Any credible chef knows that seasonal produce is by far the best when it comes to making food worthy of accolades. Flavours are more intense, availability is guaranteed and it shows a chef's respect for his ingredients, and the impact his cuisine has on the environment.
So what better way to find out what the best seasonal produce is and where to get it than by asking some of the world’s best chefs for their suggestions?
This week FOUR asked British chef Oliver Lesnik, Head Chef at Great Taste at The Cadogan what his your favourite seasonal produce is and where he sources it from.
All the produce used on the menu at Great Taste at The Cadogan are award-winners at the Great Taste Awards. But Head Chef Oliver Lesnik’s ultimate favourite seasonal ingredient, he tells us, is “British Game, such as grey leg partridge, teal or woodcock.
I buy my game from two butchers; Allen’s of Mayfair and Butcher & Edmonds. I have known the guys from Allen’s of Mayfair, and Butcher & Edmonds, since I did my apprenticeship at The Connaught Hotel. That was 15 years ago now but Allen’s of Mayfair is still a must for meat and game lovers. The best time to visit is in the run up to Christmas.”
English Partridge Wellington served with swede puree, roast turnips and kale
2 x Partridges, breasts and legs removed, carcass chopped and reserved
10g sea salt
½ tbsp black peppercorns, crushed
½ garlic clove, finely sliced
½ fresh bay leaf, torn
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 juniper berry, crushed
150g duck fat
freshly ground black pepper
150g onion, chopped
1 sprig fresh thyme, leaves only
1 fresh bay leaf
120g/4oz flat mushrooms, chopped
100ml double cream
800g puff pastry
2 free-range eggs for egg wash
40g/1½oz duck fat
Partridge carcass (see above)
110g/4oz white onion, sliced
60g/2oz celery, sliced
1 bottle old Henry beer
400ml/14fl chicken stock
2g/¼oz arrowroot, mixed with a little cold water
salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the pie, place the legs, skin side down into a large bowl. Sprinkle over the sea salt, crushed black peppercorns, sliced garlic, thyme leaves & bay leaf. Lightly mix together, then cover the bowl and marinate in the fridge for 6 hours. This is a light curing to slightly season and flavour.
After 6 hours, rinse the marinade off the leg meat and pat dry with a clean kitchen towel.
Place 100g of the duck fat into a bag and add pigeon legs, cook for 2 hours in water bath at 90C. This gentle cooking will slowly break down the firm collagen within the tissue of the muscle, changing the texture of the meat so it is melting. When the legs are cooked through, set aside and allow to cool in the fat.
Season the partridge breasts with a little sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Heat a frying pan until medium-hot, add the tablespoon of duck fat and fry the pigeon breasts, flesh side down, for 1 minute, until the skin is golden-brown and crisp and the breasts are rare. Remove from the heat and set the breasts aside to rest for a few minutes. Return the pan used to cook the partridge legs to the heat, add the onions and fry for about one minute, then add the thyme, sage, bay leaf, and juniper berries and cook for 3-4 minutes, or until the onions are softened and light golden-brown.
Increase the heat to high, then add the chopped mushrooms and fry for 2-3 minutes, or until golden-brown and any excess moisture in the pan has evaporated.
Add the cream and reduce until thick. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl and season to taste, with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Remove the cooled partridge leg from the duck fat and flake the meat off the bone. Roughly chop the leg meat, then stir into the mushroom mixture. Cover the bowl with cling film and chill in the fridge until needed.
Cut out eight 10cm puff pastry discs and place onto trays lined with silicon paper.
Place the partridge breasts head to toe in the centre of the pastry disc overlapping each other.
Turn the filling out from the bowl and cup onto the centre of breasts filling any gaps. Brush the edges of the pastry disc with some of the beaten egg, then drape the larger pastry disc over the filling. Press around the filling with your fingers to seal, making sure there are no air pockets. Repeat the process with the remaining pastry and filling, placing each finished pie onto a tray lined with parchment paper. Chill in the fridge for 10-15 minutes.
Remove the pies from the fridge and trim off any excess pastry using a 10cm/4in pastry cutter. Brush the pies with the remaining beaten egg, then score the top with the back of a knife, creating half-moon patterns across the pastry. Chill in the fridge until ready to cook.
Preheat the oven to 200C. Place a baking sheet in the oven to heat up.
For the sauce, take the reserved partridge carcass and chop into 3cm/1¼in pieces.
Heat a large frying pan until hot, add the duck fat and the partridge carcass and fry for 4-5 minutes, or until the carcass is golden-brown all over. Transfer the pieces to a bowl.
Return the pan to the heat and fry the onion and celery for 3-4 minutes, or until light golden-brown. Then return the carcass pieces to the pan.
Pour in the beer, bring to the boil, and reduce in volume by half.
Add the cold stock to the pan and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. The cold stock will trap any impurities and force them to the surface as it comes to the boil. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. 20 minutes is just long enough to extract all the flavours from the carcass - any longer than this and it will start to stew and taste old.
Pass the mixture through a fine sieve into a clean pan, pressing down well to extract as much sauce as possible. Bring the sieved sauce to a simmer, then add the diluted arrowroot to the pan and stir. Cook for 1-2 minutes, until the sauce thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon.
Slide the pies onto the hot baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, until the pastry is golden-brown and crisp.