Great Game Guide

PUBLISHED: 09:00 21 May 2014

Venison from the White Hart

Venison from the White Hart


A South West Great Game Guide featuring Somerset restaurants that regularly have game on the menu has been launched

Roast partridge with bread and cheese from The EthicureanRoast partridge with bread and cheese from The Ethicurean

Created by Country Sports South West in association with the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC), the Great Game Guide is the first of its kind in the South West. It aims to highlight the large selection of delicious game dishes available across the region as well as encouraging more people to eat seasonal game when dining out.

The guide is part of BASC Taste of Game campaign which encourages people to eat game all year round and promotes the healthy benefits that game meat has.

The guide boasts some great dishes to tempt even the most modest of palates and will be available free of charge in all the restaurants and inns that it will feature as well as tourist information centres and some butchers across Somerset.

Bath Priory's patridge with smoked baconBath Priory's patridge with smoked bacon

The Somerset restaurants featured include The Culborne on Exmoor and The Rock Inn at Waterrow near Taunton. The new owners at the Rock Inn are keen to promote game. Owner Daren Barcley says: “We always use local produce, all of it seasonal, and game fits with this well. Game is very under-rated and makes some very distinctive dishes, we love using it.”

The foreword to the guide is by one of Britain’s best known Michelin chefs (the youngest to be awarded three Michelin stars) Marco Pierre White who has shot and cooked game throughout his professional career.

Annette Cole, Taste of Game development manager said: “We’re delighted with the guide. The South West has a huge amount of food and drink establishments and this is a great way of highlighting some of those who regularly provide game on the menu. Eating responsibly sourced game plays an important role in the promotion of country sports across the South West and also offers a great ‘low fat, high mineral’ alternative.

Three of the restaurants featured in the guide have given Somerset Life their favourite game recipes so they can be recreated at home.

Sam Moody, head chef at The Bath Priory, cooks regularly with game it fits with his sourcing ethos which is cook with produce in season and buy locally.

Sam started his career at the age of 16. His first-full time job was at Ockenden Manor Hotel, when, after a year’s hard work under the direction of head chef Steve Crane, the team won a Michelin star. Sam stayed at Ockenden Manor Hotel for a further two-and-a half years, enjoying the experience of working in a Michelin-starred kitchen and learning what the expectations were in such an environment.

At the age of 20 his ambition and drive took him to the famous two Michelin-starred kitchen of Gidleigh Park. He worked his way around all the sections of the kitchen in this fabulous hotel, learning the importance of the every little detail and the basis of what makes good food.

In early 2009 a new challenge arrived for Sam when Michael Caines MBE, executive head chef at Gidleigh Park, also took over the kitchens at sister hotel The Bath Priory and appointed Sam as his sous chef. In September 2009, after proving himself to be of the highest standard, Sam was promoted to head chef.

Finally in 2012, Sam was awarded with a Michelin star for his hard work and talent. Sam says: “I love cooking with game as it’s a product of nature and has a powerful flavour that changes with the season.”

One of Sam’s favourite game recipes is Escabeche of local partridge with smoked bacon, apple and winter vegetable salad

It Serves: 6 as a light main,

For the smoked bacon ask your butcher for smoked boneless and rindless belly pork. Prepare and cook a day or two in advance. For this recipe you won’t need much smoked bacon, but it keeps very well and will freeze perfectly. So it’s worth cooking as big a piece as your pot will allow (so it fits in) and saving it for another meal. The stock is also worth keeping making great soups, pease pudding and sauces.


6 partridges (oven ready, lightly seasoned )

200g piece smoked bacon

6 chestnut mushrooms (shaved)

1 carrot, 1 baby leek, 9 turnips, 9 radishes

2 apples (diced)

Bitter leaf salad

Smoked Bacon

200g smoked belly pork

1 leek (split)

1 onion

1 carrot

1 stick celery

1 head of garlic (split)

1 tsp, coriander seeds, black peppercorns, cloves

water to cover

1tbsp flour

oil (for frying)


250ml extra virgin olive oil

75 ml Jerez, valdespino or olorosso, vinegar

250g shallots (finely sliced)


For the Escabeche

Sweat the shallots in the olive oil until lightly caramelised. Add the sherry vinegar; bring to a simmer cook for 1-2 minutes adjust seasoning, cool.

For the smoked bacon

Place all the ingredients in a pot, bring to a simmer and cook for 2-3 hours or until soft. Remove the pork and then press between two trays with a heavy weight on top for 12 hours in the fridge. Dice into 20mm cubes. To serve, lightly flour and caramelise on all sides.

For the vegetables

Split the baby leek through the middle, and blanch for 2 minutes.

Shave the carrots on a mandolin and blanch,

Halve the radishes and turnips,

Mix the apple,dice together with all the ingredients.

Thinly slice the mushrooms, keep raw.

To finish

Heat a heavy-based pan, place the partridge into the pan, legs down, in a little oil. Over a high heat start to roast, then place into the oven and cook for one minute.

Then turn and cook for a further 4 minutes on the other leg.

Now add 50g butter, turn onto the breast and roast for a final 2 minutes.

Remove from the pan, and place on a tray, pour over excess cooking fat and allow to rest for 15 minutes.

Warm the Escabeche to about 50C/120F.

Remove the legs and cut out the thigh bone, remove the breast from the bone, drop the meat into the Escabeche, add the vegetables and mix well, drain, and arrange on a warmed plate, along with the smoked bacon.

Lightly dress the leaves and place around.

The recently re-furbished White Hart at Somerton is quickly establishing itself as a great place to eat. Its venison comes from Quantock red deer and most of the game birds come from Barrow Farm, at Frome. The outstanding kitchen is led by Tom Blake from River Cottage. His philosophy is simple: take good, organic, local ingredients and let them sing.

Tom has cooking in the blood. His grandma ran a hotel on the Isle of Wight, and he grew up on his mum’s traditional home cooking – big Sunday roasts reinvented for Monday supper, lunchboxes crammed with banana and chocolate chip cake. His mum awakened an early interest in the art of foraging, as together they gathered armfuls of elderflowers and brewed wine. His first taste of a professional kitchen was a country pub, where he remembers breaking down pheasants outdoors in the freezing cold, with nothing but two knives and a wonky chopping board. His time as head chef with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall at River Cottage was the perfect opportunity to deepen and develop his love and understanding of where food comes from and how best to use the produce of the season as well as every part of an animal.

Tom has created Venison tagine with butternut squash, apricots and barley

Serves 4 with leftovers

1.5 -2 kg Venison shoulder, whole on the bone

2 tbs Raz el hanout spice mix

1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes, more if you like it hot.

4 cloves garlic finely grated or minced

200g unsalted butter, softened

1 onion, roughly chopped

2 carrots, peeled and chopped

1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into chunks or wedges

1 handful chopped dried apricots

Glass of white wine


Cider vinegar

1 small bunch of fresh coriander

300g barley

Pinch of saffron

4 cardamom pods

16floz chicken stock

Pre heat the oven to 180.

Mix the raz el hanout spice with the chilli flakes, garlic and 2 tbs of olive oil to make a paste.

Using a small paring knife, carefully pierce holes into the flesh of the venison shoulder.

Season the venison with salt and put into a heavy based tray with all the vegetables.

Rub all the spice mix into it, making sure the spice gets into the cavities you have just created.

Brown the meat in the oven for about 15/20 minutes. You don’t want to burn the spice or allow the meat to dry out.

When the meat and vegetables are nicely browned add the apricots, sugar, vinegar, wine and butter with a small glass of water and chopped coriander stems.

Cover very tightly with baking paper and tin foil before returning to the oven for another 4 hours at 130. If you leave gaps in the foil you will dry out the meat.

For the barley.

Fry the barley and cardamom on a medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring continually to stop it from burning.

Add the chicken stock and saffron whilst the pan is still hot then quickly put the lid on and turn the heat down low.

Continue to cook the barley on a low heat for another 25 minutes then remove from the heat and leave to sit with the lid on for 5 minutes before serving. DO NOT STIR

The meat should be soft and easy to pull away from the bone. As the venison is lean, the butter will keep the meat moist.

Finish the venison by stirring the freshly chopped coriander leaves into the meaty vegetable base then serve with the fragrant barley and some natural yoghurt.

The Ethicurean at Wrington near Bristol is founded on a sense of place. This is the idea of having a connection with the native land, its history and the community who grow food locally upon it. The family team seeks to discover harmonious pairings between the ingredients that surround the walled garden. In the kitchen garden restaurant, they respect the produce grown and sourced locally by using flavour combinations that have been partners for centuries.

This is a fascinating dish. The game is shot by Jack Bevan who passes it onto chef brothers Mathew and Iain Pennington. Drawing inspiration from where the partridge took to the wing they pair the bird with hawthorn jelly and ‘bread and cheese’. This being the old name for the young leaves on a hawthorn hedge.

Jack Bevan says: “The restaurant is famed for its close connection with the land around it and we are proud to serve game because we know that the animals have had a comfortable, content and wild life having no fear or stress at the end of their life. We draw ingredients from the habitats of the game we shoot, finding that they are often the simplest and best partners to the meat.”

The mix of flavours and textures in this recipe might appear overcomplicated but the result is tremendous. Its creation was greeted with delight in the kitchen. The plump bird sits on bread sauce, fragrant with its gentle hint of clove. The fondant potatoes and cavolo nero provide butter and welcome acidity respectively. The hawthorn jelly is clean, sweet and tart; flecks of Ogleshield cheese marry well with the flavour of cloves and the sweetness of the hawthorn. Ogleshield cheese is made in Somerset by Jamie Montgomery, using unpasteurised milk from a small herd of Jersey cows. The washed cheese is very like raclette, only better.

Roast Partridge with Bread and Cheese

serves 4

4 partridges

a drizzle of rapeseed oil

4 bay leaves

4 slices of sourdough bread

100g Ogleshield Cheese, or other raclette-style cheese of the highest order, finely shaved

hawthorn jelly for brushing

zest of 1 blood orange (or ordinary orange)

Fondant pink fir potatoes to serve

sea salt and black pepper

for the brining solution:

1.5 litres water

90g sea salt

2 tbsp juniper berries

4 cloves

2 tsp coriander seeds

1 tsp black peppercorns

For the bread sauce:

300ml milk

2 tbsp double cream

60g yellow onion, roughly chopped

2 good pinches of ground cloves

1 bay leaf

½ tsp English mustard

½ tsp salt

75g stale bread, cut into 2.5cm cubes

For the cavolo nero:

200g cavolo nero (or red kale), roughly chopped

a drizzle of rapeseed oil

1 tbsp cider vinegar

Put all the ingredients for the brine in a pan and bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the salt. Leave to cool and then chill. Place the partridges in the chilled brining solution, making sure they are completely submerged, and leave them in the fridge for 1¼ hours.

Drain the birds and discard the brine. Pat them dry on kitchen paper and set aside. (While we are on the subject of chilling, the vermouth ought to be in the fridge by now.)

For the bread sauce

Put all the ingredients except the bread in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Cook gently for 10–15 minutes, until the onion is completely soft. Remove the bay leaf, transfer the mixture to a blender and blitz until the onion is fully incorporated into the milk. Add the bread and allow the bread to soak for a couple of minutes before blitzing until smooth. Taste and add more seasoning if necessary. For a very smooth bread sauce, pass it through a fine sieve, gently pressing with the back of a small ladle. Keep warm until ready to serve.

Heat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6. Lightly coat the partridges in oil, then season with salt and pepper. Place a bay leaf in the cavity of each bird and put them on a baking tray, resting each one on a slice of the bread. Roast in the oven for 12–15 minutes, until lightly coloured – they should still be pink inside. Brush a light glaze of hawthorn jelly over the birds and return them to the oven for 3 minutes. Leave the birds to rest in a warm place for 10 minutes before serving.

For the cavolo nero

Heat a frying pan and add a film of oil. Add the greens and season with fine sea salt. Cook over a medium-high heat, tossing regularly to prevent scorching, until the leaves start to wilt. Add the cider vinegar and cook briefly until evaporated. Remove the greens from the pan and set aside.

To assemble the dish, spoon some bread sauce on to each serving plate. Flake over shavings of the Ogleshield; they will melt as they land on the sauce. Place the birds on top, then add the cavolo nero, along with dollops of hawthorn jelly. Scatter over the orange zest and serve with the fondant potatoes. Admire your dinner for no longer than it takes to pour the vermouth tableside.

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