Kitchin gets wild in the kitchen
Cooking wild meat isn't as difficult as you might think and kids can eat it too. Michelin-starred chef Tom Kitchin is on a mission to get us all eating more game.
TOM Kitchin's new book, Meat & Game, is stuffed with tantalising recipes for partridge, grouse and pigeon, as well as rabbit and venison, that should inspire us to go wild and try new things in the kitchen.
"I think people are a bit bored of Saturday night steak, you know?" says Tom, 40, who runs The Kitchin restaurant and The Scran & Scallie pub in Edinburgh.
"Game isn't too tricky to cook, even though it will probably impress your guests," he says.
There's potted pheasant, Asian poached pheasant, pheasant cock-a-leekie, barbecue pheasant and even pheasant and partridge scotch eggs, to spice up those Saturday dinners.
Tom believes game has had a bit of a tough time – seen as simply the preserve of those who go on shooting parties – but wants to reclaim it as meat for everyone, adding: "I've never shot anything in my life, honestly!"
He's pleased that game is starting to be recognised as a healthier meat alternative too: "People are starting to understand that eating venison is accessible, it's so lean, it's so tasty, it's not too expensive."
Some children will eat game – Tom's do. He has four boys, Kasper, 9, Axel, 7, and identical twins Lachlan and Logan, who've just turned 4, with his Swedish wife Michaela, who is also his business partner.
"They're real foodies. They've been brought up in the restaurant, especially the first one – my wife was answering the phone and taking bookings rocking the Maxi-Cosi (car seat) at her feet. That's the way it was back then.
"We have a pub, so we eat there all the time, and they'll say, 'Can I have lobster today? Can I have the crab or the grouse?' I'm trying to get them to understand that it's not normal to have that all the time.
"But they're just normal kids and they're not fussy eaters, which is really nice."
There's no "crazy romantic story" to how he became a chef, but he got a a job washing dishes in a local pub at 14 for pocket money and "just loved the adrenaline of the kitchen".
"I didn't really like school, I wasn't very good at it, so I wanted out as quickly as possible," he says.
"Back then, cooking wasn't rock and roll like it is now, like when you said to your mum and dad you want to leave school at 16 and be a chef, it really wasn't what they were planning I guess. I'm just amazed that they supported me.
"I met really good people, but I worked incredibly hard, I don't know where I got this gritty determination to keep going... I just wanted to work for the best chefs in the world, which obviously was quite gruelling, but I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing today if it wasn't for that."
"For me, it's really important that I'm in the restaurant. I am a chef who's in the kitchen all the time and it's been a success, so why should I break that?"
:: HOW TO COOK TOM KITCHIN'S BLACKENED CHICKEN TACOS
"This is a Kitchin family movie supper classic – something fun to eat while we all settle down in front of the screen," says the chef.
4 free-range chicken breast fillets, each cut into 5 strips
100g Cajun spice mix
For the avocado and pea guacamole:
200g frozen peas
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lime
3 ripe avocados
2 small green chillies, deseeded and very finely chopped
2 spring onions, finely chopped
For the tomato salsa:
200g cherry tomatoes, chopped
1/2 green chilli, deseeded and chopped
1tbsp finely chopped shallot
1 Baby Gem lettuce, shredded
100g creme fraiche
12 small tacos shells
Place the chicken strips in a non-reactive bowl and add a good sprinkling of spice mix and a splash of olive oil - the spicier you like your food, the more spice mix you should use. Season lightly with salt, then set aside for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the guacamole.
Bring a saucepan of lightly salted water to the boil and set a bowl of iced water in the sink. Add the frozen peas to the boiling water and blanch for 3-5 minutes until tender. Drain them well, then tip them into the iced water to stop them cooking and set the colour.
Drain the peas again and transfer to a blender or food processor with about 2 tablespoons of oil, the lime zest and juice and a splash of water. Season with salt and blend to make a chunky puree. Set aside.
Halve the avocados, remove the stones and peel them. Put the flesh in a non-reactive bowl and use a fork to coarsely mash. Add the pea puree, green chillies and spring onions, and season with salt. Cover the surface closely with clingfilm and chill for up to 2 hours until required.
To make the tomato salsa, put all the ingredients in a non-reactive bowl and season with salt and pepper. Set aside until required.
When you're ready to cook the chicken, heat a large well-seasoned saute or frying pan over a medium-high heat, then brush the surface with oil. When it is hot, add as many chicken strips as will fit without over-crowding the pan and fry, turning once, for 4 minutes, until they are cooked through and tender.
Cook in batches, adding a little extra oil, if necessary. Remove the chicken from the pan and keep hot.
To serve, divide the shredded lettuce among the taco shells. Top each with a couple of spoonfuls of guacamole, followed by chicken. Add the tomato salsa and a dollop of creme fraiche to each, then sprinkle with sunflower seeds and serve.
:: Tom Kitchin's Meat & Game by Tom Kitchin, photography by Marc Millar, is published in hardback by Absolute Press, priced £26. Available now.