) Stewed Pigeons in Foil. It seemed easy; all was required was time. One pigeon is required per person. Brown the pigeon in butter, breast only, using a hot pan. Allow them to cool. Meanwhile cut pieces of foil large enough to encase the pigeons individually, and spread softened butter over the centre of each piece. Place the birds in the centre and make a parcel with one end still open so you can add the flavourings. Into the cavity add a large knob of butter, thyme, pepper, a slug of brandy, finely chopped onions, a tablespoon of lemon juice, and one of beef stock. Make sure all is sealed well, place on a baking tray and cook for three hours in a low oven. The breasts were removed and seasoned well. It was served with mashed potato and celeriac and the juices from the pigeons (Grigson’s orders). I added some purple sprouting broccoli for something green.

This is definitely the most cheffy looking dish I’ve made so far. It certainly looked the part. The wood pigeon was very tender and moist – it came away from the bone easily. The flavour is very much like liver, in that it’s quite metallic, and it’s got a slightly grainy texture. The mash was divine – used the ricer that I bought for the first time, and will never go back to mashing! – the celeriac and parsley gave in a herby, perfumed taste. Absolutely brilliant! What’s more, eating game is totally sustainable food – even if we all went vegetarian tomorrow, we’d still have to shoot them as part of woodland management (same goes for deer, pheasant, etc…)

FYI: according to the BBC, the wood pigeon is the most common bird in the UK http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4646685.stm

#33 Stewed Pigeons in Foil. 9.5/10 – I cannot believe how nice this dish was. Can’t wait to do more game recipes!