Sat Bains, chef proprietor of Restaurant Sat Bains with Rooms, a two-star Michelin restaurant in Nottinghamshire, explains his entry into game shooting.
Robert Cuthbert: Have you got much game on the menu at the moment?
Sat Bains: “Hare, grouse and partridge. We only really do tasting menus here and the beauty of that is we make sure each menu – seven or 10-course – includes game. We want to celebrate game, so we only have them as main courses. There is no, what I call soft meat… your generic pork, lamb and beef, which you can have all year round. We want to showcase the historic British larder, so August through to February we only have game on; because it’s a tasting menu, there is no choice, you are having it whatever. The beauty is that people are trying it for the first time and are shocked by how much they like it – they are surprised by how much they enjoy the depth of flavour.”
RC: Do you ever shy away from flavours that are too punchy?
SB: “No, it’s all about flavour. The whole restaurant is geared for flavour first… it dictates the menu. We are always trying to break the game birds down into two or three elements. For example, with hare at the moment we are making a black pudding from the blood, the loins and the saddle are roasted, and then we do a rillette with the legs, adding a little pork because they can be dry. With partridge, we’re currently making a ragu with the leg meat, so it’s more like a Bolognese with a seaweed in there too; it gives it a lovely earthy flavour. We serve it first, before the breast, so people are having it in two hits and getting that real depth of flavour. With grouse, we mix the leg meat with pork and make sausage rolls. The sausage roll goes out first and then the breast, so again, you get it in a two-time hit… a real gastronomic treat.”
RC: Have you been out with the gun much this season?
SB: “I only started shooting last year. We did clays at Gleneagles at Andrew Fairlie’s place; that’s what gave me the bug. It was me, Tom Kerridge and Claude Bosi. All three of us decided to take up shooting at the same time. For the last year we’ve all been shooting clays, but of course we had missed the season, so we went to Cordoba in Argentina to do the doves. We had about 3,000 doves each. I do think my guy had a clicky finger and made out I shot more than I actually did because he wanted a proper tip. It was incredible. There are 20 or 30 million doves over there. Because they are coming from all different angles, you are getting so many varied shots.
“This year, my first shoot is at Morston Hall in Norfolk. I’m going with Michel Roux senior and Mark Edwards from Nobu – there are quite a few of us going. It will be a purely chefy shoot. We are going the night before for some red wine and game and then we go out shooting for the day, which I am really excited about. It’s my first proper one. I’ve been on a couple of simulated days in Derbyshire and it’s really set me up for it.”
RC: Is Derbyshire home for you?
SB: “I’m in Nottinghamshire and I have two local clay guys near the Leicestershire border. I go on a Saturday morning to Doveridge Clay Sports with a friend and we do about 150 birds every Saturday. We recently finished on a 50 bird partridge flush and I loved it.”
RC: So, what do you shoot with?
SB: “I’ve got a Browning, bought from Simon Hatfield in Loughborough. It’s a second-hand one. It just felt so right. The one I had before kept knocking into my chin. The stock wasn’t big enough. So this is my first real gun. I didn’t want to go crazy, I just wanted to get settled with one. I will probably look at another gun later next year but I’d like to get a few shoots under my belt first. I love all aspects of shooting. I even love the gun cleaning. I get back to the restaurant after a shoot day and I literally spend about half an hour just cleaning my gun. It’s like taking care of my knives in the kitchen; there is a real sense of achievement afterwards.”
RC: It’s interesting that your shooting buddies are mainly chefs?
SB: “We are all good friends and we have all come up in the industry together. We are similar ages, with our own restaurants, so it made sense that we do stuff together because we are all in the same peer group.”
RC: What would be your ultimate game dish?
SB: “I think it would have to be hare. It has an incredible deep, deep flavour, obviously coming from the blood. It epitomises the game season for me. Obviously I love grouse, but game reminds me of the cold and being wrapped up and for me it reminds me of a hare on a wintery field.
“I love the smell, that smell when you get it in the pan. It’s a wonderfully heady aroma especially with those delicious winter spices.”