A rich and hearty dish for cold days, from Elliot’s Cafe
“I’ve always had it ingrained in my mind that as a chef, you write the menu and then you source your ingredients—not so here,” says Matt Goddard, head chef at Elliot’s Café. “I often take a walk around the Market to see what’s good this week, or my supplier will say ‘I’ve got 10 kilos of this, do you want it?’ And we take it, make a dish with it, run it for a few days and then it’s gone. The ingredients come first, the dishes come second. It’s a really refreshing approach.”
Pheasant, for example, “is great at the moment, so we will keep doing it until it’s not around.” The birds are brought in from Swaledale Farm in Yorkshire, where they’ve enjoyed a life pecking at shoots across the Yorkshire Dales National Park. They’re hung “for a good amount of time” and dry-plucked to ensure the meat’s kept at its best. They arrive at the restaurant whole, where they’re butchered and fully utilised—“everything but the beak and the feathers,” Matt laughs.
“The legs and breast are simply grilled over silver birch. We always have some wood burning along with the charcoal on our great big grill, which gives it a lick of flavour—a little extra something.” The trimmings are braised and turned into ragu for pasta; the bones are used to make stock, which makes the basis of a rich and flavoursome sauce to go with the joints. “We add a little butter, some bacon and chestnuts and reduce it. It’s quite a potent little sauce, rich and hardy—perfect for the cold weather.”
Pink fir potatoes
The dish is plated up simply: “It’s a large plate but it comes without vegetables, so it would be great accompanied by some sides such as our grilled January king cabbage—a sweet, delicious cabbage that’s blanched and grilled hard for a good amount of char, dressed with olive oil and served with aioli—fried pink fir potatoes, and perhaps some purple sprouting broccoli, also in season, which we do with a little bit of bagna cauda and some herb toasts.”
As we approach the end of game season, now’s the perfect time to try it. “It’s quite light on the gamey flavour, so pheasant is a good introduction to game if you haven’t tried a lot of it, or don’t like anything too strong. But it doesn’t taste like chicken!” Matt advises. “The meat itself is quite lean, but under the skin there can be a nice layer of fat which is really tasty—and if you cook it just right, it’s juicy, tender and delicious.”