Game is a gloriously versatile meat: healthy, seasonal and about as free-range as anything could possibly be. It’s in season mainly in the autumn and winter, and there are so many places to get hold of game nowadays: trusty online suppliers send it out nationally and, of course, local butchers, farmers’ markets, farm shops and even some supermarkets all stock game. The secret to cooking it, in my experience, is to treat birds and rabbit like chicken, and venison like beef.

Many people don’t eat game because they’re worried about how to prepare it or they’re scared it might be too strongly flavoured, but, as you’ll see from today’s recipes, it’s very easy to prepare. Gone are the days when it was hung in an outhouse for days upon end – I mean, who even has an outhouse any more? Unlike beef, lamb or pork, my opinion is that it doesn’t actually get much better with age. We produce lots of game in this country, so it comes with very few food miles, and if we want to continue to eat meat, we ought at least to try to eat the good stuff – and game comes into that category.

Loin of venison with slow-cooked red cabbage and quince
Prep 15 min
Marinate 8 hr+
Cook 2 hr
Serves 4

¼ red cabbage, finely shredded
250ml red wine
125ml port
75ml red-wine vinegar
100g currants
2 apples, peeled and grated
½ cinnamon stick
4 cloves, ground
2 strips orange zest
75g demerara sugar
Salt and black pepper
Vegetable oil
1 quince
Icing sugar, to dust
500g venison loin, at room temperature

A day before, put the cabbage, wine, port, vinegar, currants, apples, cinnamon, cloves, orange zest, demerara sugar and a good pinch of salt into a bowl, mix well, cover and marinate overnight in the fridge, ideally stirring it once or twice.

The next day, heat the oven to 170C (150C fan)/325F/gas 3. Heat two tablespoons of vegetable oil in an oven tray, add the cabbage mix and cook on a medium heat, stirring, for two minutes. Cover tightly with foil and bake for two hours, stirring every 30 minutes. You should end up with wonderful, aromatic, tender cabbage with just enough juices to coat when stirred.

Meanwhile, peel and quarter the quince. Coat the fruit in vegetable oil, then dust with icing sugar and a pinch of salt, and bake, covered, for 45 minutes. Uncover and roast for a further 15 minutes, or until tender and lightly coloured.

Season the venison generously, then sear in vegetable oil over a high heat. Transfer to an oven tray and roast for 10-12 minutes. Insert a skewer into the centre of the loin – it should feel just warm – then leave to rest for 10 minutes.

Carve the venison, then serve with some cabbage and a quince quarter each; a few hasselback potatoes wouldn’t go amiss, either.

Ragout of wild rabbit with pappardelle, butter and tarragon
Prep 15 min
Cook 2 hr 30 min
Serves 6

1 wild rabbit (about 1½-2kg), divided into legs, shoulders and saddle (ask the butcher to do this for you, if need be)
Salt and black pepper
A drizzle of vegetable oil
100g salted butter, plus 1 knob extra
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 stick celery, trimmed and diced
1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
½ leek, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
1 tsp peppercorns
2 sprgs tarragon, leaves picked
125ml white wine
1 litre chicken stock
550g fresh pappardelle (or tagliatelle)
50g parmesan, grated, to serve

Heat the oven to 140C (120C fan)/275F/gas 1. Season the rabbit with salt and put the vegetable oil and a knob of butter in a casserole on a medium heat. Add the rabbit, gently brown it all over, then remove from the pan. Add the chopped vegetables, bay leaf, peppercorns and half the tarragon, and fry gently, stirring regularly, until softened. Return the rabbit to the pot, followed by the wine, then reduce until almost all the liquid has evaporated. Pour in the stock and enough cold water just to cover the contents of the pan, bring to a boil, then cover, transfer to the oven and bake for two hours. Remove and set aside to cool.

Lift out the rabbit pieces from the stew and shred the meat from the bones. Sieve the rest of the sauce through a colander, then reduce the stock to 400ml. Lift some of the vegetables from the colander, then mash and stir into the stock, to thicken it. Warm the sauce through, stir in the rabbit meat, remaining tarragon and the butter, and check the seasoning. Keep hot.

Bring a large pan filled with two litres of water to a rolling boil, add two teaspoons of salt, then drop in the pasta and cook for a minute less than instructions. Drain, return to the pan, then add the rabbit mix and cook, stirring and tossing, until the pasta is well coated in the sauce. Serve with parmesan.

Roast pheasant with creamed cabbage, celeriac and pear
Prep 15 min
Cook 1 hr 15 min
Serves 4

2 pheasants, at room temperature
Vegetable oil
Salt and black pepper
10 rashers smoked streaky bacon
⅓ small celeriac, peeled
250ml chicken stock
1 bay leaf
2 firm pears
Icing sugar, to dust
1 shallot, peeled and finely chopped
½ carrot, peeled and finely diced
15g butter
½ small savoy cabbage, finely shredded
350ml double cream

Heat the oven to 190C (170C fan)/375F/gas 5. Rub the pheasants all over with oil, then season and drape four rashers of bacon over the top of each bird.

Cut the celeriac into four even segments, toss in a drizzle of oil, then season and put in a roasting tray close enough together to sit the pheasants on. Place the birds on top, add the chicken stock and bay leaf, and roast for an hour.

Meanwhile, peel the pears, cut them in half and scoop out the cores. Toss in a drizzle of oil, then dust with icing sugar and roast on a small tray for 35 minutes.

Remove the birds and pears from the oven and leave to rest for 15 minutes.

Cut the remaining two bacon rashers into thin strips, then fry in the butter with the shallot and carrot for five minutes. Add the cabbage and a splash of water, stir, cover and sweat for five minutes. Add the cream and cook until thickened and coating the cabbage.

Lift the bacon off the birds, carve and serve with the cabbage, celeriac, pear, bacon and the juices from the roasting tray.