Tom Kitchin Kitchen Confidential

As the shooting season draws to a close, Tom Kitchin makes the most of nature’s wild food bounty

Tom Kitchin Photo

Cooking With

The shooting season closes on the 31 January, so we’re on the last stretch with game birds. The highlight of January for me is woodcock. They fly in on the first full moon of November, from Scandinavia, Russia and Latvia to escape the icy winters, and the season runs until the end of January. It’s an incredible bird and a pleasure to cook with. I can’t wait to get them on my menu and thankfully now there are a lot more about. I cook a classic recipe using the intestines to make a paté and the bones for a sauce. You serve the bird along with its head – woodcock brains are a true delicacy. Mallard, teal, roe deer and hare are also good now. I cook hare à la royale, quite a complex dish making paté with the kidneys and livers to stuff the hare. It’s very rich and uses lots of red wine – exactly the food I want to eat in winter. I also like to braise the legs of hare to use as a filling for ravioli or in a game pie.

Braising is an ideal technique for winter: I cook oxtail this way. Nothing beats a good homemade stew either on a cold day. Nature has a way of marrying flavours together that are available at the same time of year. For example, the wonderful array of root vegetables we have in winter accompanies game beautifully. You really need a nice roasted or mashed buttery root vegetable to soak up the rich juices. Parsnips, turnips and other root vegetables grow incredibly well in Scotland. We have endive now too, purple sprouting broccoli, Jerusalem artichokes, salsify and leeks. Wet walnuts are fantastic as are chestnuts – the smell of them roasting is the essence of winter for me. Apples, pears and quince are the fruits to cook with this month. We open jars of pickled damsons, which we preserved in autumn and tucked away to mature. It can be an unpredictable month when we don’t always know what our suppliers can get, but that’s what makes it exciting. Crabs are great at the moment, although they tend to hide themselves away so you pay more for them as a result. Oysters, mackerel and turbot are at their prime as are scallops. Ours are exceptional: hand-dived in Orkney where the water is icy cold, rough and tough, the scallops have time to really flourish. Quickly sear them, maybe adding garlic butter, or if you’re eating them fresh from the sea, there’s nothing better than prizing them open, slicing them up and eating them raw there and then.


Who i'm using

I use a lot of local suppliers and keep discovering new ones. Local produce is paramount to me – it’s what my philosophy is all about. My gamekeeper Ronnie Grigor, who is based in Humbie near the Borders, is invaluable this month. He’s a real character and knows everything about game. He’ll get me woodcock and other game. Never quite knowing what I’ll get is half the joy: the other day I arrived at work to find six beautiful hares on my doorstep. He’s a hard man to find so I’d recommend Braehead Foods as another good quality but larger local game supplier.



Tom Kitchin Photo

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