Notes from a Working Kitchen – March 2015

James Goss, head chef at The Kings Arms in Wing, is back with his look at how his award-winning pub-restaurant uses the best seasonal produce from the local area and The Kings Arms’ own kitchen garden.

It’s been a busy few months here, and some of our busiest times are in the winter months. As soon as I see the first of our wild garlic peek through the leaf litter I know it’s coming to an end. A love of all things game keeps us in full swing during the colder months: grouse, pheasant, partridge (both English and French), pigeon, woodcock, snipe, mallard, teal and wild goose are all on and off the menu as and when we get them in. The boys are all busy out in the field shooting, then it’s home and plucking and dressing the birds to serve.

The classic roast grouse was awesome this year, a bumper season was enjoyed and the prices were really reasonable, we hope it’s the same next season! Still really popular is the French Partridge Hotpot with Cider and Bacon or the Pheasant Hen Bird roast for two, a gorgeous meal with a rich mushroom and Madeira gravy and for £20 to share quite the bargain to boot. We have had so many birds this year that we have finally plunged for a plucking machine and it has made life a little easier all round. One of the real hits of the season has been the smoked goose Bresoala, a real winner on the smokehouse platter.

Roast Pheasant For 2

Roast pheasant

Ground game has also featured heavily here over the past few months: fallow deer, roe and the smaller Muntjac especially. The Muntjac we get from a couple of miles away off the Bisbrooke Estate, infinitely more tender and sweeter than its larger cousins, we cannot get enough of it. Sometimes we have a full menu dedicated to it on the specials door. All the cuts are enjoyed: Liver, Kidney & Tenderloin as part of a poachers supper, the saddles are cut like pate and need very little cooking. The shanks are braised and paired up with red cabbage and any remaining trim becomes the meat in our venison Bolognese, not often on the menus and so understandably very quickly sold out.

Hare shoots have been fairly limited, but at the moment in our area it’s still available, with farmers having small days just to control the populations. We love to make a farce from the tenderloins and our sausage meat to wrap around the saddles and then in a blanket of smoky homemade pancetta. The legs are easily turned into a Confit, rich sauces and mulling spices pair up beautifully with both cuts. A little beetroot diced and pickled in brown sugar, thyme and balsamic vinegar and the remaining trim cooked up into a puree with some 70% chocolate and there is a real marriage of flavours to be enjoyed. Seasonal, local and very special.

A little left of centre but now finally picked up by the telly chefs is the grey squirrel; we have been serving up this yankee invader for over 10 years now. For the uninitiated, we pair up the cooked squirrel meat with a little rabbit and make this into ‘Squabbit’ pies. Really tasty and with a light mushroom Madeira sauce, they have been hopping off the shelves here. The legs confit up nicely, offering a more showy piece for the a la carte menu. The main bonus is that as well as enjoying a meal we are also helping to protect our native red squirrels, so go on, ‘Eat Grey Today’.

The end of each game season is marked here by the production of terrines to help tidy up our stores. Game terrines are a great way of using up bits and bobs left over, we have a lot of pheasant, rabbit, hare and partridge, some fallow deer, squirrel and Muntjac. By adding a little smoke, some seasoning and a little know-how we are able to transform these into really tasty terrines, all they need is a punchy homemade chutney or relish, even a tangy piccalilli and some fresh bread and there is a great light bite or starter.

Hare & Pheasant Terrine (2)

Hare and pheasant terrine

The bar is also about to ring in some changes. In addition to our homemade spirits and cocktails and the local Grainstore ales, our love of all things local has also led us to discovering Mike Berry’s Fynbury Cider. A Rutland producer using local apples to make a cracking range of ciders, we enjoyed the cider so much we will be stocking the hand pull version on the bar as soon as we can get an extra hand pump. We also hope to be able to offer some of his more interesting varieties in the bottle to enjoy at The Kings Arms or sold through our deli. There is also talk of a champagne version and even a Rutland apple brandy; we can hardly wait to try these when they are finally ready.

Rutland truly lives up to it’s motto, ‘multum in parvo’, ‘much in little’. We are still discovering new things every week and the great comforter is that quality always seems to be at the core of everything we find.

For those of you who follow us on Facebook or Twitter you will have seen the many products we stock for passers-by, diners, drinkers and locals alike to take away with them when they visit. The quiet moments are filled with keeping stocks up of our deli and pantry stores. The English Mustard Sauce has been a real favourite, picallili, and plum chutney also.

So if you’re out and about try something new, local and homemade. Sometimes the things that seem a little bit out of the ordinary are the things that become our favourites in the future, it just requires a little adventure.

The author:

James is head chef and owner at The King's Arms pub in Wing, Rutland