A pheasant tikka masala is, of course, a game of two halves; the pheasant has to act in concert with the spices, and in a really good curry the two slip seamlessly into one.
In this respect there’s nothing to worry about with Wild and Game’s version; it tastes, dare I say it, like a bloody good chicken curry. It’s also good value at £7.50 for a two-person portion that you just pop in the oven straight from the freezer and it’s ready to serve in around 90 minutes. The pheasant is a drier, slightly crumblier meat than chicken but I guarantee that if you served this to someone who hasn’t eaten game before, they’d tuck in and their only comment would be that it is a bit on the hot and spicy side for what is usually a pretty mild and bland dish.
And this is not damning with feint praise. The key to getting non-game eaters to add it to their diet is to show them how delicious it is – and demonstrating that pheasant doesn’t have to be half-rotten before you can eat it is a great start. Wild and Game, the purveyors of the food I’m tasting, is a not-for-profit company that aims to turn the UK into a nation of game eaters.
It’s doing this by retailing a range of ready meals and game meat alongside baked pasties, sausage rolls, and game pies which are designed to be eaten cold.
“We founded our company in the belief that game should be more widely enjoyed in the UK,” says Steven Frampton, who founded Wild and Game a year ago with Michael Cannon. “Game is delicious and versatile, and we hope that eventually a wide range of game products will be a common sight in UK supermarkets.”
It’s the same story with its pheasant chilli (which sells for £7.00 per two-person portion), although in this case the pheasant’s more robust taste and chunky texture worked even better than it did in the curry, adding a complexity to the chilli that neither chicken or beef mince usually gives. In this case, the comment from my dining companion was to ask what the meat was. She just shrugged when I told her and carried on eating. Which is as good as it gets really, isn’t it?
I also tried its venison steaks ( which retail for £11.50 for two) and wild boar steaks (£12.50 for two), which are ideally suited to replace beef and pork respectively. In these days of homogenised, pasteurised, de-natured, and shrink-wrapped meat that anonymises the animals they once were, eating game is akin to stepping back fifty years and eating meat that actually tastes of, well, meat.
And venison, pheasant, and wild boar are all free-range by their very nature – and eating the latter is a positive ecological benefit, helping make use of what has become a pest in some of our southern counties. Game meat is organic too, and naturally low in fat. Nor has your game been pumped full of steroids and antibiotics when it was alive, or saline (to add weight) when it was dead.
Eating game also helps support rural communities rather than merely adding zeros to the bottom line of a multi-national super-farm whose only contribution to the area in which it is based are a series of slurry ponds and an air of condescending disdain. It really is a win/win, and if the price, which is higher than intensively reared meat but on a par with free-range, organic meat, puts you off, then why not consider going vegetarian for a day or two each week to help offset the extra cost?
And, to help, we’ve got an exclusive 10%-off discount code that is valid until the end of June 2019. Simply enter ‘CB10’ when you checkout and the discount will be applied automatically to your entire basket.
 Anyone querying the use of pheasant in a tikka masala would do well to remember that the curry in question is entirely British in origin, so we can do what we like with it. And, in this case adding a Chinese bird to a faux Indian dish is entirely in keeping with the multi-culturalism that makes our country so wonderful.
Carlton Boyce @motoringjourno