With the start of the grouse shooting season taking place last month on the ‘Glorious Twelfth’, game is a hot topic and chefs are gunning to get game birds on their menus.

For those of you who don’t know, game is the meat of any animal that’s hunted for food instead of raised on a farm and as a result it’s always wild, natural and free-range. We’ve touched base with our Development Chef, Robbie Gleave, to find out what he loves so much about this wonderful seasonal produce and how exactly Hickory would serve the perfect game dish.

My first professional experience of the Game season kicking off was during my first job at The Ritz, London. As a young commis on the sauce section, you were a long way down the communication pecking order, but it became apparent that London’s finest had a race on to plate the first Grouse of the season.

It’s a long time ago, but I can say fairly confidently that I did indeed hear the blades of the helicopter descending on the local Green Park lawns, with the first of the seasons shoot from some far away Scottish estate. Were we the first to plate that year? I like to think so, but not sure whether the hanging time of just a few hours would have been enough to satisfy a Gastronomer’s palette.

Moving forward three decades and I am still inspired by the seasons and the fantastic produce they bring us, especially right here in Scotland. The Game we handle needs to be in great condition or the end result of the dish won’t be up to scratch.

Sight and smell initially determine the quality. There should still be an air of beauty and vibrancy about the fur or feathers with a brightness in their flesh. We rely heavily on our dealers and distributors to look after their part of the journey and maintain the quality of the produce.

As a young chef, I loved making terrines, with great game being a wonderful starting point. More recently, one of my favourite dishes would be a ‘Grouse Pithivier’. Slow cooked legs, just cooked breasts, a beautifully flavoured game gravy, lots of home grown herbs and an indulgent quantity of morels – all wrapped up in a rich buttery puff pastry. You can’t beat the simplicity!

Game is possibly one of the most traditional of our ingredients. One our ancestors would have survived on, and I like to think really appreciated. Would they have added some wild thyme, a juniper branch or foraged berries, playing with other foraged flavours? These successful pairings have been remembered and lay down the foundations for early recipes. I love that the essence of good food hasn’t changed.

At Hickory we steep venison haunches in whisky and serve your gravy in a pipette. We deliver just roasted quail and pine shoots to your table under a hickory smoke filled cloche and wrap rhubarb slithers in pancetta to decorate your wild duckling confit. However we create and innovate, the fundamentals remain the same. Great ingredients, handled with care, respect and appreciation, doing everything possible to be true to our philosophies, maintaining the original qualities of our produce through every step and ultimately delivering our customers the finest of dining experiences.

Find out more about more about our food and some sample menus: https://hickoryfood.co.uk/food-drink/