October is here and if you’re feeling adventurous, it’s a great time to try Wild Boar. Not because it’s in season (unlike most game, wild boar doesn’t really have a season), but because the accompaniments that go best with it are. Wild mushrooms, beetroot, juniper, chestnuts, apples, plums, pumpkin – all those things that go well with pork go even better with wild boar. Like pork, only with a stronger, gamier, more savoury flavour, it’s a meat that can be used in a variety of ways – from adding a new twist to classics like burgers or meatballs (sage works particularly well with it, as does a sauce with slightly more acidity to balance the gaminess), to sausages, terrines, pâté and curing. Being wild, it tends to be a lot leaner than commercially farmed pork, but this makes it tougher and drier as well so it also lends itself well to long, slow cooking at low temperatures in stews, hotpots or ragus.
However, it’s a meat you rarely see on restaurant menus or in butchers’ shops in this country (it’s generally only available through specialist game dealers). It’s far more popular on the continent, and any wild boar you do get over here will often come from France, Germany or Italy where it’s a real speciality. The population in Britain is relatively low, having become extinct several hundred years ago and re-introduced at various times, most successfully in the New Forest, Forest of Dean and the Kent/Sussex border. It is largely seen as a pest by landowners and farmers, although farming wild boar (if that’s not an oxymoron) appears to be growing in Britain.
It’s quite a few years ago now, but I still vividly remember having Wild Boar liver at St John’s restaurant, served with dandelion leaf salad and chitalings, which was a very strong, intense flavour, and quite coarse, but worked beautifully with the sharp dressing of the salad. More recently, wild boar with peaches at Wild Honey was delicious. I have yet to try wild boar roasted in a pit for two days as they do in Africa and other parts of the world (not that practical for a London restaurant) but, as people become more interested in food, it could be time for wild boar to stage a real comeback.
Try some wild boar on Bruce’s menu. Visit paternosterchophouse.co.uk for more.