Head chef of The Northgate in Bury St Edmunds, Greig Young plunders Suffolk’s seasonal bounty to serve up a comforting autumnal dish
As summer comes to an end, soft fruits and summer berries finish and make way for a little more robust fruit and vegetables. I love autumn, less sunburn, the kitchen is a bit cooler, cooking becomes a bit more comforting and we welcome a great wild bounty for the team to enjoy.
Chestnuts, walnuts, fig leaves, blackberries, elderberries, apples, quince, damson, pears are all ready to be found and collected throughout Suffolk. We, as foodies, are very lucky here! I have to say being a chef surrounded with such a great wild larder, I often find myself scribbling on my notepad with something I must try or look up after tripping over mushrooms or finding some random looking plum. I’ll admit though I’m no forager, I’ll find bits and bobs – but I generally go and look for ideas or inspiration.
Every year I get excited for game season which kicks off on the glorious 12th with grouse and common snipe, then September/October onwards welcomes in partridges, pigeons, mallard and teal. Game for me is the perfect meat. It’s sustainable, affordable, lean, healthy and super delicious, but sadly under utilised. I think there is a common misconception that it is hard to cook, too strong, tough, expensive or some may even say cruel – but I wholeheartedly disagree and hopefully I can help with a few recipes and techniques below.
I grew up eating game. My stepfather Colin is a great shot. I remember skinning and butchering a whole deer at the age of 17. I was going hunting for rabbits with ferrets when I was even younger and there was always a brace of pheasant or partridge hanging outside in the later months. The year before last I was lucky to get into the final of National Game Chef of the Year, which was judged by chefs of the highest accolade.
We currently have partridge on The Northgate menu, served with curried pumpkin seed butter on toast, with a side salad of raw baby kale, black cabbage, nasturtiums and apple vinaigrette. Give the recipes a go and don’t be scared to mix and match the garnishes, make it work for you!
PARTRIDGE ON TOAST WITH PUMPKIN SEEDS AND KALE SALAD (SERVES 4)
4 partridge (legs off, cleaned crown, wishbone removed)
4 circles of sourdough bread
2 sprigs thyme
800ml chicken stock
40g table salt
2 bay leaves
6 pepper corns
2 cloves garlic
Leg curing mix:
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
1 lemon, zested
150ml duck fat or oil
Pumpkin seed butter:
100g pumpkin seeds
Pinch curry powder
50g butter (melted)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon raw cider vinegar
Salad (as much as you like):
Nasturtium leaves and flowers
Young cabbage leaves
Cavolo Nero tips
Mix all the ingredients for the leg curing mix and spread over the partridge legs, leave to cure in the fridge for 2 hours. Once cured cook in a pot with the duck fat at 120 degrees for 2.5 hours until fully tender. This can be done the day before. Put all the cooking liquid ingredients in a large pot and bring to the boil place the partridge crowns in making sure they are covered and remove from the heat cover with cling film or a lid and leave to poach for 12 minutes. When the time is up remove the partridge and reserve until ready.
Lightly toast the pumpkin seeds then blend with the remaining pumpkin seed butter ingredients until smoothish. This works well with a smaller blender or spice grinder.
In a medium hot pan cook your sourdough in a teaspoon of butter until golden. Top with a generous spoon of the pumpkin seed butter and reserve warm.
In the same pan place your partridge legs skin side down and cook until golden then place in the oven on a tray with the toasts for 5 minutes.
In the same pan colour the partridge crowns in the remaining butter until golden all over. Remove from the pan and rest for a few minutes.
Deglaze the pan with the cider and the thyme and reduce to a glaze.
Carve the breasts of the crowns and place on top of your toasts, brush on the cider glaze and top with some toasted pumpkin seeds, glaze the legs and place on neatly.
Mix all the salad leaves in a bowl with the vinaigrette ingredients and serve alongside – I serve this as a broken vinaigrette, so don’t worry too much about pre-mixing it.
Greig Young is head chef at The Northgate, Northgate Street, Bury St Edmunds
Call 01284 339604