Delicious autumn game recipes from two top Suffolk chefs
PUBLISHED: 12:03 25 October 2019
Tessa Allingham, author of Suffolk Feast: One County, Twenty Chefs talks to Chris Lee, of the Bildeston Crown, and David Grimwood, of The Froize, about pheasant and partridge as a delicious, healthy, seasonal choice for autumn
Many mourn the passing of long summer days when a piece of grilled fish with a fresh salad and glass of fresh white wine would fit the bill just perfectly. Others don't; they live for lashing rain and wind, can't wait for fires to be lit and for the shooting season to bring fresh supplies of pheasant, partridge and other game birds to the kitchen door.
"Bring it on," says Chris Lee at The Bildeston Crown who buys most of his game from long-standing supplier, Elaine Rushbrook of Mallard Barn. "This is the time of year I love most. I'm into food with gutsy flavour, intense reductions, wintry slow-cooked casseroles." It's a love that's reflected on a menu rich with game dishes - wellingtons made using pigeon and served with celeriac and plum, or with partridge (see recipe), root vegetables and rich layers of boulangère potatoes, or pheasant kiev with ceps, pancetta and white bean cassoulet. You'll feel a similar seasonal frisson at the much-loved Froize at Chillesford. Owner David Grimwood is never happier than when out in the field perhaps with Glemham Hall gamekeeper, Mark Howard, or wild-fowling as dawn breaks on the marshes near his restaurant, or cooking the fruits of an outing back at his stove. He is as passionate a conservationist - "I'm an armed birdwatcher really" - as he is expert game cook and genial host, keen always to tell the story behind his food as he serves guests at his trademark 'hot table'. Look out for partridge breasts quickly pan-fried, finished in the oven, and served with parsnips puréed, roasted and crisped, or a starter of 'finger lickin' partridge legs' (see recipe)which is delicious scooped through chilli jam.
Buying feathered game carefully from your local butcher or farmers' market, and keeping the meat from drying out when cooking are key, any chef will tell you. These are birds that have lived their life in the wild so have virtually no fat, meaning that the meat must either be seared quickly with plenty of butter (rest it well too, and don't be afraid of a lovely pink blush!), or pot-roasted more slowly perhaps à la Nigel Slater with celery, potatoes, sage and a slug of vermouth. It's a versatile meat, just as happy paired with classic autumnal flavours - think root veg, mushrooms, apples - as it is the warm flavours of Chinese five-spice or the cayenne and garlic of Cajun cuisine; try pheasant breasts poached in a Thai-style broth, or cooked in a mild tikka sauce as José Souto suggests in his superlative book, Feathers: The Game Larder.
Suffolk Feast: One County, Twenty Chefs is available, priced £24.50, from the 20 featured restaurants, good retailers or online.
CHRIS LEE'S partridge & duck liver wellington
This main course classic nearly always features on The Bildeston Crown's menu in some form. It works well with all types of wild game, and encasing the breast meat in parma ham and puff pastry ensures it stays juicy. Chris confits the legs for a terrine he often serves alongside, and uses the carcass to add richness to the gravy. Serve with seasonal vegetables and potato (it's pictured here with turnip and boulangère potatoes, but Chris'
latest iteration pairs it with sweetcorn). Serves 4.
For the jus
Carcasses from 4 oven-ready partridges
1ltr good game stock
For the wellington
8 large leaves spinach
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8 partridge breasts
4 slices parma ham
4 slices duck liver
1 large block rich puff pastry
Chop up the carcasses and roast in a very hot oven till browned. Boil the madeira in the roasting tin, scraping to deglaze. Add the stock and bring to the boil. Reduce to a syrup, sieve, and adjust seasoning, then cool and refrigerate till required.To make the wellingtons, blanch the spinach in boiling water then plunge into iced water to cool. Drain well. Season the partridge breasts. Lay out a dinner-plate size of clingfilm, place a slice of the ham in the centre, add a spinach leaf, a breast, a slice of liver, another breast and another leaf. Fold around the ham, then use the clingfilm to roll it all together into a tight ball. Chill for 12 hours to set.
When ready to cook, heat the oven to 185c. Roll out the puff pastry and cut into four 10cmx10cm squares. Unwrap the meat, encase in pastry, and brush with egg yolk. Place on a hot tray and bake for 12 minutes till cooked through. Remove and rest for 10 minutes, then serve sliced in two with vegetables and game jus.
DAVID GRIMWOOD'S finger lickin' partridge
12-16 whole partridge legs
Flavourings to suit - David uses orange zest, rosemary, peppercorns and garlic
Place the legs in a pan that accommodates them comfortably. Add the flavourings and cover with water. Cover with a lid and poach very gently for a few hours on the lowest heat until the legs are completely tender. Allow the legs to cool in the liquor, then drain and pat dry. Heat a deep fryer to 180c. Dip each leg alternately in separate bowls of flour, egg and crumb pressing the latter on well. Deep fry till golden and heated through.