José Souto, one of the leading game chefs in the UK, with an unrivalled knowledge of harvesting, preparing and cooking game, is preparing to launch his new book, Feathers: The Game Larder, at The Game Fair this year. Here, the senior chef lecturer in culinary arts at Westminster Kingsway College in London explains why how he put it together and what it is all about.
I’m excited about the launch of my new book at The Game Fair this year. Photographer Steve Lee and I worked hard on our first, Venison: The Game Larder, which we launched successfully at The Game Fair a few years ago. Since then, we have been working just as hard on our second book, Feathers: The Game Larder. It features all the feathered game that there is in the UK.
For this book, we spent four years going out to shoots all around the country. We aimed to get pictures of 11 different species of bird in the UK and we put the book together in the same way put our venison book together. It’s a story of game. There’s all the information and background you need about the individual birds themselves – where they come from; what they eat; how many portions you get from each individual bird; the preparation… Then, the book goes into how to pluck a bird; how to skin a bird; how to gut a bird… all in step-by-step guidelines. We’ve included preparation of large birds, small birds and wildfowl with a few of the different things you can do with those birds.
The book also gives readers plenty of background and history on the harvest of game. So we talk about falconry being the oldest method of harvesting game for the table, especially game birds. We talk about lining and netting, which are very old methods of harvesting birds, right up the point when the gun was produced. We talk a bit about guns and cartridges that are used in shooting.
The book has 32 of my recipes – of all sorts of things. Within my recipe section there’s an area where we capture a day’s hawking. Because I’m a falconer, it captures the whole essence of day’s a hawking.
The photography is stunning throughout the book. We spent eight years on the first book and four years on the second to make sure we had sufficient quality and variety. The most difficult parts of the book to put together were the two sections with recipes from famous chefs such as Michel Roux Jnr, Phil Howard, Brian Turner. They’re all friends of mine and they all submitted recipes. There are 13 celebrity chefs in there, so there are nearly 60 recipes in the book altogether.
But it is much more than just a recipe book, It is a story book too, an education about game birds in the same way that my last book was an education about venison. At the end we also talk about conservation in all of the key areas that we shoot in. We talk about what would happen if all these places were not maintained for shooting and if we lost them.
There’s also a little bit about pest control and a bit about the ethics of shooting. I make a comparison between chicken farming and shooting pheasant. Some people are happy to eat chicken that have hardly see the light of day, but they then have a problem that’s living wild and then being shot. It’s very different.
Steve Lee and I have worked on putting together a book that is an education about game birds in the UK. Steve’s fantastic photography has the ability to bring to life the story I tell. I provide explanations throughout this book, dispelling game myths and trying to inform people about all aspects of the game world.
This is as much a book for the shooting fraternity as it is for the foodie and chef, with words that try to guild and inform about a subject that is controversial for those who do not understand it and the life that goes with it. Steve and I hope that this book will open people’s eyes to the subject of game and encourage them to eat more game.