A true countryman and owner of a fine dining restaurant in Mayfair, London specialising in game cookery, Richard Corrigan's recipes have real provenance, as Marcus Janssen discovered.
As a chef, Richard Corrigan's philosophy is firmly rooted in a sense that food should reflect both who we are, and where we live. Born in County Meath, Ireland, he was raised in a farming family that grew, fished for and hunted much of the food that came to the table. “Game is close to my heart,” he says. “Growing up on a farm in Ireland gave me an appreciation for wholesome, home-grown cooking. As a child, I would go out foraging, trapping and hunting with my family which helped me understand and respect the ingredients I now cook with.”
This goes some way to explaining why he chose to focus primarily on Irish and British-sourced game and fish in his eponymous Mayfair restaurant. “I grew up around hunting and fishing,” he adds, “it was a big part of my childhood. My family were keen to teach me to respect the quarry, and I taught myself how to get the best flavour from it. I have been catching and cooking game since I can remember and so, with Corrigan's Mayfair, it seemed like a natural choice to make – that, and the fact that game is delicious!”
But it's not just world-class game and venison cookery that Richard has a reputation for – in 2007 his wild salmon dish won him a place at the banquet to cook for HM the Queen in the BBC series The Great British Menu, a feat he has achieved an unprecedented three times (2006, 2007 and 2010). “Whether it's fish or meat, people are far more concerned about where their food has come from these days,” he says. “They want organic and they are beginning to care more about sustainability, which is a fantastic thing. I think this is why game is becoming more popular – it is about traceability and heritage – having Irish and British fare sourced on our doorstep.”
But, despite its increase in popularity, Richard believes that more needs to be done to educate people on the virtues of game. “Many people think that all game is very strong in flavour, but of course it isn't,” he says. “We need to teach them about the different types of meat – spring rabbit has a delicate taste and a young grouse simply griddled with some game chips is both simple and delicious.” Indeed, when it comes to Richard's personal preferences, he has an obvious affinity for grouse, both in a sporting and culinary context: “As soon as the Glorious Twelfth comes around, you can't beat being on the moors with a loaded gun. After this, I love coming up with new and exciting recipes for my restaurant which will have special game dishes throughout the season.”
Richard tries to spend as much time as possible on the moors during the grouse season, but it's not always easy to get away from his three restaurants in London: “I tend to shoot in Northumberland with a good friend of mine who runs an estate up there. It's on the Pennines to the north of Weardale. We'll spend the day on the moors and I'll then come back to London with a brace of birds for the Mayfair kitchen.
“I really enjoy shooting in the North of England. The countryside up there is a world-away from London. But if I get the chance, I also love to hunt wild boar in Burgundy, France. Boar makes a great stew and goes perfectly with a good French red wine and a fresh baguette to soak up the juices. But I'm definitely more of a bird shooter than a stalker – I can't stay quiet long enough to stalk a deer! Also there are so many different types of bird, I like thinking up a range of different dishes and flavours I can pair with them afterwards.”
“And not only are country sports a sociable thing, I also think that people are becoming more interested in where their food is sourced from and they are embracing their heritage and the lure of the countryside more. Put these two together, food and heritage, and you have yourself a good weekend ahead of you!”
Richard Corrigan's Grouse and Foie Gras Pies
200g button mushrooms (washed)
8 shallots (peeled and chopped)
2 cloves garlic (chopped)
6 savoy cabbage leaves
(blanched and stalks removed)
150g foie gras
250ml veal stock
Salt & pepper
100ml olive oil
3 egg yolks
25g carrot (finely chopped)
25g celery (finely chopped)
25g shallot (finely chopped)
25g leek (finely chopped)
250g strong flour
125g beef fat (minced)
20ml iced water
1tsp cracked black pepper
Remove legs and breast from the bone with the livers and heart, roast the bones and leave to one side.
Seal the breast in butter, 1 minute on each side. Place on a cooling tray to rest.
Caramelise the mushrooms in a large heavy pan, then place on a chopping board and chop until fine.
Place the shallots and garlic in a pan and cook until soft. Next, add the chopped mushrooms and half the Madeira and cook until dry. Leave to cool.
Chop the grouse bones and lay out in a pan with the mirepoix and a little oil and caramelise. Add the Madeira and cover with the stock. Cook for 1 hour then pass through a fine sieve into a clean pan.
Next, add the grouse legs and braise slowly for 1½ hours or until the leg meat is soft.
Take the liver and heart from the grouse and chop. Add to the mushrooms.
Heat a pan and cut the foie gras in half, colour on both sides. Season and remove from the pan, any fat left in the pan should be added to the mushrooms.
To make the pastry, combine everything together and cling film the mixture. Leave in the fridge for 1 hour.
To assemble the pie
Using a large square of cling film placed on a bench, lay a cabbage leaf in the middle, then the mushroom mixture on top, then the grouse breast. Next, place a seasoned piece of foie gras on top of the grouse breast. Finally, add another grouse breast and a final layer of mushroom.
Pull all four corners of the cling film together and tie. Leave in the fridge and repeat with the other grouse breasts. You should have two large cabbage balls ready to cover in pastry. Remove the cling film from the cabbage. Roll out the pastry and cover with egg yolk using a pastry brush, particularly the sides. With the cabbage ball in the centre, pull the pastry up and around to encase the cabbage. Remove excess pastry and place on a baking tray.
Place the pies in a hot oven for 12 minutes (180°C/380°F). Remove and leave to rest on separate plates.
Cut the pies in half and place a half on each plate. Place a leg on top and spoon over the sauce. This dish goes really well with a generous spoonful of pickled cabbage. Spoon over sauce and serve.
For the sauce
Reduce the braising liquid by half and add a knob of cold butter.
Remove the thigh bone from the leg and warm the legs in the sauce.