The Hix Report – Get Creative

Our esteemed columnist says it’s time to get creative with seasonal produce by foraging, catching or preserving your own

Autumn is an exciting time when we can look forward to slightly more meaty and robust dining. For me, the game season – from the Glorious Twelfth in August – is always a welcome arrival. If you shoot the birds yourself, even better – you can have a bit of sporting action as well as dining pleasure.

I get a lot of people saying they don’t like game birds. Then I discover they’ve had it in the oven for twice as long as it should be; hence they end up with dry old birds. The recommended cooking times on supermarket packaging play on the safe side. Unfortunately, this means you don’t always end up with nice pink meat, so use your intuition
or take advice from friends who cook game.

All the things that go well with game are also in season, like wild berries: elderberries, sloes and damsons which all make great jellies. The smaller ones like blaeberries and wild blueberries can be tossed into a game salad or dropped into a sauce.

Foraging has become a popular foodie pastime. You can forage anywhere: the hedgerow, at the beach and in the woods – even in London. When I used to live in De Beauvoir, the streets were lined with crab apple trees and the house across the road had a large arbutus tree with what are sometimes called tree strawberries. They don’t have a lot of flavour but look interesting and make a great addition to a cocktail steeped in eau de vie or grappa. The ultimate wild food, of course, is the mushroom. It’s exciting finding the perfect cep or a morel in the woods. Go on a fungi course if you’re new to foraging, as a lot of mushrooms look the same so you need to beware.

If you box clever in autumn, you can also do a lot of preserving – jams, pickles and chutneys – for the winter months. Try potting some game, or preserving your wild salmon or sea trout in infused olive or rapeseed oil in Kilner jars. These all make great autumnal memories for the cold months.