Miche­lin magic

The ap­proach of au­tumn brings with it some glo­ri­ous in­gre­di­ents – and game is one of Paul Ainsworth’s favourite dishes

Cornwall Life - - INSIDE -

Pad­stow’s Paul Ainsworth’s menu marks the glo­ri­ous 12th

The best word to use when de­scrib­ing game is wild and that’s why I love it so much – it re­ally is as wild as you can get when com­par­ing it to or­ganic live­stock. Typ­i­cally, game falls into two cat­e­gories: ‘feathered’ or ‘furred’. Feathered game or game birds in­clude grouse, pheas­ant, par­tridge, quail, snipe, wild duck, woodcock and wood pi­geon. Furred game in­cludes hare, rab­bit, veni­son and ‘wild’ boar.

The start of the season his­tor­i­cally is Au­gust 12th which is some­times re­ferred to as The Glo­ri­ous Twelfth and many peo­ple at­tend or­gan­ised shoots. How­ever, as the day falls on a Sun­day this year it will be post­poned un­til the fol­low­ing day as shoot­ing on a Sun­day is il­le­gal in the UK – a lit­tle bit of trivia for you!

I was re­cently speak­ing to Michael Can­non, owner of one of the world’s most fa­mous grouse moors, Wem­mergill in County Durham. Michael is so pas­sion­ate about game and be­lieves we should all be eat­ing more of it and I agree! Not only is it in­cred­i­bly tasty but there are also health ben­e­fits to eat­ing game. It is much leaner than the likes of pork or lamb and lower in fat and choles­terol com­pared to many other red meats. It’s also a good source of pro­tein and vi­ta­mins. I read an ar­ti­cle a few years ago where it said that game con­tained high lev­els of the trace el­e­ment se­le­nium which has been sci­en­tif­i­cally linked to im­prov­ing your mood – who knew?

All of the meat we buy for Ro­jano’s in the Square and No.6 is al­ways or­ganic or free-range but you re­ally can’t beat the flavour that comes from a piece of wild meat. My favourite type of furred game has got to be veni­son (meat from a deer). I ab­so­lutely love it and wish more peo­ple would give it a chance. The more ex­pen­sive part is called the saddle, but the haunch is just as good. Just cover in streaky ba­con, place into a heavy based pot and add parsnips, onions and pota­toes. Cook in the oven at 180 de­grees and check the piece of meat ev­ery 15 min­utes with a ther­mome­ter. When the core tem­per­a­ture is 54 de­grees the meat will be medium rare. Bare in mind that the haunch of the veni­son will be quite a bit big­ger than the saddle (about 1kg) so the cook­ing time will be slightly longer. It’s such a sim­ple dish and per­fect for en­ter­tain­ing! It’s a great al­ter­na­tive for those who don’t en­joy the more ‘fat­tier’ meats.

If it’s feathered game, there’s noth­ing bet­ter than roast grouse with bread sauce and crispy home­made chips. Firstly, roast it off to give it a lovely colour. Then add chicken stock, thyme, rose­mary, gar­lic and bay leaf to a ce­ramic pot and bring to the boil. Once the liq­uid is at 60–65 de­grees, add the grouse and poach for 10–15 min­utes. Lift the grouse out and leave to rest and pre­pare your chips and bread sauce. You can use the stock for a de­li­cious soup the fol­low­ing day – just fry off some pota­toes, cab­bage, onion and ba­con and blitz – de­li­cious!

I think many peo­ple avoid buy­ing game as they think there’s lots of prep work in­volved but most su­per­mar­kets and butch­ers will have plucked and re­moved the in­nards of the an­i­mal al­ready. When buy­ing, make sure the birds are plump with a freshlook­ing deep red skin and avoid any that seem dry or smell ‘off’. It tends to be more ex­pen­sive at the start of the season, but the price will come down as the season con­tin­ues. We buy a lot of our game from Phillip War­ren Butch­ers in Corn­wall be­cause it’s the best. The veni­son we buy from Phillip is hung in our Hi­malayan salt cham­ber at No.6 with our ribs of beef. The salt draws the wa­ter from the meat leav­ing a fan­tas­tic flavour. We tend to serve our veni­son with a piece of bone mar­row or some pork crack­ling due it be­ing so lean - in­tro­duc­ing some fat re­ally bal­ances the dish out and cre­ates some­thing awe­some.

At No.6 we’ll be serv­ing grouse as a spe­cial from 12 Au­gust. We take the whole bird into the din­ing room to show our guests and we talk about the dif­fer­ent parts of the bird, where that par­tic­u­lar bird has come from, how we’ll pre­pare it and an­swer any ques­tions the din­ers may have. We’ll poach the grouse then roast it on the crown and serve with pommes fon­dant, roast onions, wild mush­rooms, pâté and some toasted brioche. It’s very spe­cial in­deed.

For those still un­sure about try­ing game be­cause of the strong flavour, start off with pheas­ant, veni­son or par­tridge. They have a much lighter flavour then the likes of grouse or hare but are still amaz­ing!

ABOVE: Miche­lin­starred chef Paul Ainsworth puts the fin­ish­ing touches to his triple cooked chipsRIGHT: Paul pours the gravy on his grouse, bread sauce and triple cooked chips

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