Notes from a Working Kitchen – December 2015
At present we are knee deep in the game season, and we love it. The temperature is just beginning to drop and the long awaited woodcock have started coming over from Scandinavia. For lovers of this special bird it really is a magic time, the real hard core enjoying also the head left on so they can enjoy the sweet treat buried inside. The ‘Wing’ fly tiers are always thankful for a few pin feathers on a Thursday night as they beaver away in the snug preparing their flys for the upcoming trout season. Keep it up boys, because we really love the fish when they come into the kitchen.
Richard and family over at Peterborough Game have been able to secure some British wild boar from a Scottish estate. These arrive in the kitchen in stripy pyjamas hoofs and all we get to grips with the carcass as soon as it hits the butchers block, knives and cleaver sharpened and bone saw at the ready. So much to give these animals and we are sure never to waste a thing. One of the treats we enjoy most are the humble sausages we get from all the trimmings, lovely sweet flavour cut only with a little white wine and winter herbs out of the garden. Plates of these, left large and served with braised red cabbage, mashed potatoes and a classic german ‘jaeger’ sauce have been flying out of the kitchen. Using a smaller bore sheep casing we also made a tray of Cumberland sausages to pair up with the leaner loin steaks. Giant chops are left on the bone, slightly flintsone-esk but a proper treat for the consummate carnivore this dish attracts. Along with braised shanks, chumps and leg steaks we also save that gorgeous neck cut the ‘collar’ for our wild boar ‘spiced coppa’ once cured and aged thin slices are offered up with a little rocket, parmesan and some of the autumns orange golden quince jelly.
Closer to home we have also been enjoying the strangely warmer than normal winter months out in the fields and woods. Pheasant and partridge shoots have been almost summery at times and the bags have still been good. Supremes won from the pheasants are stuffed with herbed mousse and wrapped in our smoked bacon. The thighs are great for layered terrines and the drumsticks are cooked long and slow. The meat from the drumsticks is easily mixed together with wild boar fat, meat and spices to make a great pot of rillettes to enjoy with a crusty loaf of the houses sourdough. Partridges are also broken down and appear on the a la carte menu, these have supremes stuffed with herbed forcemeat and foie gras and are served together with confit legs, partridge liver parfait croutes and the last of this years plums just to add a fruity note.
Whilst out and about with the bag in hand we have been blessed with a lot of field blewitts on our shoot days. Brought home, cleaned up in the kitchen and left to dry a little we end up with a real seasonal treat. A sneaky perk of the job led to having the Blewitts sliced and fried in a little butter and garlic popped on a slab of freshly baked sourdough and lightly grilled with some freshly cut Colston Bassett stilton. It was so good we had to offer that snack up on the specials door.
Rabbit and hare are left to later on in the season but the wintering geese are game fare along with their smaller cousins, ducks of all shapes and sizes. The goose breasts make the most awesome Bresoala to add to jimmy’s smokehouse platters or as a small starter. The legs braised and picked are a ragout to run through pasta or a filling for a pie along with the offal, with so much available it is hard to know what to do with it sometimes.
John Turner from Bancroft Lodge Ayston has been supplying us with lovely free range reared Aylesbury ducklings. The combo of duck breast, black pudding puree, and crispy black pudding fritter was a real winner this year. The confit legs once cooked for 12 hours sous vide in star anise and ginger crisped up a treat and went well with our homemade plum sauce and a fresh seasonal stir fry.
The local allotments are still giving up some lovely treats, squashes are in abundance but the real show stopper for us has been the winter chard. Stuart, Roz and Robert have all been bringing us these beautiful stems with all the colours of the rainbow, the leaves a vibrant green not too dissimilar from spinach. A special treat were the Jerusalem artichokes also from the Kings, once properly scrubbed and peeled, the smooth nutty puree a wonderful soup but all the better paired up with some scallops and toasted almonds, wow.
It is our love of our countryside, locals and the place we live that has given rise to so many good times, meals and days out. With this in mind we were slightly taken aback when we got a letter in the post from the countryside alliance to let us know, that we had been nominated in their ‘Rural Oscars’ awards in the local food category. Even more so when we received our invitations to the houses in Parliament to attend the prize giving when the winners will be notified from the attending finalists. What an honour and we can only thank everyone out there who has become part of the Kings Arms family over the last 12 years in whatever capacity.
Some of the older rooms in the 400 year old bakery side of the building were given a full bathroom makeover by D & M Building, a cracking job and the customer feedback has been great. After 3 weeks of hard work and on completion another letter through the post this time from the luxury travel guide to let us know we had been shortlisted in their global awards. What a surprise that was, who knew that so many people out in the wider world were such fans of our little pub in Wing.
So as we get ready for Christmas and all the preparation that involves we remember that we have a lot to be thankful for and a lot to look forward to. The Geese from Seldom Seen Farm have been ordered and will get their annual treatments once collected. The Christmas village quiz is good to go, mince pies are done and the mulled wine prepared for the Wing Carol Singers. It just remains for us to thank everyone for their continued support over this and past years and we hope to share many more in the future.
Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and hope to share a glass with you over the festive period.