He Got Game


Game Plan

I have been a great advocate for Scottish game since I was a young cook. It might be surprising to most people how many light, balanced dishes you can achieve with game. Long gone are the days of hanging your catch till it is re-animated with maggots and stinks of mort elle-même. These days it can be shot, then hung from 2- 14 days in a cool place to let the rigormortis relax and to allow the enzymes to break down and tenderise the meat. After this it’s down to the chef, and I’ve found that brining for a short time then cooking the meat at a very low controlled temperature, with a final flash in a screaming hot pan to caramelise, gives unbeatable consistent results.

I feel that the best and most simple approach to a good drink or good plate of food is seasonality and locality. I firmly believe that the minute we make contact with the source of where our food comes from we can really connect with the produce and instantly be inspired to create new and exciting dishes. For me, cooking and foraging on Islay has led to some great working relationships and friendships.

Mutual Respect

One of these relationships is with Scott Brown, the Islay estates game keeper. He’s passionate about the beasts and I’m passionate about the produce, so there’s an energy and pride that flows through the whole process of hunting – gathering – preparing – eating. He knows that I’m respecting the produce in my processes and I know he also practises good husbandry, so there’s a strong platform of mutual respect. It’s very rare in the city that a chef can go and speak to the guy who’s killed the animal that ends up on the plate. I’ve found seeing the animals before they are jointed has given me a more enriched connection with the finished dish.

Recently in a discussion with Scott whilst walking round the game larder viewing the hung corpses of recently stalked stags, I was inspired to ask what was done when the stag was bled- so far nothing to date. I suggested he kept it for me and I would make a traditional blood sausage (similar to the French boudin noir). If this can be achieved we are on the brink of a new exciting Islay recipe.

Seasonality and Terroir

Blood and game work well together because of the iron-y flavour.

Flavour Combinations, Seasonality and Terroir

I have already played with spiking a blood sauce recipe with the gin to great success, replacing the the brandy of classical French cooking. Blood and game work well together because of the iron-y flavour.

Juniper and wild game are a classical pairing and a great flavour match, but why? If you look at it from the point of view of the terroir that they live in, deer have been known to graze plants with high pinene content, and whatever an animal eats comes through in its meat – if you look at Iberian ham, it tastes nutty, because it feeds off acorns. Venison works well with mushrooms for the same reason; visualise the forest. You can almost taste the berries off red deer in bramble season, and when brambles are in season, cep mushrooms are in season – instantly you have a pairing. If you follow this formula, and get creative, most of the time you can get seasonal, tasty, well-matched dishes.

Shared Values

Another thing I love about Scott’s approach is that he uses everything without a scrap of waste; this is how I was taught to cook. All his trimmings are being turned into sausages and burgers, the antler and skulls are treated with artisanal love, bleached till stunning white and mounted on shields for the gentlemen that have been responsible for the animals’ rapid exit from Terra Madre. Elevating the food we eat into a trophy or a symbol is something that I support – in some ways honouring the ingredients is the business I’m in. I’ve got a pair of Scott’s antlers adorning the signage for my new venture, Fallachan nights at Studio 93.


Scott is a great guy always open to getting me anything within his capabilities, and having one direct line of communication enables my cooking to be more spontaneous. So far, that’s led to my having the pleasure of working with a fine array of the wildlife that can be shot in season on Islay – young rook, wild hare, Roe deer, Red deer, Greylag geese. The perks of personally knowing the hunter…

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