EATING FOR BRITAIN: THE POT KILN GAME COOKERY SCHOOL
My companion for the day, Rachel, summed it up as we drove home, when she said “It was one of those days, which restores your faith in food”
I knew exactly what she meant. Mike Robinson owner of what is very probably my favourite restaurant in the U.K, The Pot Kiln, had called me a week or so earlier and invited me to be his guest at one of The Pot Kiln's day long game cookery schools. The plan was to meet early in the morning, take a small group out to a local deer farm to select an animal that needed culling, dispatch it and then show us how to grollach it in the field. Afterwards, we would return to the cookery school a few hundred yards from The Pot Kiln and, after a restorative cup of tea and a bacon sandwich Mike would then show us how to butcher and prepare an animal he had shot a week or so before.
Mike being the generous sort that he is invited me to bring a guest along and, as HP could not make it, I posted about it on Twitter and Facebook. Within an hour I had received over fifty requests, but quickest off the mark was my new chum, Rachel. She was not deterred by the 6am starting time from London and by 8am, I was squeezing my battered Ford Focus between some rather smarter cars in front of the purpose built cookery school.
The day panned out exactly as Mike had promised and we were soon en route to the deer park. We soon picked out a likely suspect in the form of a Fallow deer and Mike dispatched him with one cracking round from his rifle. I had been lucky enough to spend time with Mike before, so stepped back and let others give a hand as he expertly showed us how to gut an animal in the field, to check for disease and then how to remove the beautiful livers and kidneys,of course retaining the heart as a special treat for his loyal gundog, Sassy.
Back at the cookery school, Mike was in his element showing us how to skin and butcher another animal. We were doubly fortunate as Alan Hayward, the owner of Vicars Game Dealers had agreed to come in and show us how to break up the animal. What was most remarkable was just how much meat Alan was able to remove from one carcass. Even more so, because he said that to have that much meat vac packed and delivered to your door ready for freezing would only cost about £100. Astonishing value.
Then, of course, it was on to what Mike does best, possibly better than anyone else in the country, cooking up the venison. First up, an Italian style venison stew which Mike prepared with a typical trinity of carrots, onions and celery before adding the sealed meat and lots or red wine. He put that to one side to simmer away and then turned his attention to making a venison Carpaccio and, even more delicious, an old school Stroganoff using thin strips of the venison instead of beef. Finally, Mike’s own invention a version of the French cut of beef “Pave” but taken from the haunch. Stunning when served with some green beans and Robouchon style mashed potatoes that contained almost as much butter as they did starch.
We moved back to the dining room of the cookery school to enjoy our meal. Every dish was outstanding but, for me, the highlights were the Simple stew which had reduced to a thick unctuous meaty ragout and the Stroganoff, which reminded me of why classic dishes are so often the best.
After our late lunch, we staggered back to the car and began the drive back to London. Rachel slumped in her seat trying to keep awake after such a long day and a huge meal “that was probably one of the best food days of my life” she said. Even though I have experienced quite a lot on the last couple of years, it would have been hard not to agree with her.
For those of you interested in cooking game at home, Mike Robinson’s new book FIT FOR TABLE is just about to be published by Quiller Press. Be warned, it is NOT a recipe book and may contain scenes that would make Hannibal Lecter wince (I particularly like the pages of him gutting a wild boar) but it promises to become the textbook on game preparation. Well worth buying as indeed is the Pot Kiln Game Cookery School worth visiting.