A new food season is getting into full swing at the moment. Picking fruit, digging for root vegetables and hunting game are some of jobs I’ll be getting up to over the next couple of months. You can expect plenty of rustic and comfort food dishes from us over the autumn and winter periods.
The hunting season is only a couple of weeks away. The Irish deer and duck seasons are starting on the first of September. This is my favourite time of the year, with the change in seasons and the shortening of the days. Autumn, to me, just spells good food. The choice of seasonal produce is immense. Some might say we are spoilt for choice.
I just love this time of year because it’s the start of the hunting season. As my passion for food and cooking grew over the years the more I got interested in sourcing my own ingredients. This is the main reason why I hunt today. Over the last ten years I have perfected my skills in hunting and field craft. Maybe you’ve heard of the term ” field to fork ”. Well, this is what I do. Just shooting a deer is not all that has to be done. After stalking your prey, which could take a couple of hours, you still have to take the all-important accurate shot. You then have to bleed the animal and field prep the carcass by removing the offal. Next you have to get the deer home and hang it until you get around to skinning it. I use a 6ft by 3ft stainless steel fridge for chilling my meat. My brother-in-law Alan, who is a refrigeration legend, refurbished and gave this fridge to me. It was going to end up in a skip and he knew exactly who would put it to good use. Alan has his own refrigeration company www.dcclimited.com and he has a wealth of knowledge in the world of catering.
So once your meat has been hung for long enough, 14 days usually, you have to prepare it. Luckily I come from a long line of butchers. My Uncle John, who only retired a couple of years ago, taught me so much about the trade that I now feel very comfortable behind the counter. But I have to say; you really just have to get stuck in. At first you can feel a little bit like Dexter, but as soon as you remember that you are preparing food for your family and not solving crime in Miami, you start to get comfortable with the process. Never forget food hygiene and disinfection when dealing with raw food. Food safety should be at the top of your list when you start to work with raw foods. Last year I completed a HCAPP (Hazard analysis and critical control points) course. The course was given by Ray Warrick from www.raytech.ie . What Ray doesn’t know about food hygiene isn’t worth knowing. Anyone thinking of working in the catering industry in Ireland needs this qualification. You can find more information about the importance of food hygiene on the Food Safety Authority of Irelands website www.fsai.ie