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James Close: Basking in French sunshine as well as Good Food Guide accolade

Head chef James Close was on holiday when the Good Food Guide put the Raby Hunt in its Top 50 restaurants in the UK

Grouse Salad
Grouse Salad

It has been an amazing two weeks at the Raby Hunt.

Firstly we took our annual holiday to explore Europe once again, which I’ll come to later. But first, the Good Food Guide named a North East restaurant in its UK top 50 for the first time. And it was the Raby Hunt.

Highly regarded by chefs and restaurant-goers alike, with particular attention paid to those chefs and restaurants who make it into the Top 50, the ranking is a real achievement and we are delighted.

I was awoken very early by my fellow chefs trying to contact me as soon as the news broke. Needless to say it was quite a thing to wake up too.

So we arrived back to the restaurant full of new ideas and a renewed sense of achievement.

I have spent the last two weeks in France wandering around the local markets, which in my opinion are the holy grail of fresh produce and where I would shop for my food everyday given the chance.

I try with my local veg producer to get new and exciting fresh vegetables and salad every day before incorporating it into a dish - it’s the French ideal and I’m always hoping to replicate it.

Arriving back in September is a great time to come up with new ideas as game season is in full flow.

The North East is full of amazing places to hunt and acquire some of the worlds greatest game. We forget how blessed we are in the region to be surrounded by such wonderful countryside and varying wildlife.

New on the menu this month is Grouse. This time of year its easy to get your hands on from any decent butcher.

Grouse can first be hunted on the August 12 – commonly referred to as the ‘glorious twelfth’.

Game dishes will always divide opinion in terms of taste and ethics. But source correctly and cook it right, it’s a firm favourite and such a welcome change from our staple chicken or beef.

I always make sure my grouse is responsibly sourced and third party accredited and this week, I put together a game salad using Grouse and local veg.

Grouse Salad

You will need:

1 Whole Grouse

200g various salad leaves, different colours and sizes

50g Green Kale

Left over crusty bread (half a loaf)

100g Best Black Pudding

50g Pancetta

Herbs – Tarrogon, Parsley, Chive

Black Pepper & Salt.

Olive Oil

How to Make:

Chop the break into small cubes, season with salt and pepper, sprinkle with olive oil – Place on a baking tray and roast in the oven for 10 mins at 180 degrees

Now place the pancetta between two flat oven baking trays (with baking parchment if you have it) for around 10 mins at 180 degrees until everything is golden brown.

Set both of these aside.

Prep and pre-wash the salad, dry and leave out at room temperature.

In the oven place some kale leaves so they dry out and crisp up. Once crispy (this should only take minutes) set aside.

Now for the Grouse.

Season the skin well and place in frying pan on full heat browning the skin until crispy. Once a good all round brown colour is achieved – place in the oven at 180 degrees for 18 mins.

Once cooked take out and leave to rest for 8-10 mins.

Slice of the breasts and cut diagonally into a 1cm thickness strip.

Arranging the salad in a bowl, scatter the salad leaves with croutons, pancetta, kale and throw together with a little seasoning and some vinaigrette (any will do – just ensure its light)

Dice and pan fry the black pudding for 2 mins either side so it’s crispy on the top but soft in the centre. Toss into the salad.

Place the cut breasts of the grouse over the top and serve.

You might wonder what to do with the grouse legs that are still on the bird? Eat them for yourself – chefs treat – they are delicious!

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