La chasse : discover the wild flavours of the Swiss hunting season

Venison stew with potato slices

Every year, as autumn approaches, a mystical transformation takes hold of food lovers and nature enthusiasts alike. This is the time when the hunting season opens, offering a taste of the wild. As well as stalking game and communing with nature, this period has a special significance for discerning gourmets. In this blog, we invite you to explore this special season, discovering game and the exquisite recipes that come with it. Get ready for a feast of the senses.

What is la chasse ?

The hunting menu, known as "la chasse" in Romandie or "Wild" in the Swiss German region, is a collection of dishes specially designed to showcase game meat. It's a culinary tradition that comes to life during the Autumn, when enthusiasts set out in search of game such as deer, duck, rabbit and many others. These meals are much more than just what's on the plate, they are celebrations of nature, the art of hunting and cuisine.

The hunting menu varies from region to region, depending on the species of game available and cultural preferences. It can include stews, grills, pâtés and roasts, all prepared with passion and creativity.

La chasse : history and origins

The history of hunting and its traditional recipes dates all the way back to prehistoric times. It was shaped by the evolution of humankind, the need for sustenance and the development of culinary traditions. Here's a glimpse into the history:

Prehistory and the Neolithic: Hunting was the main source of food for our prehistoric ancestors. In those days, hunting meals were simple, consisting mainly of grilled or roasted meat. The need to hunt to survive shaped hunting skills, but meal preparation was rudimentary.

Antiquity: With the advent of agriculture, hunting became less essential to survival, but became a noble and sporting activity for the elite. Hunting meals became symbols of prestige and conviviality. The Romans, for example, organised sumptuous feasts where game was given pride of place.

Middle Ages: In the Middle Ages, hunting was a passion of kings and nobles. Hunting feasts were elaborate, featuring a wide variety of game. The tradition of medieval cuisine has left a lasting legacy, with dishes such as civet and roast game.

Modern era: As society evolved, hunting became more accessible to the lower social classes. Hunting meals became popular in rural culture. Game cuisine continued to evolve with regional influences, giving rise to culinary specialities that are unique throughout the world.

Contemporary era: Today, hunting is more focused on preserving wildlife and respecting the environment. Hunting menus include a variety of dishes from traditional recipes to modern creations. Game is appreciated for its nutritional quality, sustainability and unique flavours.

The Swiss are particularly fond of the menus offered in restaurants during the hunting season, as these are often difficult to prepare yourself, especially if you're not a hunter! 

The stars of the chasse menu: 

La chasse meals are characterised by some of the star foods of this very special season. Here is a small selection: 

1. Meat: Meat is of course the emblem of hunting meals. In Switzerland, you'll find red deer, chamois, roe deer, rabbit, wild boar and duck. Meat is traditionally served as ragout, fois gras, civet, roast or grilled. You'll normally get a generous serving on the hunting menu, perfect for a high protein dinner.  

2. Mushrooms: Wild mushrooms occupy a special place in the chasse cuisine. Carefully harvested from woods and forests, these delicate creations of nature add a touch of mystery and authenticity to hunting meals. They include ceps, truffles and chanterelles. 

3. Berries: Wild berries such as bilberries, cranberries and wild berries are used to make sauces, jams and garnishes to enhance game dishes. Their bright colour and complex flavour add a note of freshness to la chasse meals, creating a balance with the robust flavours of game meat.

4. Fruit: yet another source of freshness among hearty hunting menus is fruit. Apples, pears and citrus fruits are often used to complement game dishes. Baked or stewed apples are a popular choice, adding a slightly tart sweetness that pairs perfectly with meat. Citrus fruits, meanwhile, are used to create bright, tangy sauces that enhance the flavours of game.

5. Nuts: Chestnuts and marrons, those delicacies perfect for Autumn recipes, have long held a special place in hunting cuisine. Roasted chestnuts are a popular traditional snack, while chestnuts are used to prepare velvety purées and soft fillings.

6. Vegetables: Root vegetables such as carrots, parsnips and roasted turnips offer a natural sweetness and rustic texture that goes perfectly with game meat. Brussels sprouts, sautéed or braised, add a touch of freshness and a crunchy texture. Red cabbage, with its vibrant colour and crunchy texture, adds a note of bright colour to the table. 

7. Carbohydrates: The classic sides to accompany your game menu are spätzli or mashed potatoes. These are often prepared as a side dish, soaking up rich sauces and meat juices. They add a comforting dimension to the hunting table.



3 must-try dishes on la chasse menu: 

What sets these hunting dishes apart is their ability to break culinary conventions and offer a taste experience that stands out from traditional cuisine. Beware, these are also tastes and flavours that we're less used to eating, and that doesn't always appeal to everyone!

Civet de Cerf: Civet de cerf is a classic hunting dish, featuring tender venison. The meat is marinated in red wine and slowly simmered with onions, mushrooms, bacon and spices. The result is tender, fragrant meat, topped with a rich, full-bodied sauce, often served with potatoes or spätzli.

Duck à l'Orange: Duck à l'orange is an essential part of game cooking. The crispy duck skin is combined with a sweet and tangy sauce made from orange juice, sugar and vinegar. This combination creates a delicious balance between sweet and savoury flavours, and the duck is often served with seasonal vegetables.

Pâté de Gibier: Pâtés de gibier (game pâté) is an essential part of hunting cuisine. They are generally prepared by combining minced game meat with spices, herbs and sometimes other meats, then encasing them in a crust. These pâtés can be enjoyed as a starter or main course, and are often served with gherkins and condiments.

And for vegetarians?

There are some great vegetarian meals available even in hunting season, known as "the plate of the empty-handed hunter". Even without the game, the hunter always brings back something to eat from his escapade in the forest: pan-fried spätzli with butter, caramelised chestnuts, red cabbage, but also crispy Brussels sprouts, Botzi pears and lingonberry jam. More and more Swiss restaurants are offering la chasse menus for vegetarians or those who are simply not keen on the taste of game. So everyone can enjoy the delicious flavours of autumn! 

Source : Femina 

About Powermeals

At Powermeals we love using local and seasonal produce that evoke the flavours of autumn. For example our ready-made Chicken in Grand Veneur sauce with red cabbage is packed with Autumnal goodness. If you want to enjoy delicious dishes effortlessly, check out our meal delivery service