The Crown at Woodbridge, Suffolk

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The Crown, Thoroughfare
Woodbridge, Suffolk, IP12 1AD
t. 01394 384242
f. 01394 387192
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Good Game, Good Game

with Stephen David, Chef - Patron of The Crown At Woodbridge

Chef-Patron of The Crown At Woodbridge, Stephen David enthuses that few ingredients are more seasonal and tasty than wild local game, fattened on autumn’s hedgerow bounty

With the summer (what summer?) becoming a distant damp memory and winter’s chill merely a few frosty mornings away, appetites are whetted in anticipation of autumn’s natural harvest. Nothing is more wild and British at this time of year than game, the seasonal harvest of bird and beast.

Whether furred or feathered, wild meats are a healthy choice, low in fat and cholesterol, good value compared to farmed livestock and above all environmentally friendly. Wildlife-rich hedges and woods are maintained as verdant shooting habitat, benefiting all flora and fauna, rather than the bleaker arable prairies. Being such a versatile ingredient, with a variety of styles, cuts for all occasions and meals, and great flexibility for a myriad of savoury recipes, game really can replace any other farmed meats with frequently tastier results.

If you are lucky, you will have befriended a local farmer or gamekeeper and be sourcing your game direct from the shoot. But if you don’t fancy all that plucking and paunching, then visit your local independent butcher or farm shop and get to know them instead. Most important with game is to know how old it actually is before buying, so a trusted supplier will pay dividends - young specimens can be cooked quickly, un-gilded in all their juicy sweetness whereas older ones need gentle slow cooking and stronger accompanying herby fruity flavours to get the best out of them.


GAME COOKERY TIPS with Stephen David

I really look forward to late autumn, once we get to early November and the season is in full swing, I know that I can start enjoying bags of wonderful game again, a perennial favourite (earlier in September or October, it can be both pricey and skinny). Of course, throughout the year we can buy quail, rabbit, guinea fowl and other interesting ‘gamey’ meats but wild game, legally restricted to the autumn and winter months, has a limited window of opportunity, making it a short-lived pleasure.


Game is so easy to cook, here are a few ideas and suggestions:


Timing – my cardinal rule is to serve oven-roasted game slightly pink so it keeps moist and tender – being low fat, it become chewy if fully-cooked through. If you prefer it well done, it’s better to pot roast or slow braise it until falling off the bone and succulent. Alternatively filleting so it is boneless for quick frying is a good alternative.


Recipes - with all the global cuisines and cooking styles, whatever the conventional meat called for, there is a suitable game to replace it. Pheasant and rabbit for chicken, partridge and pigeon for pork or lamb, wild duck instead of farmed duck, hare and venison for beef – give all of these a try.


Birds – preheat the oven to 200c. Rub with butter or goose fat. Wrapping older birds in good fatty bacon or foil can help keep it moist and uncovering to brown at the end. Best to remove legs for slow braising or poaching in goose fat or wine beforehand, then browning by roasting alongside the breasts.

Venison – oven bake as for equivalent beef joints. Hare and Rabbit – either pot roast or joint and casserole.


Poaching – gently simmering in your favourite flavoured stock or liquor (cider and beer works well) on the stove can give very tender results for a lighter flavour. Pheasant works well, especially for salads if cooled in the liquor.


Flash Frying - sautéing boneless cuts such as breast fillets quickly seals in the juices and works well if serving on top of a good risotto or pasta dish. Wild duck is ideal.


Stir-frying – proving game’s flexibility, one of my favourite ways is to eat game oriental style. Marinate thin strips of any furred or feathered game with Chinese or Thai flavours then quickly sauté off with  groundnut oil in a very hot wok until just caramelised. Remove to keep warm and add finely shredded vegetables into the pan. Once softened but still crunchy, finish with soy, rice wine and sesame oil, adding in cooked rice noodles and the browned game to cook through.


Pot roasting – pre-browning and cooking in a snug casserole with a little liquid makes for a rich concentrated dish. One of the best ways for partridge.


Slow Braising – casseroled in a good stock and wine medium for a long gentle stew makes even the oldest game toothsome and especially good for furred varieties.



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Thoroughfare, Woodbridge IP12 1AD   T: 01394 384242



Blackberries are coming to the end but pick some whilst you can; rustling up a quick compote or freezing will preserve them during the winter; alternatively a good blackberry conserve whisked into the sauce would add similar flavour. Celeriac or parsnip rings the changes for the dauphinoise.



2 wild mallards, separated into breasts, legs and carcasses for stock

Local cold-pressed rapeseed oil

1 onion, carrot, leek, celery stick, peeled and roughly chopped

Sea salt and black peppermill

Glass of mediumweight red wine, eg Tempranillo, Sangiovese or Cabernet

Few juniper berries, lightly crushed

A few sprigs thyme

Couple of bay leaves
Carcass stock or good chicken bouillon

Pre-heat oven to 160c. Rub the duck legs with oil and seasoning, then heat a deep sauté pan and brown on both sides, remove to a snug hob-proof casserole dish. Add a splash of oil to the pan and brown the root vegetables. Transfer to the casserole. Pour wine, juniper, herbs and sufficient stock over the casserole to just cover. Put on lid or tight foil and bring to a simmer on the hob. Bake for 90 – 120 minutes or until meat is tender. Remove legs and refrigerate until needed. Sieve the liquor into a wide saucepan. Boil until reduced and thickened to a sauce. Carefully taste and adjust seasoning.



You can replace breakfast milk with 1 part single cream: 4 parts full-fat milk

approx. 1 kg of floury potatoes

approx. 500ml breakfast milk or cream-milk mixture

Few sprigs thyme

Couple bay leaves

2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped

Unsalted butter

Pre-heat the oven to 180c. Take a gratin dish and cut sufficient peeled potatoes into thin slices (depth of a pound coin) to fit it. Put potatoes into a saucepan with herbs and garlic, cover with breakfast milk and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Butter the gratin dish generously and season lightly with salt and pepper. Layer in the potatoes, herbs and garlic with seasoning to taste. Dot with more butter. Bake until tender, approx. 45 – 60 minutes. Keep warm.



4 mallard breasts, skin scored every half cm

2 local cox apples, peeled, cored and in 2cm wedges

Rapeseed oil

Unsalted butter

Icing sugar

Cavalo nero leaves or other autumn greens

Dry vermouth

Sea salt and black peppermill

Handful blackberries or 2 tbsp blackberry conserve

You need to juggle a few tasks at the same time. Heat up 2 tbsp of oil and fry the apples gently until tender. Put duck legs and sauce in covered pan on gentle simmer to reheat. Heat up a frying pan until hot, lay the duck breasts fat-side down. Put on to cook for 4 -5 minutes. Check the apples and when softening, add a few knobs of butter scatter with lots of sugar, turn over and repeat. Keep turning until apples caramelise all over, remove and keep warm. Turn over duck and cook for another 2 – 3 until pink-ish inside (for well done, cook for another few more); remove and keep warm to rest. In a covered pan, cook greens in a splash of vermouth and a good knob of butter with seasoning. Stir around with tongs for a minute or two until just softened. Serve up the carved duck breasts onto warm plates with the dauphinoise, greens, duck legs, apples, sauce and blackberries. Enjoy!