Mike Robinson is one of the most likeable and enthusiastic chefs whose passion for the outdoors and hunting makes him the obvious ambassador for game and wild food cooking and keen exponent of the country way of life. 'The countryside has always been my life, and that is reflected in my food – good ingredients cooked simply with flavour.'
Mike is the owner of the highly acclaimed Pot Kiln Pub and Restaurant in Yattendon, Berkshire www.potkiln.co.uk and co-owner of the successful Harwood Arms gastro pub in Fulham www.harwoodarms.com together with Brett Graham of The Ledbury fame. The Pot Kiln Anywhere catering company was set up in 2006 by Mike and friend Oliver Shute in response to a growing demand for traditional country cooking at private events and parties in the local area www.potkilnanywhere.co.uk.
Since 2007 De Dietrich has joined in partnership with Mike to use the latest innovative kitchen appliances in The Game & Wild Food Cookery School. Having spent most of his formative cooking experience in France, Mike has always been a keen exponent of cooking with induction, so French brand De Dietrich the pioneers of induction technology, was the perfect choice. The Game & Wild Food Cookery School www.gamecookeryschool.co.uk , based in a converted diary, has been designed by Mike and his team to be both functional and inspiring, and features only the most advanced kitchen appliances. Any course is an experience in both food and cooking using produce from local, sustainable resources including Mike’s well-maintained kitchen garden at the Pot Kiln pub just a short stroll up the lane!
Mike’s TV career began with the just-launched TV channel UKFood and after 3 successful series, Chalet Slaves, Good Food Live and Safari Chef has led to regular appearances on BBC 2’s Saturday Kitchen and as a co-presenter on Great Food Live for UKTV Food followed by Heavens Kitchen and Heavens Kitchen at Large filmed at the Pot Kiln during and after it’s renovations into the gastro restaurant it is today. Mike’s culinary skills can be seen at a number of events held throughout the year such as the Newbury Show, British Association for Shooting & Conservation (BASC - for which Mike is a Council Member) country fairs and events and particularly at Grand Designs where he is renowned for wowing the audience!
Following on from the Heaven’s Kitchen TV series Mike has written Wild Flavours featuring recipes from the series and a new book, Fit for Table is soon to be released in September alongside a new series of DVD’s – further information is available from the De Dietrich E-shop. You can also find Mike’s foodie deliberations in his monthly cookery article in The Field.
Every one of the recipes in this section has been a favourite of mine at one time or another, and I hope that if you try them, they will become yours too.
This is a classic French dish that we have speeded up without losing any of the flavour. It is the basis of a Cassoulet and also can be adapted to make Chinese duck pancakes by switching the French herbs for Chinese spices. The goose fat may be expensive, but it can be reused and reused, just strain and store in fridge or freezer until required again.
Make sure the Achilles tendon is cut right through at the ankle so that the meat can shrink down, leaving a pretty bone for presentation. Once the thigh bone is removed, wrap the skin and meat around so that it is in a nice round.
Lay out in a deep roasting tray and chop the thyme over the legs. Sprinkle liberally with salt (much more than you think you need; it is part of the preserving process) and pepper. Cover with the fat and push in the bay leaves then put in a low oven 160c for 2 hours until the meat is soft and the bone is revealed. Allow to cool and store covered in the fat until required, when the legs can be removed and sprinkled with a few breadcrumbs and roasted in the oven until golden and piping hot.
As duck is such a rich meat, it needs something sharp to cut through the fat. Redcurrants are perfect for this and make a lovely piquant sauce. Save the fat the renders out of the skin as it makes delicious roast potatoes.
Start by slashing the top of the skin on the duck two or three times with a sharp knife. This will help the fat render out leaving a crispy skin. Heat a frying pan until searing hot and place duck, skin side down, in the pan (not too close together or the meat will steam). When the fat is beautiful golden colour, turn the meat over and sear for 30 seconds on the other side then remove to a roasting tray. This can sit like this until you are ready to cook them.
For the sauce, gently cook the onions and garlic in a little of the duck fat. Add the wine, grated orange zest, juice, rosemary and tomato paste and reduce by half.
Heat your oven to 220c and only when its hot, put in the duck for SEVEN minutes only. Time it! Take out of the oven and rest for at least 10mins (20mins would be better). While the meat is resting, using a fork, push the redcurrants off their stalks into your sauce. Re-heat and stir until the redcurrants have burst and the juice is combined with the sauce.
Slice your duck breasts on an angle and serve with potatoes wedges cooked in duck fat and your piquant redcurrant sauce.
Not many people realise you can eat Muntjac. These little Chinese deer came over to the UK with the Duke of Bedford for his deer park at Woburn Abbey. They quickly spread and can now be found almost everywhere. The meat is dense and flavoursome. It can be treated like lamb in lots of ways as it is delicious both pink and slow cooked. We use it in this recipe as it holds its texture very well and makes a wonderful winter feast. Buy fresh dried tagliatelle for this, De Cecco do a good one.
The great thing about this recipe as it cooks overnight and the meat doesn’t need searing first, so it can be thrown together and left alone to make its magic. Gently sauté off the veg until soft then throw in all the rest of the ingredients. Give it a good stir, then put a greaseproof cartouche (circle lid) over the liquid and follow with a tight fitting lid. Put in a low oven 130c for 8 hours.
In morning, check the seasoning, give a good stir and it can be frozen or re-heated from this point when ready to serve. Mix well with the tagliatelle before serving (please don’t just plonk it on top). Shave lots and lots of good quality parmesan over before serving and a drizzle of Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
People travel from far and wide to come to the Pot Kiln and eat this, our most famous dish. It was inspired by the French form of butchering a "slab or tile" from the haunch of beef or lamb. It involves separating the primal muscles from the thigh, then trimming off all silvery sinew and fat until you are left with a piece of meat that looks like fillet but has the flavour of rump. All the muscles are different sizes and depending on which you have cut down into paves the size of your fist. Depending on which species of deer you have the haunches will be completely different sizes, so its hard to be specific about how many you will get from any particular beast. We would expect to get 11 paves from one haunch of Roe Deer, which is one of the most tender and delicious of all the British species.
Rub the paves with oil and tear off some of the thyme leaves and a good grinding of pepper. Don't season with salt at this stage or it will draw out the juices from the meat. Set aside (not in fridge as you need meat to be room temperature before cooking).
For the sauce, fry in a little olive oil the trimmings and mirepoix (carrots, celery and onion) until dark browned but not burnt. Add the wine and cook for an hour on a low temperature at a gentle simmer. Strain out the meat and veg and return to a clean pan. Add the port and brandy and reduce by half. Stir through the marmite, ketchup and jelly, then add the peppercorns just before serving.
Peel, chop and boil the potatoes until just cooked through. Strain and leave to steam for a couple of minutes so any excess water is removed. Push through a sieve, mouli or potato ricer to ensure there are no lumps. This is known to us as Dry Mash and can be stored like this for a few days. Just before serving, heat the cream and butter in a saucepan with salt and pepper. When hot, stir in the dry mash and beat until emulsified and soft.
Heat a frying pan until searing hot and have your oven hot at its highest temperature (230c). Sear the paves, one at a time, then put into a roasting tray with the rest of the thyme and roast for no more than FIVE minutes. Time it! Take out of the oven and rest for at least FIVE minutes on a wooden board.
When ready to serve, have the potato and sauce hot, then smear your potato over the bottom of the plate. Sit any green veg you have blanched on the potato, then slice the pave onto the veg. Drizzle with sauce and serve immediately.
The key to this dish is using freshly ground spices. We use an old coffee grinder that belonged to my mother. They can be picked up in car boot sales for next to nothing these days and are incredibly useful.
First, put all the whole seeds into a dry frying pan and roast over a high heat for a minute until the smell becomes pungent. Do NOT walk away or they will burn and keep tossing them around the pan.
Put all the spices into the coffee grinder and grind to a fine powder. Add the tomato paste and a tsp of the cream from the top of the coconut milk and whiz to a paste.
Fry the onion with the garlic and grated ginger in a touch of sunflower oil until soft then add the pheasant breasts. Once coloured, stir in the curry paste and cook out for a minute or two, then pour in the rest of the coconut milk. Cook for a few more minutes so that the pheasant is fully cooked, then season and sprinkle liberally with roughly chopped coriander.
This is a revelation as it is a fabulous way to use up pheasant thighs and utterly delicious in its creamy whisky sauce. A real winter warmer. Making pasta is a lot easier than you might imagine, but you could use fresh lasagne sheets sold in the cold counter.
Make your filling first. Gently sauté the onion and garlic until soft, add the pheasant and white wine. Gently simmer until pheasant is just cooked. Transfer meat and veg to a Magimix and blend with the cream to a smooth paste. Cool. Keep the cooking liquid for sauce.
To make the pasta, put flour, eggs and salt in the Magimix and blend until dough comes together. You may need to knead a bit more flour in if its very sticky. Start rolling the dough through the pasta machine, always keeping it dusted with flour. On setting 1, run a small piece of dough through, then immediately fold into three. Run through the machine in the opposite direction to the previous time. Repeat three times, then move to setting 2. Do exactly the same as on setting 1. On settings 3, 4 and 5 don't fold the pasta at all.
As soon as you have a flat strip, dot the filling down the centre with 1cm spacings until halfway along the sheet. Using a pastry brush, dampen around the filling, then fold over the other side of the pasta sheet to cover the filling. Press each ravioli individually from the centre of the filling, outwards, to remove any air pockets. Stamp out with a cookie cutter or cut around the ravioli with a knife. When each ravioli is made put into a deep dish and cover it with semolina flour so that they don’t all stick together.
For the sauce, sauté off the shallot and garlic as before. Add a touch of the wine from cooking the pheasant, then the stock, cream and rosemary. Reduce until thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Remove the rosemary, season and add the whisky. Keep warm.
Blanch your ravioli in boiling salted water and remove into a bowl. Mix the sauce with the ravioli and serve with grated parmesan and some rocket salad.
This is a simple and delicious way to use up pheasant breasts and popular with kids as well. Serve with sautéed potatoes and savoy cabbage.
Firstly remove the little mini fillet from the bottom of the breasts. Save these for a stir-fry. Put your breast between 2 layers of greaseproof paper then whack them thin with a rolling pin. This is great for getting out all that pent up angst we all seem to suffer from! When satisfactorily thin, soak in milk for an hour or two. This whitens the meat and if it is particularly gamey, makes the flavour milder for younger palattes.
Dry the meat off with kitchen paper, then arrange three flat bowls with seasoned flour, beaten eggs and lastly the breadcrumbs. Make sure you have a tray lined with greaseproof ready for the schnitzels.
If you are breadcrumbing by yourself (this is great to kids to get involved in by the way), try to keep one hand wet and one hand dry, otherwise you will end up with glue balls on the end of each of your fingers! Do one breast at a time. Dip into the flour, then shake off any excess. Dip in the egg, then lastly coat in breadcrumbs. If you have missed a bit, just re-dip in egg and back in breadcrumbs again. Lay out on the grease-proof.
When ready to cook and they are pretty quick, fill a big frying pan with 2cm sunflower oil and when it’s hot add your schnitzel. After a minute or two, turn them over to do the other side. Eat immediately with a wedge of lemon.
The key to this dish is small sweet Petit Pois peas and nice evenly pink pigeon breasts. It makes a delicious starter with one breast each or a light main course with two. As a main course it could be served with crushed roasted new potatoes.
Serves 8 as starter or 4 as a main
8 Pigeon Breasts, skin-off
200g frozen petit pois
½ pint Cider (preferably traditional)
2 Shallots, finely sliced
1 knob butter
8 rashers Streaky, Smoked bacon, cut into lardons
4 cloves Garlic, crushed
1 cup Sage leaves, finely sliced
1 sprig Rosemary
2 tsp Grain Mustard
Splash Double Cream
Start off by removing the "true-fillet" from the back of the pigeon breasts. This has a sinew that runs through it which will cause the breast to shrink when cooking if left on. Discard these.
Gently sauté the shallots in butter until soft but not coloured. Add the garlic and stir for a further minute before pouring over the cider and adding the sprig of rosemary. Allow to boil for a few minutes to remove the alcohol.
Meanwhile cook off the lardons in their own fat until crispy and drain on kitchen paper.
Heat a frying pan until searing hot. Rub the pigeon breasts with olive oil, salt and pepper and sear for 1 ½ minutes on each side then set aside to rest for at least 5 minutes.
While the pigeon is resting, Remove the rosemary and add the peas and sage to the cider. Stir in the cream, bacon and season (remembering that the bacon is salty!). Serve a spoonful of peas on a plate then slice your beautifully pink pigeon breasts over the top.
This salad is the signature starter at the Pot Kiln. We estimate that we have sold over 20,000 pigeon breasts since we opened in 2005! You can make the dressings in advance and keep for other uses, so this is actually a lot simpler than it sounds to make.
Make the French Dressing by mixing 2 parts Extra virgin olive oil to 1 part white wine vinegar. 1 tsp mustard and 1 tsp honey, with a little salt & pepper to season. Whisk together and set aside.
Slice the bacon into lardons and cook until crispy in pan with no added oil. Drain on Kitchen paper.
Cut the black pudding in bite-size chunks and heat through in a pan with a little olive oil until faintly crispy on the outside but still soft throughout.
Rub pigeon breasts with olive oil and salt and pepper just before cooking. Sear and really hot pan for 1 ½ mins on each side. In the last 30 seconds, splash a little Jerez vinegar over the pigeon and allow to reduce. Set aside to rest for 3-4 mins. This will allow the juices to redistribute themselves giving an even pink throughout.
Lightly dress your salad leaves with the French dressing and pile in the centre of each plate. Sprinkle the bacon and black pudding around the leaves. Carve the pigeon breast on an angle into 3-4 slices and arrange on top of the leaves. Drizzle the Balsamic Vinegar around the edge of the leaves with another drizzle of French Dressing. Sprinkle some Maldon salt and a grinding of pepper and serve immediately.
This is what we call proper traditional English food. Nothing beats potted meat served with fresh crusty bread and a fruity home-made chutney. Great for picnics, light lunches, a starter and freezes beautifully, so make more than you need. This needs to be cooked overnight, so think ahead!
Start by tying the bacon rinds together with the thyme, bay leaves and sage with kitchen string. Place in the bottom of a casserole dish with the venison, chopped bacon and all the rest of the ingredients and stir well. Cover with greaseproof paper and a tight fitting lid and put in the oven on 130c overnight (approx 8 hours).
In morning, remove all the meat from the casserole, leaving all the herbs and spices behind. Strain off some of the liquid.
Melt the pack of butter and pour off the milk solids so you are left with a clear liquid. Pour 1/3 into a Magimix with the meat and a ladle of the cooking liquid. Whizz up with salt and freshly ground pepper until smooth.
Pot into your ramekins and pour over the remaining melted butter to cover the meat. Slip a bay leaf under the butter for decoration. Chill. Serve straight from the fridge with bread and chutney.
This dish was created for the last Tuscan night at the Pot Kiln and was a roaring success. It is melt in the mouth tender and worth every bit of the effort to make it. This is a dish for when you have time to get stuck in. It can be made in advance and finished in the oven when you are ready for it.
Put the rabbit joints into a large dish and cover with the fat. Push in the rosemary and cover with grease-proof paper so it touches the fat. Put on a tight fitting lid and cook in the oven for 3-4 hours until meltingly tender.
At the same time, put the garlic bulbs into aluminium foil parcels, drizzle with a little olive oil and scrunch them up so they are sealed. Cook for 1 hour in the oven.
Gently sauté the leeks in butter until they are soft but not coloured. Cool.
Make the béchamel sauce by heating the milk with a bay leaf and the onion skinned and studded with the cloves. Add a few whole black peppercorns. Melt the butter and stir in the flour, then cook for a couple of minutes on a low heat, stirring to prevent burning. Slowly add the milk through a sieve and stirring to combine. When all the milk has been added check the consistency. It should be runny enough to pour but thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. If too thick, add more milk until correct. Grate half the parmesan into the sauce. Cool with greaseproof touching the top to prevent a skin forming.
When rabbit has cooled slightly, pick all the meat off the bones and discard the bones. Tear the meat into bite-sized pieces and mix through the two thirds of the sauce with the leeks. Squeeze the flesh from the garlic bulbs into a bowl and squash slightly before adding to the sauce as well. Season well.
In your lasagne dish, start layering the meat with the pasta sheets, starting with the meat and finishing with a layer of pasta. Spread the remaining white sauce over the top and grate the remaining parmesan over the top.
When ready to cook, put in pre-heated oven at 180c for 20 mins or until bubbling and golden. Serve with fresh salad leaves. Yum.
This dish makes a lovely Sunday lunch or smart main course; however table manners aside, nothing beats picking up the bird at the end and nibbling off those last juicy bits from the legs & wings!
This couldn’t be simpler, Spread the legs wide to even cooking time. Cut your bulb of garlic in half across the equator and stuff ½ up the cavity of each bird along with 2 sprigs of Rosemary. Season the top of the bird and spread with a little butter and lay bacon over the breasts.
Roast in a pre-heated oven (200c) for 20 mins then rest for 20 mins with a cloth over the top. This allows the juices to relax back into the meat, making it juicy and succulent.
Meanwhile, for the bread sauce – peel the shallot and stud with the cloves. Pour milk into a saucepan and heat with the onion and the thyme. Just before boiling point, turn off and leave to infuse. In a food processor, whizz up the bread til you have crumbs (use the pulse button as its not so fine). Stir the bread into the milk (onion & thyme removed) and warm to thicken. Add nutmeg and salt & pepper to taste.
Serve with all the trimmings: Game chips (potato slices crisped up in hot oil), roast potatoes (yes as well!), good quality redcurrant jelly and slow braised red cabbage. Pour the roasting juices over the meat.
This recipe may look incongruous at first sight, however, trust us. It is absolutely amazing and you really do need the quantities stated. Don't try and cut back on any of the ingredients as it won't work. The wine and oil create an emulsion sauce which is delicious with sautéed new potatoes and griddled courgettes. Please be aware that rabbit is boney and it might be a good idea to warn your guests that there may be small bones on their plate.
4 Wild Rabbits, skinned and jointed into legs, shoulders and the saddle cut in two (make sure that the liver is removed; the kidneys can stay as they are delicious. Also the belly flap and ribs and pelvis can be omitted)
Plain flour for dusting
1 ltr Olive Oil, don't use extra virgin as the flavour is too strong for this
1 ltr White Wine
5 BULBS Garlic (yes bulbs) cut in half across the equator
20 sprigs Rosemary
Salt & Pepper
1 lemon, squeezed
Start by heating a small amount of olive oil in a frying pan. Dip each joint of your rabbit in seasoned flour and dust off any excess. Fry the rabbit joints a few at a time, to colour, then transfer to a larger casserole dish.
Pour over the olive oil, wine and add garlic (skin-on!) and rosemary. Stir. Make a cartouche of grease-proof paper (a circular piece to fit the top of the pan) and push down so it sits on top of the liquid. Do not put a lid on, as we want the liquid to reduce a bit during cooking. Cook for 2 – 3 hours on a quiet simmer. Every so often, just lift the cartouche and stir gently to check the rabbit hasn’t caught on the bottom.
When ready, squeeze over the lemon juice and season to taste. Serve immediately as the emulsion will separate if left to cool. The meat should be meltingly tender and falling off the bone. Give each guest one leg, one shoulder and one loin section.