Healthy zest for a new year

PUBLISHED: 10:41 23 January 2017




Spicing wild Somerleyton Estate game lightens and detoxes after all that festive feasting for chef-director Stephen David

Indonesian venison rendangIndonesian venison rendang

Come January, I look sideways in the mirror and regret that third slice of turkey and extra mince pie. My personal resolve will, no doubt, be to take it a bit easier and eat more healthily this new year.

It’s not just the additional hole on the trouser belt. I do get a little jaded with all the brown winter fare after the big festivities, wanting more than a boring hearty stew and a steaming crumble to warm me up. I want a different kind of cooking after all that Christmas excess, something distinctly savoury, on the hot side of zingy, with lots of vegetable elements, high on nutrition and less on the calorific scale. Curry!


‘Curry’ is a much-used overdone Western misnomer, unknown in India, where they know dishes by their individual name, perhaps identified by geographical style of cuisine, seasonal availability of ingredients, or the blend of spices and flavourings. Here are a few of my favourite local global Indian-inspired meat dishes, using great East Anglian ingredients mostly, lots of our own Somerleyton-harvested wild game meats, with the excitement of worldly flavourings and lots of spices:

Venison Rogan Josh – classic rogan josh would use mutton, or more likely goat, so try local venison instead, with our adopted version of tomato, onion, rich hearty spices (including cinnamon, black pepper and fennel) and yoghurt sauce, as we know it in the UK.

Pheasant Tikka Masala – a creation of the western world, this curious fusion was for years our best-selling restaurant and take-away dish. It is lovely with mild white meat – its almondy, creamy, coconutty lightly-spiced but fresh-tasting backdrop working well with pheasant breasts instead of the usual chicken.

Rabbit Jalfrezi – rabbit is a perfect alternative to poultry. Cook the dish the day before and reheat it slowly, then any tendency for the rabbit to firm up will be avoided as it softens again on twice-cooking. Jalfrezi is a very spicy dish, lots of green chillies and onions with ground coriander, cumin and turmeric, as well as sliced bell peppers, all stir-fried dry with a just a little tomato to moisten at the end.

A balanced Indian meal is much more than meat, always heavy on vegetable dishes, pickles, breads and simple rice. Using wholemeal flour and nutty brown rice is much better for you. Any curry-style recipe with farm-reared meat will work with wild game – just ask your local butcher for advice.

Final tip is to get a good book or two and start exploring the whole world of spices. Madhur Jaffrey’s books are always reliable – she is the Indian version of our lovely Delia!

For stylish weddings and parties at the estate and all over Suffolk and East Anglia, visit or call Rebecca Mackenzie, director of Private Somerleyton on 01502 734907.

Somerleyton Estate, The Fritton Arms and The Duke’s Head in Somerleyton.

Fragrant Pheasant and Prawn Kedgeree

(serves 4)

400g basmati rice

Sea salt and black pepper

12 quails’ eggs or 8 small hens’ eggs

500g pheasant breast meat

150g shell-on cooked prawns

Unsalted butter

1 large red onion, finely shredded

Inch of peeled root ginger, finely sliced and shredded

2 garlic cloves, crushed and finely chopped

2 spring onions, peeled and cut into thin rings

1 green chilli, cut into thin rings (optional - remove seeds)

Small pinch of cardamom seeds, removed from their pods, crushed

1 tbsp garam masala or good curry powder

Handful of soft herbs, eg coriander, parsley, chives, Thai basil, finely shredded

1 lemon, halved

Three stages to do simultaneously:

Measure the volume of the weighed rice in a measuring jug. Put it in a large lidded pan, with twice the volume of cold water and generous seasoning. Stir well, lid on, and bring to a simmer. Set timer for 10 minutes and then turn heat off and leave to steam for another 5 – 10 minutes. Fork well and keep covered.

Meanwhile put eggs on to cook how you like them, soft-boiled with a melting centre, or classic hard-boiled. At the same time, place the pheasant breasts in a pan of simmering milk (to cover). Poach on a gentle heat until just cooked and flaking when pressed (do not overcook). Remove from heat and drop in prawns to warm through for a few minutes. Drain, reserving the liquor and contents. Keep both warm and covered.

Heat up a good slice of butter in a medium-hot, lidded deep sauté pan until just foaming. Stir in the red onion and reduce heat to low, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is just softening. Add the ginger, garlic, spring onions, green chilli and cardamom seeds, and cook whilst stirring over a medium heat for a couple more minutes.

Scatter in the rice and sprinkle over the garam masala or curry powder. Fold over constantly as you bring rice back to a piping hot temperature. Stir in the sliced pheasant breast and the prawns, most of the herbs along with the juice from a lemon half. Taste and adjust seasoning. Add more garam masala if needed. Slice remaining lemon half into thin wedges. Garnish with the eggs and remaining herbs, plus the lemon wedges on the side. Serve in the pan at the table.

Indonesian-style venison rendang

(serves 4 generously)

This dish from the far south-east of Asia combines the freshness of Thai cooking with the spiced depths and richness of Indian Keralan cuisine.

Totally feel free to adapt how many dried chillies you add to your recipe, read the label and look at the size. You may wish to rehydrate more than you need and reserve some for later on in the cooking to see how spicier result you ended up with to suit your taste. All the ingredients are available from good supermarkets or delis. Serve with simple boiled wholegrain rice or coconut jasmine rice and perhaps an Asian ‘slaw for contrast.

Spice Paste:

5 shallots; 1 inch galangal (or root ginger); 3 lemongrass, inner part only; 5 cloves garlic; 1 inch root ginger; 1 tsp salt; 1 tsp ground coriander seed; 1/4 tsp ground turmeric; 6-12 dried chilies, halved, deseeded and soaked in warm water

Peel the first five items and roughly chop. Add all the ingredients to a spice blender or liquidiser and pulse to a paste.

Other Ingredients:

Local rapeseed oil

800g approx trimmed boneless venison eg shoulder or haunch, cut into large cubes

1 cinnamon stick

3 cloves

3 star anise

3 cardamom pods

2 lemongrass, cut into inch lengths and flattened

I inch piece of galangal, in thin rounds

6 kaffir lime leaves

1 can coconut milk

400ml boiling water

2 tsp tamarind pulp

1 tbsp palm sugar (or light brown sugar)

6 tbsp desiccated coconut, toasted in a dry pan

Black peppermill and sea salt


Red chillies, deseeded and very finely sliced

Shallots, peeled, shredded and slowly deep fried to golden

Heat up a thin layer of oil in a wide heavy sauté pan until very hot. Brown the meat in batches and transfer to a deep lidded hobproof casserole dish. Next add the next 7 spice ingredients from the list to the oiled pan and fry until fragrant and tinging. Add contents to the casserole. Turn the heat under the pan to low-medium and now fry the spice paste slowly for about 10 – 15 minutes whilst stirring regularly, until almost dry. Add a little splash of extra water if sticking too soon. After it has thickened and darkened, add the coconut milk, boiling water, tamarind, sugar and toasted coconut, plus seasoning to taste. Stir and heat until bubbling and transfer to the casserole. Cover the casserole and bring to a boil, leave the lid ajar and keep at a consistent low simmer, stirring and checking regularly. Cook for about 2 hours or more until the meat is very tender and the sauce reduced. You may need to add a splash more water occasionally. Remove the obvious spices if you wish before serving with the garnishes scattered over.

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