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.

His 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.

Be confident and just try some new recipes

Game isn't too tricky to cook, even though it will probably impress your guests, he says. "I've tried to make it as accessible as possible, so the person reading the book says, 'Do you know? I can do that'. And how much of a show-off that is... You have a dinner party and you knock up a bit of rabbit, a bit of wild buck, and they're like, 'Wow!'

"I think about my mum too - every year, someone would give her a brace of pheasants and, more often than not, they'll end up in the freezer. In the back of her mind, she's like, 'Oh God, I've got to do something with pheasant' and she's got one recipe, pheasant casserole, which is nice, you know, but there's so many different things she could do with that pheasant."

So 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... It's about getting out there and getting it."

Some children will eat game - Tom's do

Tom 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."

He takes them foraging and says: "I love to get the kids to understand that when something comes into season, that's when we're going to eat it. So when it's the start of the asparagus season, 'Right guys, come on, we're going to have asparagus tonight', or the first strawberries. They understand seasonality a little bit."

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.

Always being in the kitchen is key

"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."

His wife Michaela helps him stay grounded. "She keeps my feet on the ground because we get so many exciting things presented to us, like, 'Come and do a restaurant here', and naturally I'm like, 'Yeah, let's do it' and she's like, 'Seriously? You want to fly to Dubai every two weeks?' or something and it's like, OK, it's not so glamorous actually.

"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?"

The renowned chef shares three of his classic comfort dishes as autumn draws near.

Venison Sausage Stew


(Serves 4)

Olive oil

8 venison sausages

50g smoked lardons

200g celeriac, peeled and chopped

100g leeks, trimmed, chopped and rinsed

2 carrots, peeled and chopped

2 celery sticks, chopped

1 onion, chopped

1tbsp tomato puree

30g plain flour

250ml full-bodied red wine

5 juniper berries, crushed

250ml beef stock

1 bouquet garni

2 green apples

200g cooked chestnuts, halved

Hot tagliatelle to serve (optional)

Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper


Heat a flameproof casserole over a medium-high heat, then add a good splash of oil. When it is hot, add the sausages and stir for 3 minutes, or until they are well coloured all over, then remove from the casserole and set aside.

Add a splash more oil to the casserole, if necessary, then add the lardons and saute until they have rendered their fat and are well coloured. Add the celeriac, leeks, carrots, celery, onion and tomato puree, and continue sauteing for a further 1-2 minutes. Sprinkle in the flour and stir for 1 minute to cook out the raw flavour.

Add the wine and juniper berries, stirring to deglaze the pan, and boil until the wine reduces by half. Add the stock and bouquet garni, then return the sausages and any accumulated cooking juices to the casserole. Cover the casserole and leave to simmer over a medium heat for 20 minutes, or until all the vegetables are tender and the flavours blended.

Meanwhile, halve, core and chop the green apples.

Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, if necessary, then stir in the chestnuts and apples and warm through. Serve with fresh tagliatelle flavoured with freshly cracked black pepper.

Partridge and Pancetta Toasties


(Serves 4)

4 partridge breasts, skinned

Olive oil

Butter for spreading

4 sourdough bread slices

2 hard-boiled free-range eggs, sliced

8 pancetta rashers, cooked until crispy

Watercress sprigs

4 slices cheddar cheese - Tom's cheese of choice for this recipe comes from the Isle of Mull, but any strong cheddar would do

Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

For the onion compote:

50g butter

olive oil

2 white onions, sliced

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

2tsp thyme leaves


The onion compote is ready to use as soon as it is made, or it can be stored in a covered container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Heat a well-seasoned saute or frying pan with a lid over a medium-high heat, then add the butter with a splash of oil. When the butter is foaming, add the onions, garlic and thyme and season with salt and pepper. Cover with a wet piece of greaseproof paper, cover the pan with the lid, turn the heat to very low and leave the onions to sweat for 20-25 minutes until they are very tender. Transfer to a plate and set aside to cool.

When you're ready to cook, preheat the grill to high.

Meanwhile, place a partridge breast in between 2 sheets of clingfilm and use a meat mallet or rolling pin to lightly bash until flattened. Repeat with the remaining breasts. Pat the breasts dry and season them all with salt and pepper.

Heat a well-seasoned saute or frying pan over a medium-high heat, then add a splash of oil. When it's hot, add the breasts and sear them for 2-3 minutes on each side until cooked through, then set aside to rest for 5 minutes covered with kitchen foil. Fry the breasts in batches, if necessary.

Toast the sourdough slices on both sides under the grill, then lightly butter each. Do not turn off the grill.

Spread the pieces of toast with the onion compote and add the egg slices. Top with the partridge breasts, crispy pancetta, watercress and finally the cheese. Place the toasties under the grill until the cheese melts, then lightly season with salt and cracked pepper.

Blackened Chicken Tacos


(Makes 12)

4 free-range chicken breast fillets, each cut into 5 strips

100g Cajun spice mix

Olive oil

Sea salt

For the avocado and pea guacamole:

200g frozen peas

Olive oil

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

To serve:

1 Baby Gem lettuce, shredded

100g creme fraiche

12 small tacos shells

Sunflower seeds


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.

n Tom Kitchin's Meat & Game by Tom Kitchin photography by Marc Millar, is published in hardback by Absolute Press, priced £26. Available now.