Christmas food needn't be too fattening!

English: Turkey (bird)

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Autumn food

This article is not for vegetarians, but I must confess that, provided what I am eating has been allowed to roam free, I do enjoy this time of year when pheasant, grouse, partridge and other game is in season.

And, of course, the Christmas Turkey is going to be around for some time.  Don’t groan – it’s one of the healthiest foods you can eat.

British reared turkey is not only tasty, but 100g of grilled breast meat contains just 124 calories and 1.7g of fat. What’s more, there are so many different cuts to choose from, and so many ways to cook them, that you can never tire of turkey.

And if you really want to cheat away the calories, instead of slathering the bird in butter, just use a little, but copy the Belgian way of roasting a bird – cook it upside down with stock or water in the bottom of the tin, and lots of herbs scattered around.  Just turn it over about 20 mins before you take it out of the over, to brown it, and you get a very moist bird.

Check out convenient cuts like turkey mince – perfect for spicy chilli, homemade meatballs and low fat lasagne. Tender turkey strips are just right for speedy stir fries, while tasty leg meat comes ready diced for delicious hot pots and casseroles.

Look out for the familiar farm assured Red Tractor logo alongside the Quality British Turkey mark on the pack. That way you’ll know you are buying meat from producers who achieve high standards.

And look for more recipes on  call the British Turkey hotline 0800 783 9994.

Pheasant and partridge – or quail
This is known as ‘Game’, and can only be eaten when the females have finished breeding.  They start breeding again February – so the season isn’t long.

If you eat meat, there is growing evidence that we should ensure that chicken and meat we eat is  raised outdoors, eating grass or foraging for fresh food.  This is definitely healthier for us. Anyway, who wants to eat an animal that has been kept caged up all its life?  But game generally roams freely – just be careful when buying quail.

And some of our meat, rabbit and chicken is imported from countries such as China, where food standards and animal welfare may not be up to our standards.

So I asked Alison Jee, meat expert for her advice.

“For everyone, the quality of the meat they eat is paramount.  If you have or are recovering from cancer it is even more important to choose top quality produce, and buy it from a good local butcher, or a supermarket that has high standards.

So choose British meat, and a butcher where you can be sure the meat has been reared in this country to the higest welfare standards.  Look for ‘Quality Standard’ marks from the English Beef and Lamb Executive (EBLEX) and British Quality Assured Pork (BQAP), the company supplies meat under the ‘Red Tractor’ scheme managed by Assured Food Standards and ‘Free-Range’ criteria.

When eating in a restaurant, ask where they get their meat and chicken from.  Any hesitation, and it could mean that you are eating Chinese battery chicken.  Uggh!


When you are bored with beef or fancy a change from chicken, it’s time to give game a go!  Pheasant, Partridge, Grouse, Venison – or the almost unknown Snipe or Widgeon, are all products raised in the wild (or almost) that roam free.

Whether you are planning a special treat or want a simple supper that’s on the table in minutes, game will always fit the bill.

Not only is it healthy and nutritious – and almost certainly Organic, but calories are low.

Wk/cals Per 100 grams :

  • Venison  104
  • Chicken 105
  • Partridge 112
  • Pheasant
  • 119 Lamb
  • 172 Beef 191

Supermarkets such as Waitrose are stocking fresh and frozen game, and so do good butchers.  They love to sell Game, and are keen to give recipes for cooking.  Although you can roast it whilst young;  towards the end of the winter when the birds get older, put them into a casserole with veg and red wine – scrummy!

There are lots of country myths about hanging game until it is falling off the string holding it up, and crawling with maggots.  Well, that may be all very well well for some old country codgers, but I was raised in the depths of the country and game that is 3 – 5 days old is just right for me.  So you don’t need to worry too much about it being as fresh as fish, but if you like a ‘softer’, not so game-y taste, then around 5 days is ideal.

However, if you buy a bird and can’t cook it that night, it will happily stay in the fridge for 2 – 3 days.  Or in the freezer for a month or so.

Serve it with bread sauce, or the old way (which was horribly unhealthy) with fried breadcrumbs!  and Game chips.  You can make those by hand or buy good old plain crisps!  Then green and/or roast vegetables such as parsnips and potatoes are scrumptious with these, and don’t be afraid to pick up the bones and gnaw them.  I ha

ve seen the Royal family eating game in a restaurant and happily gnawing a bone.

What wine goes well with game?

I asked Rosamund Barton, of the noted wine agency R & R Teamwork, what wines would go well with game?

She said “these two should go really well with many game dishes”:·

Louis Jadot Beaujolais Villages 2009/2010, 12.5% ABV,  rrp £9.49

From:  Tesco, Waitrose , Budgens, Booths, Fresh & Wild, Wholefoods, and many independent wine specialists




Villa Maria Private Bin Pinot Noir 2010, New Zealand,  13.5% ABV, £10.99 Tesco, Co-op, Wholefoods,

Cheers!  and bon appetit!

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