Chef shares his excitement for game season
Dominic Teague is the award-winning Executive Chef of One Aldwych, overseeing Indigo, our signature restaurant. Here he explains why game, from pheasant to venison, gives winter dining a whole new dimension.
I’m always excited when game season arrives. Although it begins on the ‘Glorious Twelfth’, the landmark date in August when the calendar opens for red grouse, the season extends throughout winter and offers chefs a huge range of options to create interesting, satisfying dishes. For instance, I love to cook with partridge, pheasant, venison and duck, to name but a few.
The produce we source is of such high quality, I don’t agree with adding madcap additions just for the sake of innovation. When the main ingredient is so special, it should always be the star of the dish. Take grouse. The birds live on areas of heather moorland where their diet gives them a distinctively rich flavour, so I might partner roast highland grouse with heritage beetroot, pickled blackberries and watercress, for a lightly earthy but clean flavour combination. Likewise, with Sussex partridge breast, I might pair it with celeriac, apple and damson compote – a wonderful dish, so deliciously juicy.
Not only does game bring depth and dimension to the menu, particularly as an interesting alternative to chicken and turkey, it also offers healthy eating options. Wild game is often lean, so it’s high in protein – pheasant, for instance, is not fatty so it’s fairly low in calories, as well as offering a good range of minerals. Bear in mind meat or birds that have been hung longer to mature can be more intense, which can be an acquired taste. If you haven’t eaten much game, maybe try pheasants.
The season is fully regulated and managed and there are periods of time when the birds and animals are protected and allowed to roam undisturbed. When I cook with game, I’m mindful it comes from the wild and respectful of the produce, which includes ensuring there’s no wastage. With birds, I’ll use the leg meat and make tasty ravioli, and the carcass is superb for jus.
Game is also a great British tradition. While other countries have their own versions of meat and fowl, we have such a renowned heritage, it’s great to celebrate it. Plus it’s truly seasonal. There is a finite window to enjoy game that is both fresh and flavourful.