The Blog

Welcome to our award winning blog


Here you can find a collection of our thoughts, reports and ramblings together with some fun things we find along the way. We try to update the blog at least once a week and more often during busy periods so make sure you check back regularly..

By The Twig - Well Seasoned, Oct 13 2017 11:33AM

The partridge season started back in September and the pheasants joined them on 1 October. Both seasons run throughout winter to the end of January.

Last week I was in Salisbury talking to a gamekeeper of one of the small local shoots. I asked him whether things had improved for game suppliers in recent years given the increased interest in cooking and eating game. Surely with the likes of Tom Kerridge, Hugh F-W and Tom Kitchin all doing sterling work to promote game, the shoots would now be getting a decent price for the birds they produce? His answer shocked me. I was used to hearing that shoots were paid 50p to £1 for good quality birds “in the feather”. That number has apparently reduced to just 25p and, in some cases, the game dealers will do nothing more than take the birds away for free. In percentage terms, it’s a massive cut in price and, at worst, suggests there simply isn’t any market for the birds.

Less than 25p for a free-range, tasty bird that makes the perfect meal for one when a free range chicken in my local butchers is being sold for £15. What on earth is going on?

I’m afraid to say the problem seems to be one of over-supply. There are simply too many birds being produced meaning that, whatever the increased enthusiasm for game meat, there’s too much to go around. The temptation from some quarters will be, I’m sure, to blame “greedy toffs” (the Daily Mail’s go-to description for anyone who owns land) selling too much shooting to too many fat cats (ditto for anyone who pays to shoot) but I am sure the issue is more nuanced than that.

For many small farmers, shooting provides vital income which, as they are squeezed to provide ever-cheaper food and milk, is essential to ensure they stay in business. To me, the key problem is that the main income from shooting comes from those who pay to shoot, rather than to eat, the birds. A team of Guns could pay up to £750 pounds each for a day’s shooting where maybe 250 birds will be shot. But having paid all of that money, they will probably only take home a pair (brace) each for dinner. The rest will go to the game dealers, essentially as a by-product. So, in the hope of propping up a failing business, where farms are already forced to sell meat and milk at a loss to the supermarkets, millions of birds are being produced where the primary market is to shoot them rather than eat them. What an absurd state of affairs.

In my view, the solution is for shoots to (voluntarily) limit the number of birds they shoot in a day and focus instead on providing hospitality and a great day out in the countryside that people are prepared to pay for, regardless of the number of birds in the bag at the end of the day. Put it another way, if they keep producing more and more birds to the point that there is no market and the meat simply goes to waste rather than entering our food chain, the days for game shooting in this country will be numbered. Even as a fan of game and shooting, I’d find it impossible to justify, nor would I want to.

Economists would, I’m sure, be able to propose a win-win solution where people pay a bit more to shoot fewer birds which are then sold for a little more. But that analysis is best left to someone else with better qualifications than my B in GCSE maths. For the time being, however, the upshot is that there are loads and loads of really good quality gamebirds out there RIGHT NOW and we should all be eating them.

In his latest piece for Just About Dorset, Russell has produced a mouth-watering game dish that will be a hit with everyone, but I’d especially recommended it to anyone looking for an easy introduction to the tasty, exciting and undeniably good value world of game. I can’t reveal what the recipe is just yet, but keep an eye on the blog and get ready to be hungry...

By The Twig - Well Seasoned, Nov 27 2015 03:00AM

As you might have read, this week is Great British Game Week. Which is a good job because we're bang in the middle of partridge and pheasant season, definitely in need of some new recipes to try. But one thing that doesn't enough attention is leftovers. After you've tucked into a roast pheasant with all the trimmings but can’t quite face finishing it, what should you do? This recipe is a great way of ensuring those leftovers don’t go to waste. It’s very versatile and you can experiment with pretty much any combination of vegetables and poultry. Pasties are meant to have a delicious, squishy centre so you don’t need to worry too much about the state of the veg going in either. They make a perfect travelling snack on a long winter walk or a day out in the field.

To make 6 pheasant, sausage and veg pasties:

500g leftover roast pheasant, chicken or other poultry shredded

150g leftover cooked sausages, roughly chopped

50g cooked peas (or other green veg)

2 medium leeks, washed and thinly sliced

1 small onion, peeled and diced

150g double cream

1 small glass white wine (or chicken stock if you prefer)

2 x 375g packs of pre-rolled puff pastry (feel free to make it yourself but I’m rubbish at it)

1/2 tsp dried thyme

salt and pepper to season

butter or olive oil

2 eggs, beaten

Start by melting the butter in a large an on a low heat and sweating the leaks and onion for five minutes or so until soft. Add the pheasant and sausage, then the wine. Cook for a minute or two and then add the cream and peas. Sprinkle in the thyme and add plenty of black pepper and salt to taste. Now turn the heat up and simmer for five minutes or so or until the sauce thickens. You now have your pasty filling. Turn off the heat and put to one side. Dust your work surface with flour and roll out your pastry into a large square. Cut the pastry into rectangles, approximately 15cm x 25cm. If you prefer a traditional half-moon shaped pasty then you can cut out into circles using a large bowl but I find it much easier to produce rectangles of a consistent thickness (told you I was no good with pastry). Take two tablespoons of the filling and pile onto one half of each rectangle (but don’t over-fill them – you dont want the pasties to burst in the oven). Leave at least a centimetre of pastry around the edge. With a pastry brush or your finger, moisten the edges of the pastry with some water and then fold the top of the pastry over the filling. With a fork or your fingers, lightly crimp the edges of the pastry together to seal the pasty. Repeat the process with all six pasties. Place the pasties onto a lightly greased baking tray (or on a sheet of baking paper) and give the tops a light brushing of the beaten egg to ensure a deep brown glaze. Bake at around 180C for 25 minutes or until golden brown. You can eat them straight away or prepare them a day or so in advance, just re-heating them for 5 minutes or so when required. You can also freeze the un-cooked pasties (provided you thoroughly defrost them before baking) although the quality of the pastry will determine how well they come out.

And finally…

Why did the pasty cross the road?

Cos he was meat ‘n potato

Boom boom….

By The Twig - Well Seasoned, Nov 21 2015 09:10PM

Some five years ago it was rumoured that a disgruntled KFC employee, faced with redundancy, had revealed the “secret blend” of herbs and spices used by the (in)famous fried chicken joint. A social media frenzy catapulted the recipe round the world faster than you can say “Colonel Saunders” and although the company has never publically confirmed it, the consensus seems to be that it is, at the very least, a good approximation of their recipe.

The ethical problems with eating KFC chicken hardly need to be spelled out on this blog. The problem is, as most of us would have to admit, it tastes pretty darn good. So what to do? Well, thankfully the angry ex-chicken-fryer's revelation has given us the opportunity to put an ethical twist on the oh-so-naughty finger lickin’ dish. Since we’re in the middle of the pheasant season we wanted to see if the recipe translated from KFC to KFP. We’re pleased to say it most definitely does.

Here’s “our” recipe using two pheasants we brought home from a small Dorset shoot last weekend. The original spice mix apparently includes mono-sodium glutamate (MSG) a flavour enhancer which we decided to forgo. We’ve tweaked the list a little more and, since pheasant has a tendency to dry out, marinading in milk gives it the required extra succulence.

Homemade KFC/KFP


1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon dried sage

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon mustard powder

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon garlic powder

2 teaspoons salt

4 pheasant breasts, halved (you can also use a jointed whole pheasant or free range chicken)

250g plain white flour

1/2pt whole milk

1 egg


Marinade the pheasant in milk for two hours. When you're ready to cook, heat your oven to 200C. Mix the herbs, spices and flour together in a mixing bowl. Remove the pheasant breasts from the milk and pat dry with kitchen towel. Lightly beat the egg in a second bowl. Now, dip each piece of breast meat first into the egg and then into the spiced flour. (You can work in batches dipping and coating three or four pieces at a time as long as there is space in the flour bowl to move the pieces around and ensure they all get a good coating). Heat 6 tbsp of oil in a frying pan - enough to cover the base. Shallow fry the meat pieces on a high heat for 2 minutes on each side until the coating is golden brown. (Fry in batches if the pan is too crowded). Now transfer the chicken pieces to a baking tray and bake in the oven for 20 minutes until the meat is cooked through. Allow to cool for a minute or two before serving with coleslaw and beans. (Plating up in a big bucket is optional).

By The Twig - Well Seasoned, Aug 18 2015 09:01AM

A rather longer blog today, to give a serious topic proper consideration.

After the Summer lull, the season for shooting feathered game kicked off last week with the grouse season on the "Glorious Twelfth". Partridges and duck will join them in September with pheasant and woodcock joining the shooting party in October. As seasonal foodies it’s a time we look forward to as a rich choice of meats we haven't tasted for months come back on the menu. Feathered game is one of most traditionally seasonal elements of the British diet. The very fact that game can only be shot at particular times of the year means it is strictly (and legally) a seasonal treat. But it's not without its controversy.

As a country, we have a mixed relationship with game shooting - it tends to polarise us into one of two views. On the one hand, we have the cosy image of a traditional, countryside pursuit providing wholesome, free-range food for our tables. On the other, a cruel bloodspot defended by toffs and large landowners. The start of the season invariably brings with it press articles articulating both side of the emotive argument and rightly prompts people to consider the moral issues involved. Personally, I feel strongly that, when done properly, game shooting for food is very defensible from an ethical standpoint. But I recognise that "done properly" is a significant caveat and things are definitely not as black and white as lobbyists on either side would have us believe. I want to use this blog piece to look at some of the arguments both for and against.

If you are a principled vegetarian then you are unlikely to think that shooting is ever right. On the other hand if, like me, you eat meat, it seems to me that your duty must be threefold. First, to ensure that the animals you eat live comfortable lives, secondly, to give them a humane death and, finally, to ensure you make good use of any meat that is harvested.

Looking first at how game birds live, some birds (notably grouse, woodcock and snipe) are entirely wild. Others, including pheasants and partridge are bred and partially reared in captivity. They are then released into holding pens as poults towards the end of the summer and, finally, released into the open countryside a few weeks before the season starts.

So, there's a bit of a sliding scale here. To me, there can be little argument that wholly-wild birds live infinitely happier lives that any raised in captivity. They roam free, happy to scratch and peck their way around the countryside, the only danger pre-season being natural predators such as foxes (whose numbers will be kept strictly in check by the estate gamekeeper) so it’s a largely safe and comfortable existence. However, the majority of reared game (which includes most pheasants and partridge) are born in large scale hatcheries similar to chicken farms. And as with chicken, the quality of those hatcheries varies. On the one hand, the best will rear their birds in conditions akin to free range chicken farms, with plenty of space for each bird to move around and to behave naturally. At the other end of the scale are intensive operations, similar to battery factories. Clearly, the further down that scale you go, the less robust an argument you have that game is a free-range meat.

In terms of how game is killed, a skilled gun will know his or her limits and cleanly shoot and kill a bird outright maybe nine times out of ten. Most birds that are hit will be dead before they hit the ground or killed by the impact. It is a quick and, by most measures, humane death. However, even the most confident of shots wouldn't be so bold to claim they hit them all. The moral ambiguity comes with that tenth bird. Most will be missed altogether but, of course, occasionally an off-centre shot will injure or "prick" a bird rather than kill it outright. Well-managed shoots have a small army of pickers-up and dogs, trained to find those injured birds so that they too can be quickly dispatched. On those shoots, the vast majority of gamekeepers and shooters will not leave the field until all efforts have gone into tracking down all of the birds. Nearly all will be found quickly, but it's a undeniable fact that occasionally some won't be.

Those lost birds are, it seems to me, the unhappy price to be paid for accepting that game birds live, and are killed, in the wild rather than the more controlled conditions of a farm and slaughter house. Proponents of shooting point out that human error and the production-line nature of abattoirs means a stress and pain-free death is far from guaranteed - besides which, injured birds will be quickly found and gobbled up by foxes or birds of prey - no worse a fate than a sick bird would face in the wild. Those against shooting argue that we should not accept any level of avoidable risk when it comes to humane slaughter and that culling should only ever be undertaken by skilled professionals in a controlled environment. To me, this is the most persuasive argument against shooting in any form. On balance, however, because of the infinitely better life they will have lived, I still come down in favour of eating wild animals, notwithstanding the fact that this inevitably brings with it the potential for a less humane death.

So, what to do with the birds once shot? I can see no argument whatsoever that justifies shooting a bird simply for the sport in this country. Plenty has been said in recent weeks about the pros and cons of trophy hunting in Africa, so I won't go into that here, but to me at least one part of the equation is very simple - if an animal is killed and can be eaten then it should be. When shooting was having a heyday in the mid-2000s, before the last recession, there were reports of birds being shot on large corporate shoots and simply discarded into ditches or ploughed back into the fields because there was no market for their meat. Whether, or to what extent, this was actually true is unclear. But if it is true, it's utterly indefensible and the mere suggestion that it might be, understandably provokes outrage. No, in order to be comfortable with the shooting of animals, we must also be comfortable that they will be put to good use. Most people who shoot will take a brace of birds home at the end of the day but many more birds will have been shot and those will usually be sold to game dealers. The volume of birds shot in the UK is such that pheasant meat really is one of the cheapest available during the season (There is a tounge-in-cheek Victorian saying that reflects the economics of shooting - "Up goes a guinea, bang goes sixpence and down comes half a crown.") A shoot might sell an entire bird for just 50p meaning that, even once gutted and plucked, you'll rarely pay more than a fiver for an oven-ready bird and in many places you'll get two for that price. Of course, not all game ends up beautifully presented on the butcher's slab or restaurant menu. Some is rejected from the human food chain because it is badly bruised or shot from too-close range. Badly-damaged birds may be made into pet food which, to me is another area of moral ambiguity. It's better than being dumped in a ditch, but only just and I think anyone who shoots has a responsibility to ensure that those damaged birds are kept to an absolute minimum.

Finally, some objections to shooting seem to hinge on a discomfort with the fact that those who shoot enjoy it. I find this a curious argument because it ignores altogether the welfare of the animal and focusses only on the judgement of one person's feelings against another’s. It's undeniable that, if you do shoot, a day in the field is a real highlight of the year. But it's not right to think that what people like most about it is the act of killing. There may of course be people whose thrills come from the infliction of death but I can, hand on heart, say I have never met one of them. A days shooting involves so much more - it is meeting with friends, eating good food, walking through beautiful countryside and enjoying fresh country air. In fact, a comparatively small part of the day is spent actually shooting. I can’t speak for everyone else but I know that the feeling I have when shooting an animal is a mixture of primal urge to hunt, regret of the death itself, satisfaction of a clean job well done and anticipation of the meal to come. To me, the last of those is crucial. I shoot to eat and I enjoy knowing that I have harvested my meal from the wild. I will happily debate the rights and wrongs of shooting from an animal welfare perspective but, in my view, any argument based solely on the fact that I enjoy it rather misses the point.

So, there you go. Even as a fan of shooting, I know it is far from being a simple question of 'right' or 'wrong'. The argument is far more nuanced and whether we are instinctively 'pro' or 'anti' we'll do well to remember that there are two sides to the shooting coin. There are undoubtedly good practices and bad ones and we can all agree that the more of the former and fewer of the latter, the better.

For what it's worth, my view is that there is an acceptable middle-ground. Shooting on a small scale is, I believe, a good thing. It promotes healthy eating and a respect for the countryside, for its wildlife and the birds we shoot. It can create jobs, supply us with good quality meat and have animal welfare standards on a par with the best meat farming practices. As with so much of our food chain, it's when shooting becomes big business that things go wrong. A focus only on profit and the number of birds shot in a day completely severs the link between shooting and food and quite rightly raises objections. Those of us who do shoot are in a minority and I have always felt that it's for us to show that it can be done in a sensitive and ethically sound way - we should be the loudest objectors when it isn't.

By The Twig - Well Seasoned, Jul 27 2015 08:36AM

We don't usually review products on this blog but every now and then, when something genuinley interesting comes along, we'll make an exception.

As you know, at Well Seasoned we're big fans of game of all kinds. Wild meat has so many benefits in terms of health, flavour and ethics and we've always done our best to promote it. But it's fair to say that game can be a little intimidating to the first-timer - not everyone is necessarily keen to tackle a whole roast grouse and many a potential convert has been put off by the, er, robust flavour a long-hung hare or over-cooked pigeon.

So, how do you go about finding new consumers for an under-developed market? Well, Taste of Game, an organisation set up to promote eating game in the UK, has come up with one new angle - a range of crisps based on traditional game dishes, aimed specifically at reaching a wider audience of foodies. It's a simple yet ingenious idea...and we rather wish we'd thought of it.

But, many a good idea has failed due to poor execution. So, how do the crisps measure up? Honestly? They're rather good.

We tasted the first lines, based on two very traditional dishes - Grouse & Whinberry and Smoked Pheasant & Wild Mushroom. The crisps are thick and crunchy with plenty of flavour to them. As with any flavouring purporting to taste like a whole meal, you'd do well to put your finger on the exact flavours in a blind tasting but some serious work has obviously gone into them. There is a distinct gamey flavour to the grouse and although the smoked pheasant could fairly easily pass for roast chicken, it certainly isn't a million miles away.

Sensibly, ToG have gone for all-natural flavourings and 100% British potatoes (with no GM) so few worries as far as the ethical foodie is concerned. The packaging too is well considered and very fitting, with a rich heather purple and a nod to the cock pheasant’s green-blue cowl respectively. On the back of the pack, factoids about heather moorland and the benefit of woodland management for wildlife help bang home ToG's message.

They look and taste like the posh crisps they are. After a long ramble across the moors or through a wooded valley to the familiar croak of pheasant calls, what self-respecting foodie wouldn't be tempted to swap the usual Ready Salted for a packet of these?

But perhaps most importantly, is isn't difficult to see how public exposure to these flavours will lead to a wider audience for real game dishes. Food doesn't get more "accessible" than a packet of crisps in your local country pub and once you've tasted grouse or pheasant in any format, it becomes a shorter step to eating the real thing. So, in terms of ToG's wider objective, that too gets a big tick in the box.

To sum up, a big gamey thumbs-up from us.

The crisps will be officially launched at this year's Country Landowners Association Game Fair in Leeds this weekend (31 July - 2 August) so look out for them on a snack shelf near you from early Autumn onwards.

By The Twig - Well Seasoned, Jan 27 2015 02:00AM

Although it might not feel like it right now, we're coming towards the end of Winter.

The end of January is a bitter-sweet time (or perhaps, to use a food-related expression, a curate's egg). There's no doubt that we're looking towards some warmer weather and the green shoots of Spring, but it also means the end of the game season. We won't see any feathered game on our tables until August (when grouse make a return) and it will be early Autumn before we see pheasant and partridge back on the menu.

The dates of the British game seasons are curiously complicated and, for reasons that we've never been able to fathom, the duck and woodcock seasons end on 31st January whilst pheasant and partridge come to an end the next day on 1st February...except this year 1st February is a Sunday and it's illegal to shoot game on Sundays, so the seasons actually all end on the same day...

Unnecessary complexities and arcane shooting laws aside, the fact is that, after this Saturday, no game birds will be shot for several months. Even allowing time for those last birds to be hung for a few days (for the meat to tenderise and improve in flavour) and to make it to market, supplies will quickly dwindle and you'll do well to find any fresh meat in the shops past the middle of the month.

As a legally-enforced season, game shooting comes to an end rather more abruptly than most. Most natural seasons see a slow reduction in the availability of produce - mackerel numbers will gradually decrease during September until there are only a few stragglers by the end of October. Gooseberries will start to fade in August and will usually be all gone by September. But, regardless of how quickly they leave us, there's always a slight sadness as we know we're saying goodbye to those fabulous ingredients for another year.

As seasonal foodies, our sadness is, of course, tempered by two important factors - first, by the knowledge that they'll be back next year and secondly, by the absolute certainty that there's something just as good to follow. Our mackerel will be replaced by juicy mussels and our late gooseberries will overlap with the first blackberries. As we mourn the loss of all that feathered game this week, remember that there is some great venison available in March and pigeons will be at their best around April, once they've had a chance to feed on the first green shoots of Spring.

So, as one season goes out, another equally delicious once comes in. And so the seasonal cycle continues. It's this anticipation of what's next on the menu that makes seasonal living so fantastically enjoyable and exciting.

In short, let's not be too upset about the game season coming to an end. It'll be back in the Autumn and there's plenty of interesting ingredients to keep our tummies full before then. Just keep calm, carry on and eat seasonally. (Someone really should put that on a mug...)

By The Twig - Well Seasoned, Nov 4 2014 09:45PM

The shooting season is in full swing at the moment. Game shooting is, of course, an emotive and divisive subject - and one we'll go into in detail another time - but one thing is for sure and that is that the season brings loads of great value, tasty and free range meat to our tables.

The two main game birds in the UK are partridge and pheasant. The partridge season started at the beginning of September with the pheasants starting in October. The earliest birds can be a little underweight so it's best to wait for a while until they have filled out a bit, after a few more weeks feeding and flying in the field. From a cost perspective it's also worth waiting - prices drop when a large number of birds are being suplied by shoots around the country and you'll be able to pick up a brace of great quality, plump birds for just a few pounds (even less if you're prepared to do the plucking and gutting yourself!). That puts November smack in the middle of great value and taste.

If you're new to game, don't feel you have to jump straight in with a whole roasted bird on your plate. It can be a bit intimidating and, quite frankly, a poorly roasted pheasant is enough to put anyone off for life. So, ease yourself in. One ouf our favourite dishes for newcomers (and indeed old hands) is a pheasant curry. Pheasant meat takes punchy spices very well and the long, slow cooking keeps it moist - as a lean meat it's quite easy to dry out.

Here's our two favourite curry recipes to try when you next fancy getting your game face on:

Pheasant Makhani

Red Pheasant Curry

RSS Feed

Web feed