Venison-The Game Larder

Having just finished bleating on about how cookery books aint wot they used to be someone comes along with a bloody stonker!!

The Game LarderVenison, The Game Larder, by Jose Souto and Steve Lee is a massive body of work and a fascinating journey into one man’s obsession with wild food and countryside management captured and beautifully brought to life by another man’s photographs.

Jose is a well-respected chef and lecturer at Westminster Kingsway college in London. The flagship catering college in the country for as long as I can remember standing head and shoulders above the rest. I first met Jose at one of his game seminars at Westminster about 8 years ago . Attended by chefs, foodies, the press and other colleges this was and still is the best one-day game event for chefs anywhere. Jose always has the full range, and I mean THE FULL RANGE, of indigenous game on display, in depth knowledge on everything form the feeding habits of the Snipe to the Red Deer Rut in the Cairngorms. Vincent Rooms

The day includes an excellent lunch in the Vincent rooms cooked by the students and finishes with a comprehensive butchery master class breaking down an entire carcass of venison into dozens of different cuts. His obsession with game, ability with a gun and love of the countryside and falconry are reflected in his work as a chef and Steve has captured all this brilliantly for you to share.

Steve Lee is a professional food driven photographer creating stunning stylish contemporary images of food, drink and people, mainly in the studio I guess. Creeping about on all fours following Jose on a 4.00am winter stalk in the highlands must have been a bit of a shock but without him this book just wouldn’t work. Wild life shots that bring the countryside to life, articulate images of cuts of meat that really help understand the butchery involved.

Great portraits of the team in the field, and pub, and recipe shots that don’t make you feel you have failed miserably when you decide to make one of Jose’s dishes.

The recipes are both traditional and up to date, smoking and curing, venison pastrami, air-dried hams, black pudding, kebabs, pulled shank, hot pot. There is a good selection of recipes from other chefs Tom Kerridge, Phil Vickery Brett Graham, Jun Tanaka and a lovely section with contributions from ex Westminster students too.

Jose & SteveAlthough Jose and Lee have spent 8 years, field and kitchen, creating this book it was well worth the wait and I take back everything I said about modern cookery books not being fit for purpose.

 

Just go out and get a copy!

Venison, The Game Larder is published by Merlin Unwin Books http://www.merlinunwin.co.uk/

For more of Steve’s work http://www.steveleestudios.co.uk/
Jose’s game seminars http://www.westking.ac.uk/

Love your old cook books

A friend recently leant me a couple of old cookery books she picked up rummaging second hand shops in Kennington Sarf London. She is one of those annoying people who seem to be just browsing but always comes away with something rare or special.

There are no glossy pictures in these books, in fact no pictures at all, no oven temperature charts, conversion tables, trendy chapter headings or suggested Spotify playlists. These books score zero on the coffee table scale and yet I found myself reading both of them from cover to cover and then started digging out a few I had on the shelf at home.

The first was Arabella Boxer’s Book of English Cookery (1991)…not that long ago…. Arabella BoxerThrough reminiscences of her childhood she charts the changing trends and fads in town and country dining between the wars. Big yawn, not for a minute.

The world of the professional chef had already been permanently changed with the publishing of Escoffier’s Guide Culinaire in 1903, over 5000 recipes and still in use today, although every restaurant kitchen had a copy this was not for dinner party cooks or hostesses. Boxer pays tribute to the society darlings, Nancy Astor, Jessica Mitford “it took the butler 6 minutes to walk from the kitchen to the dining room at Chatsworth” then comes Boulestin and many more leading on to Constance Spry (1942) and Elizabeth David (1950) and they pave the way for Robert Carrier, Jane Grigson, our Delia, and the road to Saturday Kitchen and home cooking as we know it today.

Her recipes are scattered with anecdotes and lots of name-dropping, but it’s soooooo readable. Potted shrimp sandwiches, Yeah, “I remember these from Goodwood races”, the picnic section closes with a recipe for sloe gin. Look a little deeper and there’s water biscuits here too.

The second book was Countryman’s Cooking by W.M.W Fowler (1965).

Countryman's CookingWhat a guy, totally outspoken, views on everything, not a trained chef or cook opens with “This book is written for men. Men who, through choice or circumstance, live on their own, so that they can give a small dinner party and at the same time remain on speaking terms with their friends”

He goes on to totally equip your bachelor kitchen including how many butchers hooks you will need (6 by the way), gives no-nonsense easy to follow instruction on butchery, the preparation and cooking of furred and feathered game, hunting, shooting, fishing and lots more. He doesn’t do desserts, probably just as well, and closes with a full page of instructions for perfect Brussels Sprouts; the back cover has his recipe for beer and a great quote “my weak will is one of my most prized possessions”.

Having read these very quickly I found myself sorting through the shelves at home, so pleased to find my grandmothers cook book Olio Cookbook (1918) Olio Cookbookwith a forward to mothers and housekeepers, tips on everything, vegetarian recipes, how to harden a newly enamelled bath, oxtail jelly, pickled lemons

931 Cucumber should always be sliced first from the thick end……we know now.

Not a book, a DIY manual for life. There is nothing the modern housewife/househusband can’t make or fix armed with a copy of this!

And saving the best till last…when learning my trade cooking in Paris in 1981 I was asked to make a Foie Gras Terrine  for a friend to take to the family celebrations for St Sylvestre. He thanked me with a copy of Le Nouveau Cuisinier Royal & Bourgois (1720) by Paul Prudhome. Prudhome

 

Written in old French and sometimes quite difficult to read these guys were cooking everything we have today Crayfish & Asparagus, Ris de Veau aux Truffes and Partridge with Morel mushrooms and Cognac.

 

 

These books are real gems and we have all got them at home, have a look on your bookshelves, the boxes in the loft, ask your Nan!

So what’s changed?……Take a short trip in the time machine…….you wake up to Heston’s Snail Porridge and deep fried Mars bars. How do they do that?

Modern cookbooks look great, lots of arty photos, you flip through, maybe try a couple of recipes, but why are they always just a bit too complicated and it never looks anything like the illustration, so it goes back on the coffee table….yeah I’ve got the new Jamiepollenstebulifrenchlaundry cookbook…its great.

Nice quote from Prue Leith recently “Clever Chefs? They’ve lost the plot”

Post script.  Most of the things I grumble about have got nothing to do with chefs. I have spent my entire life in the kitchen and have been very fortunate to meet and work with the most amazing, dedicated, talented and lovely people on the planet. They work stupid hours in bloody hot kitchens creating absolutely delicious food that some  moron  covers in ketchup and then slags off on Tripadvisor….. Its marketing, publishers, sales, branding, image rights, Tah dah and all that chews me off. I think I’ll stop there!