Simon Davis, the chef at The Yew Tree in Highclere, celebrates the Glorious 12th – and the start of the grouse season – on the Yorkshire moors…
In mere hours, Simon Davis will have collected grouse from the first drive of the season and bring them back to the Hampshire inn to be ready to serve 50 guests, who wait in anticipation of the freshest game available in the country.
“If given an opportunity like this, you don’t pass it up,” he says. “The young grouse from the first drive of the new season is the freshest, most exquisite quality game there is. In the first week, and especially the first day, it is the best time to enjoy grouse. In order to provide my guests with the best, I needed to go north and be back in time for dinner service.”
Simon spent the evening of August 11th at a local B&B, Laurel’s Wreath, at 9:00am to meet the convoy for the first drive. Once the first drive ended and he’d collected the birds, it was a race against time back down to the Yew Tree. “I had a prep kitchen and chiller set up in the back of my Volvo. I was plucking feathers and trimming wings as we sped down the motorway. It was comical!”
Simon returned by 4:30pm, to get ready for dinner service, offering a whole roast bird and barbecued half bird, with honey heather dressing and a summer ‘slaw. “Traditionally, birds from the earlier drives are barbecued during the shoot day to snack on during elevensies. We wanted to echo that in the dishes we prepared on the evening to celebrate an aspect of the sporting culture.”
A member of BASC, Simon is a keen member of the shooting community and finds it extremely important to his work as a chef. “I’ve shot on and off throughout my life, having grown up on the Yorkshire moors. I am fully supportive of the benefits of shooting, as it supports the local economies in providing jobs and industry. Additionally, from a chef’s point of view, I want the very best when it comes to my work. This experience has been a dream come true in seeking the best quality game in its greatest condition. For me, commitment to participating in a grouse race like this one is the key to providing the best. I had a wonderful time and could not have achieved it without an amazing team whether they were on the moors with me, or back at the Yew Tree greeting guests, or working away in the kitchen.”
Simon’s Glorious Grouse recipe
Prepare your whole grouse trimmed and tied, and season before pan roasting on the bone. Seal it, 6 minutes on one side and 6 minutes on the other side. Take it out and let it rest. Bake with red wine prune and pancetta stuffing.
Red wine, prune and pancetta stuffing
- 100g diced pancetta
- 50g butter
- 1 diced onion
- 1 crushed clove garlic
- 6 picked sprigs thyme
- 1 kilo breadcrumbs
Mix all ingredients, then add 100g prunes, having soaked overnight in 50 ml of red wine. Add the chopped prunes to mix, then add 250g of chicken stock and add salt and pepper to season. Stuff some of the breast with mix and bake the rest alongside.
Serve with game chips (recipe below), summer greens and a fine Nyetimber rosé.
Cut potatoes into match sticks and sprinkle with salt. Leave for 20 min then pat dry with a tea towel. Deep fry at 170 deg until crisp then remove and drain.
For more information about The Yew Tree in Highclere, including news, events and offers visit the website or call +44 (0)1635 253360 for bookings.