At The West House in Kent Michelin-starred chef Graham Garrett has a fondness for game and it’s always on the menu in one form or another.
“I have a particular love for farmed Seka deer,” he told The Great Game Guide. “We get it from Chart Farm in Sevenoaks and it is perfect for what we need. I especially like its consistency. It’s always got a decent covering of fat and the meat is marbled. But, more importantly, our customers love it.
“Over the years I’ve discovered that game cookery needs to be gentle. The reduced fat content means that it cooks in a different way and responds well to lower temperatures. I use a water bath to do the first part of the cooking which then leaves the final part which is done traditionally – in foaming butter which adds the all-important caramelisation and incomparable flavour of butter.
“At the same time we braise the trimmings and make that into a mini Cornish pastie to go along side and serve that with a salt-baked whole swede which takes the pastie idea a step further. The whole dish is then served with a sauce made from the bones with additional chicken stock. I’ve gone away from heavy veal and beef stocks in favour of a lighter chicken. I don’t like the added gelatine stickiness of those old sauces anymore.
“When it comes to the birds I don’t use a lot of grouse. We’re not near a grouse moor and its very expensive. However, what we do have is excellent partridge and I love that. I’m not terribly keen on pheasant although its very good in a terrine.
“The partridge we make into a form of escabeche. We coat the birds in a spice mix with abundant cumin and roast them lightly. Then we pickle them in pickle mix with red wine vinegar and other flavours. The result is a stunning flavour redolent of Spain or Portugal.
“We then take this Spanish idea and serve the birds with sautéed potatoes with chorizo. I love this idea of taking a theme for a dish. So the chorizo just takes the partridge into a different direction as the swede does in the venison dish.
“The wilder birds like Mallard I like to remove the skins which is controversial. I don’t like the slightly fishy flavour they sometimes have. I cook lightly in a sous vide before finishing. But, in a big change to the way I used to work, I now water bath at a higher temperature.
“A lot of chefs think that the lower you go the better. But that’s not the way I work anymore. I prefer a higher temperature for less time. That way the meat does not get too gelatinous. A good example of that is rabbit. You can’t cook it at a low temperature – it’s too tender and it doesn’t work. It’s taken me years to get to this point but I’m now seeing really good results.”