Under the coverts with... Jose Souto
Chef lecturer in culinary arts at Westminster Kingsway College and BASC food ambassador.
What’s the biggest mistake people make when cooking game?
On venison, people might use the loins and then just mince the rest of the fore quarter because traditionally they might think that’s all it was good for. Yes they can be minced but braised shoulder and slow cooked venison breast are fantastic and some of my favourite dishes. People just need to be a bit more adventurous. Game has suffered from some poor recipes over the years, poor because they were written at a time when the quality of game wasn’t particularly that good and at a time when we enjoyed stronger flavours. We also used to use strong marinades to tenderise and mask the flavour of what in many cases was an old stag which the chef had been asked to cook. This meat had its problems that the chef would try to mask, hide and make eatable.
How long should you hang game for?
I don’t actually hang game birds, I ‘rest’ them. Hanging was originally done to tenderise and to add flavour: we don’t need to tenderise birds anymore, and game birds have such an indicative flavour of their own, so why do we need to add any more? What I normally do is to wrap a carcass in a plastic bag and place it in the fridge at home (or hang in a game larder fridge unwrapped) for a couple of days to allow the adrenaline in the bird to settle down. The birds is then ready to use with its own flavour and nothing added.
How do we get more shooting people eating game?
When I’m doing my cookery demonstrations I don’t want to influence people with dishes, what I want to do is take a bird and show people its different parts, explain to them the ‘fundamental rules’ with the bird and then explain what can and cannot be done with it. It’s so important to keep what you can do simple. So many people are terrified of undercooked game meat. Game is not poultry. It’s completely different. What I say to people during my demonstrations is to err on the side of caution, undercook your game and then let it rest – this resting period will allow the residual heat to finish cooking your bird perfectly.
What’s your ultimate ambition has a BASC ambassador?
To get as many people eating game and see it as a sustainable and ethical source of meat. Game is the most important thing in shooting, not the shooting itself. We have some phenomenal game that goes abroad but I would like to see a lot more game consumed in this country.
Name three ingredients and one tipple we should be having with our pheasant this month?
Try roast new potato wedges that have been stir fried in duck fat until they’re just about to colour. Then throw them in a roast pan and put them in the oven. With the pheasants either poach and roast, or roast straight off after colouring in a pan. When it’s their turn to go into the oven pop them on top of the wedges so the flavour from the bird drips down into the wedges. Once the birds and wedges are ready, remove and add a venison or chicken stock to the juices in roasting pan, reduce and serve that as the gravy. Something like blackcurrants or raspberries can go well in your roast gravy as does sauteed mushrooms added at last minute. For a drink, you don’t need heavy red wine; go for a rose or a light white wine instead.