How to solve a problem like Mr Packham?

Here at Siparium Sporting, we feel that the rather difficult issue of Chris Packham’s recent videos must be touched upon. In these videos, currently circulating around social media, he calls (yet again, Ed.) for the banning of driven Grouse shooting.  He also calls grouse which are sold in the supermarket chains M&S and Iceland as ‘toxic’.

Now, Mr Packham is of course entitled to his own opinion as is everyone, but he consistently ignores the hard evidence put before him by organisation such as the Countryside Alliance, BASC, the National Gamekeepers Organisation, the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust and the Moorland Association. It seems almsot unbelievable that he would create such ill-informed and biased videos that fly in the face of scientifically credible evidence.

So… what can we do to help? The most important tool we have is to educate ourselves with as much information from both sides of the debate. Doing this will develop a well rounded understanding the topics and issues that face not just grouse shooting but all types of country pursuits. Furthermore, if you happen to come across a person who has a different point of view you can have a civil conversation with them and explain to them the HUGE benefit both to the environment and to the economy these activities generate. Rather than having a screaming match and calling each other names, theses confrontations should be used by us the sporting enthusiast to educate and make these people understand why we enjoy the sport and the benefits it can produce.

 

Ed. Andrew suggested including a link to Mr Packham’s latest video or the Countryside Alliance’s recent release regarding the topic… Here is the latter suggestion: CLICK HERE and also CLICK HERE

We also highly recommend arming yourself with the knowledge contained within the GWCT’s Berwyn Report: CLICK HERE

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Pheasant Stroganoff

Super quick, super easy, and super tasty. Why not try our pheasant stroganoff? Perfect for a weeknight.

Ingredients (serves 3-4)

  • 4 pheasant breasts
  • 1 onion, 2 garlic cloves
  • 150-200g chestnut button mushrooms
  • 1 tsp hot paprika, 1 tsp sweet smoked paprika
  • rapeseed oil and butter
  • soured cream
  • white wine vinegar, dry sherry (or white wine), brandy

Method

  1. Chop the onion and finely chop the garlic. Chop the mushrooms into 1cm cubes, or thin slices – depending upon your preference. Dice the pheasant into
  2. Fry off the onions in a splash of oil until they are becoming translucent and nicely softened then add the mushrooms and garlic. After a couple of minutes add a knob of butter and the paprika, mix thoroughly, then add the pheasant breasts.
  3. Once the pheasant is almost cooked, add a few splashes of the vinegar, a slug of sherry, and a slug of brandy. This will deglaze the pan, bringing out all of the wonderful flavours.
  4. After about a minute, having allowed the alcohol to evaporate off, add a four or five tablespoons of soured cream (about half a normal tub – go with your instinct). Grind plenty of black pepper into the mix. (Half a teaspoon of dijon mustard is also a nice addition).
  5. Once the sauce has heated it’s ready to go, but give it an extra five minutes and the flavours will really come together. Serve with rice and a sprinkling of parsley if you have some to hand.

Sporting agents and sporting agents…

This post is borne slightly out of annoyance, but I feel it is something important to discuss – especially for those who haven’t used an agent before, may be unsure what one does, or, indeed, questions why they should use one. Obviosuly, I think that many people should, that goes without saying. However, it’s important to choose the right one, as there are some less than prime examples of agents out there.

After seeing yet another “I have a team looking for…” type post in Facebook’s Game Shooting Opportunities group, I went on a bit of a rant.  The following is a slightly edited and restrained version…

I remember when sporting agents were sporting agents. The term implied an awful lot about what and who they knew, and what they could do for a client. They had contacts at shoots which they actually visited and knew. Importantly, they understood the sport and could tailor a suitable day based on a team’s requirements and ability. By knowing the shoots they worked with, and having good relationships with the owners and keepers, a traditional agent could tweak and adapt days so that they always met the clients expectations.

Now, though, we seem to have an influx of ‘agents’ who are charging people for doing little more than popping a request in the a Facebook group.

If you don’t know where to get a 150 bird day in Yorkshire, you shouldn’t be a sporting agent. If you’ve no idea where is good for a 700 bird day, you shouldn’t be a sporting agent. These are rudimentary things to know. Importantly, there are many shoots who will say they can put on a 700 bird day – but there’s a very small group of shoots who can actually do it, and do it well. There’s nothing worse than a shoot stretching itself, forcing an extra ten minutes of eeking out the last bird or two to attempt to fill the bag. When the day is made up of bag-filler drives full of birds so low you could club them out of the sky, rather than challenging and sporting birds, it loses something.

You can book a day on Guns on Pegs – but… caveat emptor! A couple of years back I wanted a little day for me and a few friends at late notice. As such I visited a shoot I had found through the ‘eBay of shooting’. It was described as a shoot that could present “high, challenging pheasants”. Across 800 acres of farmland (and a couple of woods) there can’t have been more than one contour’s worth of height variation… Needless to say, I would not take the team to that shoot. (I love Guns on Pegs, for the record – it has probably facilitated the biggest democratisation of our sport since commercial shooting began to appear with the first sporting agents).

So, this is our value – and it’s something that the latest influx of ‘keyboard sporting agents’ simply cannot compete with. Over years of shooting, we have built an extensive array of contacts and gained a good deal of knowledge about the industry. Since the agency was formed, three years ago, we have pumped money into travelling the length and breadth of the country – from Cornwall to the Cairngorms and mid-Wales to Lincolnshire – visiting no end of shoots. We meet the owners and the keepers, who we then stay in contact with. We see what the terrain is like and how the drives are designed. We sort the wheat from the chaff – of the shoots we’ve visited, we probably consider less than half of them for our clients. Knowing the estates as well as we do, we use our understanding of the shoots available to tailor a perfect day in the field based on the client’s needs.

So… If you are going to pay someone to arrange your shooting for you, make sure it’s someone who is providing expert guidance and advice, not just posting on Facebook.

Elevate your Elevenses: Sausage Rolls

They are a mainstay of almost every hamper pulled out at elevenses. Perfect finger food, along with a cup of bullshot they’ll keep feeling satisfied even on the coldest day. But what makes a good sausage roll? The tracksuit brigade in towns across the country are happy with a Greggs sausage roll; but we should be looking to push the boat out on a shoot day and really make these something special. They should be moist and meaty. To my mind they should also have a nice sweetness which balances the savouriness of good pork.

Good quality sausage-meat is a must. If you have a local butcher with access to Gloucester Old Spot you are onto a winner. Other county breeds may suffice, but I’m lucky enough to be based near the birthplace of the best meat pig in the world. Of course, there’s no reason why you couldn’t swap out the pork for some wild boar… One shoot we work with shoots three or four of these menaces a week! This would be a perfect way to use up some of that delicious meat.

IMG_1781

Some quality control may have occurred…

Ingredients (makes approx. 16 sausage rolls, plus a sausage-meat ‘pancake’)

  • 400-500g pack of sausage-meat
  • 2 rashers of smoked bacon
  • 2 red onions
  • 5 tablespoons vinegar (balsamic/red wine)
  • 5 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 320g pack of pre-rolled puff pastry
  • breadcrumbs
  • 2 glasses of sloe gin (one for the sausage rolls, one for the chef)
  • herbs, nutmeg, salt, and pepper to season

IMG_1779

Method
Preparation Time: 20 mins — Baking Time: 20 mins

  1. Chop the smoked bacon into small pieces and begin frying in a pan along with the red onions, sliced. Once the onions have begun to soften add the vinegar and sugar and stir together. At this stage add a small glass of sloe gin (a shot or two equivalent). Reduce the heat and cook slowly for 5-10 mins to allow the onions to soften more and the vinegar/sugar to reduce into a sticky glaze. Set aside to cool.
  2. Blitz up some breadcrumbs (approximately a small mug’s worth). Some old baguette or stale crusty bread is ideal. The breadcrumbs will soak up the fat from the sausagemeat as the rolls cook. This has two amazing benefits – less mess to clean up, and you end up with a super succulent and moist meaty middle rather than soggy pastry.
  3. Mix the breadcrumbs and cooled onion mixture into the sausagemeat. I heartily recommend using your hands – it’s much quicker. Also throw in a teaspoon or two of sage and oregano and a couple of grates of nutmeg. Season well with salt and pepper. Now you have your filling.
  4. You want a strip of pastry about 20cm deep to make your sausage rolls. A pre-rolled sheet sliced down the middle length-ways should be just about right. Pre-rolled is perfectly acceptable – even proper chefs recommend it unless you have your own pastry chef.
  5. Spoon your sausage-meat mix onto your pastry as per the photo above. Shape it into a cylinder which runs the length of your pastry, slightly offset towards the front. By offsetting the meat to the front it makes the next step a lot easier…
  6. Brush some milk or a beaten egg (or water at a push) along the front edge of your pastry, then pull the back half over the meat and join along the front. Press together to ensure it sticks – I often use a fork for this, which also gives the benefit of a nice pattern.
  7. Chop your long sausage rolls into individual portions. If you have milk or egg, brush some on the top of the rolls to help them attain a lovely golden colour whilst cooking. Whack the sausage rolls on a baking tray (on baking paper, if you’re sensible) and bake for 20-25 minutes at 200ºC (fan). Any excess sausage-meat can be baked at the same time in an oven-proof dish.

NB. If you want to keep things simple, you can use pre-made caramelised onion sausages instead of making the mix yourself. Simply squeeze the meat out of the skins, add some breadcrumbs and a splash of balsamic vinegar. I use this cheat occasionally and the result is almost as delicious.

TOP TIP… If you have some to hand I would highly recommend adding a minced pigeon breast. This adds a nice richness and depth of flavour. Plus, let’s be honest, it’s always nice to add something from around the shoot to the mix.

Bullshot

The nights are drawing in, there’s a chill in the air, and the shooting season is finally in full swing. Yes, it’s definitely getting autumnal!

One of the longest running debates in shooting is surely the recipe for the perfect bullshot – a warming concoction of beef consommé, spice, and a splash (or glug) of alcohol.

I must admit that I currently keep it quite simple myself. Ready made beef consommé (replaced by venison or game stock if I have any to hand) is livened up with a few splashes of Worcester sauce and a hit of Tobasco for a warming finish. A good grind of pepper goes in along with a spot of booze – usually sherry, largely as we rarely have vodka in the house. When we do, the ladies are round and it doesn’t last long…

It’s also not unheard of for the consommé to be replaced by some Bovril – but that is a trick I save purely for when I’m wrapped up in front of the fire of an evening, and the switch is enacted for ease.

Frank Boddy, the enigmatic host of the Ripley Castle shoot, has a particularly renowned (and complex) recipe for bullshot. He must be on to something, as the result is often spoken of in hushed tones by those in the know. (Check out his recipe here).

However you make it, it warms you up nicely. The interplay between the savoury notes of the stock and a warming kick from the Tobasco is spot-on during a cold elevenses, and absolutely perfect with a good quality pork pie or sausage roll.

A Summery Recipe for the Glorious Twelfth

It’s the evening of the Glorious Twelfth. The lucky few have returned from enjoying the greatest date on a sportsman’s calendar. Now, what to do with those fresh, new season grouse? Give them a few days of hanging and there’s little wrong with a traditional roast with bread sauce and game chips. But the sun’s been out, and what better to show off the delicacy of fresh grouse than a nice summery salad?

Topping a Waldorf salad with some beautifully roasted grouse is something a little different, but absolutely delicious.

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 1 grouse
  • Streaky bacon
  • 50g red grapes
  • 50g walnuts
  • 2 eating apples
  • 2 sticks of celery
  • Lettuce
  • 2 tbsp mayonnaise (replace with yogurt if on a health kick)
  • Cider vinegar
  • Salt and black pepper
  • Juniper berries and thyme (optional)

Method

  1. Drape some streaky bacon over your grouse and sear in an oven proof pan before placing in an oven at 200°C for approximately 16 minutes. For a greater depth of flavour put some juniper berries and thyme in the bird’s cavity before roasting.
  2. Once the grouse is cooked remove from the oven. On a baking sheet spread out the grapes and walnuts. Remove the bacon from the grouse and chop into 2cm squares, add these to the grapes and walnuts before putting the tray into the oven for a few minutes. This intensifies the grapes, draws out some wonderful oil from the walnuts and crisps up the bacon for a nice crunchy texture.
  3. Chop the celery and apples into chunks and mix with a couple of handfuls of lettuce. Mix the mayonnaise with a splash of cider vinegar and plenty of seasoning.
  4. Throw the celery, apples, lettuce, grapes, and walnuts into a bowl. Mix together along with the mayonnaise based dressing.
  5. Carve the grouse, it should still be pink.
  6. Dish up the salad and top with the grouse.

We hope you enjoy this as much as we did if you give it a go. Why not experiment with a few different salad options? Beetroot is perfect with grouse – throw some into a simple salad and top with grouse and a pomegranate dressing for another delicious summery dish.

Journal Entry: Summer 2015

The summer of 2015 has been a fairly busy one for those of us here at Siparium Sporting. Andrew has been off to New Zealand to explore some antipodean sporting opportunities, meanwhile, back in the UK we’ve been busy working to bring new shoots on-board in good time for the 2016 season.

Hopefully everything should be in place to announce a few of these during the early stages of this season. Details are being finalised with some fine estates from Cornwall & Devon all the way up to North Yorkshire & Northumberland, so we truly believe that 2016 will be a season to remember for our clients up-and-down the country!

Shortly after Easter we were also delighted to sponsor a prize at the Cirencester Cup shooting competition, hosted by the Royal Agricultural College at Hollow Fosse Shooting Ground. A strong showing from a short-handed Harper Adams team saw their three guns break all 50 clays in a challenging flush. We are assured that they were delighted with the magnum of Bollinger they headed back up to Shropshire with!

Photo courtesy of James Cole Photography

Simon and Andrew present a magnum of Bollinger to the winning team in the Cirencester Cup Flush competition. Congratulations to Harper Adams. (Photo courtesy of James Cole Photography)

Finally, a quick reminder that we will have two roving syndicate days this season – one each in December and January. Bespoke team days are available by request.

P.S.  Don’t forget to sign-up to our newsletter to get all of our latest updates and special offers. One lucky subscriber will win a peg on one of our roving syndicate days this season! To be in with a chance of winning, just click here.

A Passion for Cigars

It’s just gone noon and the guns are gathered around the rear of a Range Rover, each one eagerly burrowing through a Fortnum’s hamper in the hope that there’s one last sausage roll left. The team are shooting through, so a brief break in the field constitutes lunch. A couple of yards away there is contented looking man, clad in tweed, feet sheathed in a pair of muddy Hunter wellies; he has an overly exuberant spaniel at his side. Whilst the others are fighting over bits of pastry and meat, this man is taking a moment to enjoy one of life’s most wonderful pleasures – a fine cigar. He’ll nibble on whatever’s left, he’s more than happy with a bit of cake and cheese. But a cigar, this time a little Partagas Short, is bringing him much enjoyment – and a brief respite from the carnage unfolding behind the shoot captain’s vehicle. He draws on the cigar, enjoys the flavours as they swirl around his mouth, and gazes longingly across a valley which could have been purpose designed for showing fantastic pheasants. ‘I hope the next drive provides as much sport as the last,’ he thinks to himself. He looks at his cocker, which has spotted that his owner has let his guard down. ‘Go on boy, you chase that squirrel, I’m just enjoying the moment…’

I’m sure many of you can relate to the image of tranquility painted above. Of course, cigars can be equally as sociable too; the guns gathered together, passing the cutter and lighter around, enjoying camaraderie and a Cuban.

But what of that Partagas Short? A wonderful cigar – indeed I would rank it amongst the very best you can lay your hands on. They’re good value and pack more flavour and punch into a few short inches of hand-rolled tobacco than one could possibly imagine. One for an experienced smoker, perhaps – though with ten years in the humidor they can soften enough to be enjoyed by anyone. I certainly wouldn’t entertain smoking them too young, as they can be a little brash and abrasive. Five years should see them to a point that the really aggressive bitterness has given way to a much more rounded power, and the smorgasbord of flavours will have had a chance to mingle and develop in harmony. A perfect accompaniment to musing about the next drive…

Read the Cigar Monologues review of the Partagas Short – here.


I’m hoping that these occasional meanderings through the mind of a sportsman cigar blogger will be of interest to the followers of Siparium Sporting’s blog. As ever with these things, feedback is most welcome, please do comment below! Perhaps you have a favourite cigar for in the field?


Visit the Cigar Monologues Blog

Pheasant Normandy

We’ve got some super exciting announcements in the pipeline at the moment, and some interesting blog posts in the drafts folder. However, that’s all still to come, for today, here’s a recipe that’s worth considering for the weekend – with no Six Nations it gives an opportunity to enjoy some time in the kitchen.

This is a recipe which has kindly been sent to us by one of the guns from our roving syndicate! If you have any pheasant in the freezer from last season then give this a go! It’s warming, but a little lighter than mid-winter fare, perfect as we enter the spring! If you don’t have any left, don’t worry, it’s perfect in the early season when apples are ripe and ready for the picking!

Pheasant NormandyIngredients (serves 3-4)

  • 2 pheasants
  • Streaky bacon
  • 1 onion, 1 carrot, 2 sticks of celery
  • Sage leaves
  • Calvados
  • Bottle of cider
  • 2 eating apples
  • 2 dessert apples
  • Brown sugar (for baked dessert apples)

Method

  1. Brown two pheasants and remove from pan.
  2. Chop an onion, streaky bacon, a carrot, and celery and fry off with butter in the pan you browned the pheasants in. Add a couple of leaves of sage.
  3. Return the pheasant to the pan, add the calvados, a pint of off-dry cider, and two chopped eating apples. Bring to the boil,  then put in the oven for 25-30 minutes for 190°C.
  4. After taking out of the oven, remove pheasants, chop into portions and keep warm.
  5. Add half a pint of stock (as described below) to the liquid left in the pan, simmer for 15 minutes to reduce, and then stir in the cream.
  6. Pour the sauce over the pheasants and garnish with crispy bacon and sage leaves.
  7. Serve with baked dessert apples (core, half, and sprinkle with brown sugar).

 

Pheasant Stock (Developed from a recipe in The Field)

  • Raw pheasant carcasses or leftover bones from a roast
  • Per carcass: an onion (skin on, cut in half and pierced with 2 cloves), 1 stick celery, 1 unpeeled carrot, 2 peppercorns and 1 bay-leaf
  • Some water

Roast carcasses in a hot oven for about 20 minutes with onion, celery, carrot, peppercorns and bay-leaf. (Not required with bones from a roast).

Simmer the carcasses (along with any small bones, juices, or roasted veg bits from the previous step) in a covered pan of water. 500ml should be about right for the recipe above. Long and slow is the aim of the game here – several hours at a low temperature is best!

Once the stock has a nice colour to it, and the taste has become gorgeously rich with pheasant flavours, it’s good to go! Strain into a bowl and refrigerate, allowing the flavours to develop and harmonise even further!

Roving Syndicate visits Hartpury College

This week saw our last Roving Syndicate shoot-day of the season. A team of enthusiastic guns and loaders met up for a filling breakfast on Tuesday morning at Hartpury College, just outside of Gloucester. A large crowd turned out – with some guns sharing pegs or bringing loaders or pickers-up – which made for a particularly sociable day to round off our season.

Hartpury Team Photo

The team of guns who shot with our Roving Syndicate at Hartpury College on 20th January

The team brought together a good range of shooters. On the one hand we had Ellie Kay, the Royal Agricultural College’s Shooting Club Chairman – an excellent clay basher, but a first-time game shot. On the other hand, we also welcomed Andrew Davies, the Secretary of the Standing Conference on Countryside Sports. We were also delighted to be joined by Chris Horne from Guns on Pegs alongside a number of other keen shots anticipating a sociable day of sport.

Following our substantial cooked breakfast, during which I discussed our exciting plans for a gamekeeping apprenticeship with Chris, the team filtered through to the car-park to jump into the gun-bus and pick-ups which would ferry us around the shooting area. First up was a short journey towards Maisemore for a pair of partridge drives. The first of these was a little disappointing – plenty of birds streamed passed the guns, but very few were high enough to make for safe and sporting shooting. Despite the beaters’ best efforts, they could not be lifted!

The second drive was more successful, with the majority of the day’s 25 partridge coming from that 20 minute spell. The birds seemed a bit happier to get airborne, and the guns stood just down a slight slope to the left-hand end of the line got some much more sporting birds.

A leisurely drinks break was enjoyed by all, as a glass of sloe gin accompanied excited talk of the next drive – which would see pheasants pushed across a steep, wooded valley. Gaps in the trees gave an opportunity for the guns to enjoy some snap shooting, adding some nice variety to the day. A jay was particularly unlucky to happen across a team of guns who were in a clinical mood, adding a little fun to proceedings as a couple of guns debated who had brought it down… First BloodEllie Kay, the RAC’s Shooting Club Chairman, was finally blooded at the end of the drive, having had some torrid luck on the first two, having not fired a shot… A healthy return of four pheasants more than made up for it.

Following the blooding, the team made their way back through the wood and across a field to the waiting transport and we made our way back to the Main House at Hartpury College where lunch was taken. A selection of sandwiches and a delicious and hearty soup warmed everyone on a cold day as conversation turned to the afternoon’s pheasant drives.

The first drive after lunch provided a few thick flurries of pheasants from a large area of cover crop. Adding some interest to proceedings, a few sheep were merrily leaping through the line at times.

SheepThe last two drives soon followed as we tried to get as much shooting in before the darkness descended. The first of these saw a good few bigger birds pulled down before the team moved onto the final drive. The whole team lined up along a ride in a small wood – the student beaters then moved through to flush all the birds which had been blanked in before the guns arrived. A series of prolonged flushes of tree-top high birds provided plenty of excellent sport to round off an enjoyable day and bring the bag up to 90 on the day.

All the guns retired to the Main House once more for a tasty four course meal and an analysis of the day’s proceedings. Having all shot fantastically there was little for any of the guns to be disheartened about as they recounted their shooting. A bit of a breeze on the first drive, just to lift the surface skimming partridge we encountered would probably have seen the bag surpass the 100 bird mark, but that was the only thing we were wanting for all day.


For a full gallery of photos from the day, please click here.

If you’re interested in booking a peg on one of our roving syndicate days next season, then take a look at our website (click here) and get in touch.