TRAVELLING chef Philippa Davis from Shaftesbury is back in Scotland, cooking for a shooting party on the Cawdor Estate near Inverness, home to many game birds and beasts, wild salmon, and Shakespeare’s Macbeth (which inspired her to flights of verse and fancy but probably didn’t harm the food!) …
The train journey up from Edinburgh was through thick swirling mists, then pretty snow and by toiling streams bubbling with dark waters. So foul and fair a day I had not seen, though they do say in Scotland if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes. A show-stopping landscape greeted me upon arrival, along with the sound of cackling pheasants, perhaps celebrating they had made it thus far through the season?
I was to cook at Drynachan Lodge (www.cawdor.com) for a party of 14 and was excited to be asked to laden my menus with game from the estate – woodcock on toast for breakfast, roast pheasant for lunch ( this postcard’s recipe, roast pheasant with apple, bacon, cream and wholegrain mustard), and braised mountain hare with dried porcini, red wine, chopped watercress and tagliatelle smothered in butter and parmesan for dinner.
To finish that day’s feasting it was a case of something wicked this way comes to the table in the form of dessert – pavlova with blackcurrants picked from the garden in summer.
I hadn’t cooked hare before and had assumed it was mostly off-limits for shooting. The mountain hares from the estate (whose fur turns a beautiful white in winter) had been affected a few years back with ticks and so numbers were being kept down to stop it from spreading. Fortunately they still remain edible. It always amazes me the immense task of managing a wild environment and the careful balance that must be kept for everything to survive. If problems like ticks are not dealt with in one fell swoop the ecosystem can become unbalanced.
The day’s shooting kicked off well with clear skies, excited dogs and stylishly dressed guns (a person shooting) heading off to their first pegs.
At the end of the day the head gamekeeper gives a little de-brief and lets the guns know how many birds were shot and often lays out a display of the day’s bag. Then the exhausted but happy dogs can collapse back into the land rovers for the ride home and the game keepers, beaters, flankers, pickers up (those collecting the shot birds) and guns head off for afternoon tea and wee drams to celebrate the day’s success.
• For Philippa’s postcard recipe for roast pheasant with apples, bacon and cream and wholegrain mustard and other postcard recipes visit www.philippadavis.com
Pictured is the pavlova with blackcurrants picked from the garden in summer.
A dashing stream on the Cawdor Estate