Monday, 12 July 2010

The Wild Gourmets Book Review

I quite liked the first series of the TV show and watched a couple of the second series but it didn’t really capture my imagination. So when MCP gave me 'The Wild Gourmets: Adventures in food and freedom' for Crimbo I was intrigued. The authors have managed to pull off the difficult trick of showing hunting in a positive light on mainstream TV. The show is aimed at a foodie audience who, while liking the idea of wild food, may still have some trepidation about up-close-and-personal knowledge of their dinner’s demise.

Guy Grieve is a good deal more interesting a character than the series lets on. Bored of his desk-jockey life at the The Scotsman newspaper; he actually did what so many of us occasionally dream of doing and de-camped to Alaska to live in a self built cabin for a year. I know he’s Scottish and they’re tougher up there, but it’s still no small achievement. You can read more about his adventure here.

Tommi was a former winner of ‘Masterchef’ a TV show with a self explanatory title.
Where ‘Tommi’ shines is that she shows just how frikkin’ easy it is to cook nice food over burning wood. I’ve never believed that campfire cooking should automatically be burned around the edges. She makes some really nice looking food and clearly has a sense of adventure with ingredients.

All great cooking TV has to be to succeed is to show the audience how small the step beyond their comfort zone is, and then entice them to take the step with pictures of the result and the cook being praised for the result. She makes a good fist of it.

Most TV cooks in the UK have used ‘Chocolate and Chilli’ as a cipher for adventure, the mindset that chocolate is always served as a sweet food is so completely ingrained in UK food culture that even when it’s become a cliché of foodie TV it’s still able to elicit a fission of excitement and squeals of unexpected delight at the dinner table. Here’s Tommi’s take on Venison and ChocolateFeeds 10

2kg shoulder or haunch of venison
olive oil, for browning
2 medium onions, diced
2 carrots, diced
5 celery stalks, diced
2 parsnips, diced
5 garlic cloves, chopped
2 dried chillies, crumbled
500ml game stock (or stock made from bouillon cubes)
½ bottle full-bodied red wine
100g dark chocolate, finely grated or chopped
1 tablespoon redcurrant jelly
For the marinade
1 bottle full-bodied red wine
4 garlic cloves
1 sprig of rosemary
4–5 sprigs of thyme
2 fresh red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
10 juniper berries, crushed
salt and pepper
How to make venison braised with chilli and chocolate
1. Make sure your fire has lots of hot embers (or preheat an oven to 190°C/gas 5).

2. Cut the venison into 2.5cm cubes, removing large bits of fat or gristle. Put these into a double-layered plastic bag, along with all the marinade ingredients. Set aside for a day in a cool spot in the river (or in the fridge if you have taken your quarry home), turning every so often so that all of the meat comes into contact with the marinade.

3. When you are ready to cook, remove the venison from the marinade, setting the marinade aside for later.

4. Heat a large casserole over a high heat until it is smoking hot. Pour in a tablespoon of olive oil and when it is very hot add the venison cubes, 6 or 7 at a time, so that you are not overcrowding the pan and thus bringing down the temperature of the oil.

5. Brown the meat on all sides for 1–2 minutes, letting the pan get hot again between each batch and adding more oil if necessary.

6. When the meat is all browned, set it aside while you brown the vegetables.

7. Add a tablespoon of oil to the casserole and sweat the onions for 5 minutes before adding the carrots, celery and parsnips. Cook for a further 10 minutes, allowing the vegetables to start caramelising without letting them burn. Add the garlic and cook for another 5 minutes.

8. Return the venison to the casserole, along with the reserved marinade and the rest of the ingredients. Bring up to a gentle simmer, stirring to melt the chocolate into the sauce. Cook in the Dutch oven (or preheated oven) for about 90 minutes or until the meat is tender and falling apart.

lf you're a regular reader  I think you’ll quite like this book as a read, and find the recipes easy to follow and delicious to eat. If you’re looking to expand someone’s foodie horizons I think you’ll find its the perfect gift.

I’m still waiting for our friends, those bon viveurs afield, NorCal and HAGC to hit our screens. 
I can see it now ‘She Kills it & He Grills It - The Holly & Hank Show’.

Your Pal


Murphyfish said...

Right oh, intrigued by this review (just love me food) I've this very moment put a bid on the dreaded e-bay for said item, takes a bit of effort you know to part me from me hoard of gold! Cheers for the heads up.

The Suburban Bushwacker said...


Glad you liked it enough to take action, you'll enjoy it I'm sure

Coloradocasters said...

Thanks for posting this. I'm ok at identifying edible plants and even catching a moving meal or two. Maybe this book will help me bridge the gap between making my wild meals more gourmet as opposed to simply edible. The extra "flavor" in the book sounds like an interesting read as well.

The Suburban Bushwacker said...

Colorado casters

I look forward to reading about your foraging adventures

NorCal Cazadora said...

I think Hank would be mighty pissed if I got to do all the killing and he just got to grill. But hey, I like the idea!

Hank has this book and likes it too. It's a shame we couldn't see the TV show.

The Suburban Bushwacker said...

While I would never like to stand between Hank and his prey :-) , the 'she kills he grills' pitch is so simple even someone who works in TV can understand it. i've mixed feelings about their show - but can't take away from them the fact that they got it on screen, and showed wild food in an accessible light.

Josh said...

That's terribly cool. Also, I love the simplicity in the "as seen on Channel Four" claim. Over here, that would mean absolutely nothing.

The Suburban Bushwacker said...

I want to try something similar except with Scotch Bonnet instead of the red chillies she uses, for that super smoky flavour to match the astringency of a 70% cocoa chocolate.