Tom Kitchin: ‘Raise a toast to autumn’

MY KITCHEN at the restaurant is always busiest at the height of the game season. It’s a thrilling time for me because I’m always coming up with new ideas and recipes.

I love the entire process – from the arrival of the great birds at the restaurant door, to the plucking, preparing and serving of them to our guests.

The beauty of game is in the sheer number and variations of dishes you can create by using everything, right down to the carcass of the bird. Cooking game is all about knowing and understanding the produce so that absolutely no part of the glorious ingredient goes to waste. It may seem more challenging to cook game at home and certainly the way we do it at the restaurant is not easy to replicate at home when you don’t have the same equipment – even for me – but with a suitable recipe, it’s worth it.

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My recipe is relatively straightforward and ideal for the home cook. Some game recipes may still seem a little time-consuming, but it is worth every moment when you taste the end result and relish the wonderful deep flavour, smokiness and characteristics of game birds. Grouse, venison, partridge, mallard and a host of other delights should be celebrated in all their wonder.

With our colder, crisper nights of autumn come the pleasures of wholesome, hearty dishes. Thankfully, the season’s best vegetables – such as celeriac, carrot, parsnip, turnip and beetroot – are all perfectly suited to this. These wonderful symbols of the autumn season bring a deep new earthy flavour and colour to the plate, replacing the light, bright ingredients that characterised summer.

Root vegetables are easy to enjoy and incredibly versatile, working well on their own or combined together as a medley, in thick, hearty autumn soups, in purées, in risottos and simply roasted. These vegetables, though best known for working well in savoury dishes, can actually make a great addition or and give a new twist to desserts – think sweet pumpkin tarts, fluffy carrot loaf or beetroot and chocolate cake. These are perfect for those who have a less sweet tooth and it is a great way to use up leftover ingredients.

For those who prefer a sweeter flavour, a seasonal medley of green and purple fruits are at their best at this time of year – including plums, figs, pears and apples, all of which are available in abundance. You can use them in a variety of pies, crumbles and tarts, which are truly comforting as the weather gets cooler. And don’t forget that leftover fruit can be combined to create delicious jellies and jams that will last you all season.

For me, there’s no better way to spend an autumn day than to go for a nice long walk with the family, then picking up some of the season’s best fresh ingredients at the local markets, butchers and greengrocers, before heading back to the warmth of the kitchen to cook up and enjoy a warming, hearty seasonal feast. Raise a toast to autumn and all the great natural flavours, textures, colours and delicious dishes to come.

Vegetable Broth

This recipe is a great way to use all of your leftover vegetables from the fridge. 
You can include any vegetables you fancy and add any herbs you have left too. The pearl barley in this soup makes it really filling and the leftovers make a perfect warming lunch for autumn.

• 1-2 tbsp olive oil

• 100g pearl barely, washed

• 3 carrots, diced

• ½ celeriac, diced

• 2 stalks celery, chopped

• ½ onion, chopped

• ½ clove garlic, chopped

• 1 bouquet garni

•Handful kale or savoy cabbage, chopped

• Parsley, chopped

• 500ml chicken or vegetable stock

• Salt & pepper

Method

• Heat a heavy-bottomed pan over a medium-low heat and add one or two tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onion and cook over a medium heat until they are soft.

• Add the chopped carrots, celeriac, celery and sweat gently for two or three minutes. Add the garlic and sweat for a further couple of minutes. Add the pearl barley and stir to combine with the vegetables.

• Pour the stock into the pan and bring it to a simmer. Add the bouquet garni and some salt and pepper, then simmer gently for 15 minutes.

• Add the chopped parsley, taste and adjust the seasoning as required. Add the kale or cabbage , then serve the soup piping hot in big bowls.

Scottish grouse with roasted pumpkin, Jerusalem artichokes and beetroot with hazelnut dressing

For the grouse

• 2 grouse, prepared and wrapped in bacon

• 1 tbsp vegetable oil

• 50g celeriac, chopped into 1cm dice

• 50g carrots, chopped into 1cm dice

• 50g celery, chopped into 1cm dice

• 10 baby onions

• 2 sprigs fresh thyme

• 1 tbsp brandy

• 250ml chicken stock

• Sea salt

• Freshly ground black pepper

For the roasted vegetables

• 2 beetroot, peeled and quartered

• Sea salt

• Freshly ground black pepper

• 4 Jerusalem artichokes

• ½ lemon, juice only

• 1kg pumpkin, peeled and deseeded

• Olive oil

• 50g hazelnuts, roughly chopped

• 2 shallots, finely chopped

• 1 tbsp chives, chopped

• 50ml hazelnut oil

• 1 tsp sherry vinegar

• Handful watercress sprigs

Method

Take the grouse out of the fridge so that they can come to room temperature before you start cooking, and preheat the oven to 200°C/gas 6.

Heat the vegetable oil in a large heavy-bottomed roasting tin. Season the grouse well, inside and out, and then sear them in the tin until golden brown all over.

Add the diced vegetables, baby onions and thyme sprigs to the tin. Place the grouse on one breast and roast in the hot oven for three to four minutes. Flip the birds onto the other breast and roast for another three minutes.

Pour brandy into the cavity of both birds and place them on their backs to finish roasting – another five minutes.

Remove the tin from the oven and leave the grouse to rest for ten minutes, out of the tin, breast upwards so the juices are evenly distributed. Remove the vegetables with a slotted spoon for later use, and set aside all the pan juices.

Put the roasting tin back on the heat on the hob and begin to reduce the cooking juices. Add the chicken stock, bring to the boil and let the sauce reduce and thicken. Take off the heat, pass through a fine sieve and keep warm until ready to serve.

For the roasted vegetables

Heat the oven to 180°C/gas 4. Place the beetroot quarters into a saucepan and pour in enough water to cover. Add salt and bring to the boil. Simmer for 30 minutes or until the beetroot is nearly cooked. Then drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, peel the Jerusalem artichokes, cut them in half and immerse in a bowl of cold water with the lemon juice added to stop 
them discolouring. Cut the pumpkin into thick slices.

Heat a large non-stick ovenproof frying pan (or a cast-iron roasting pan) over a medium-high heat and add a drizzle of olive oil.

Place the pumpkin and Jerusalem artichokes into the pan, season with salt and cook for three or four minutes, until they start to colour.

Transfer the whole pan into the oven and then roast for 15 minutes.

Cut the par-cooked beetroot into wedges, add to the pan and cook in the oven for a further five minutes.

Meanwhile, make the dressing by combining the chopped hazelnuts, shallots, chives and hazelnut oil in a bowl. Add a splash of sherry vinegar and season with salt and pepper to taste.

To serve

Once the grouse have rested, carve the legs and breast meat and put on a plate, then spoon over the pan juices.

Serve the roasted vegetables alongside with the dressing and watercress on top.

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