Field to fork: cookery at Chapter One

Andy McLeish at work

Andy McLeish at work - Credit: Archant

Chef patron Andy McLeish’s butchery masterclass

Most Monday mornings don’t find me sporting a butcher’s apron and confronting a haunch of recently shot venison with a brace of very sharp knives to hand. Honest.

But this was a very different start to my week, as I’d been invited to join Chapter One restaurant’s Michelin-starred chef patron Andy McLeish for the launch of his new food series. And instead of just sending out a press release, a group of journalists had been invited to experience the Field to Fork course via a roe buck butchery demonstration by the master. And then replicate what we’d been shown.

Terror does not begin to describe it, especially as my fellow writers seemed far better qualified than I felt, but Andy is a great teacher, calm and endlessly patient, and it quickly started to be rather good fun.

Before class we enjoy coffee, croissants and a chat together in the private upstairs dining room. Andy tells us he wanted to be a chef ever since he was about seven or eight. “Mum was ill one Christmas and dad was a useless cook so I did the Christmas dinner and wheeled it in on my skateboard.”

There are no skateboards involved in Andy’s expert demonstration in whole carcase butchery using a Chart Farm roe deer. The course is designed to explore the different cuts of the meat and its uses and builds up to the finale when the class gets taught how to prepare the main course for lunch – in our case, a Venison Wellington.

But there was a lot to learn before getting to eat our own handiwork and I was quite frankly amazed to learn that you could get five different cuts from one haunch (“the most interesting part of the whole carcase for me,” says Andy).

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Nothing gets wasted, either, and while we were all rather lavish with our trimming, all the offcuts go towards mince (it would have been a good day to pop in for a posh burger), as does the silverskin, which we learned to tease off with our fingers and those very sharp knives.

And of course the bones are perfect for a venison stock that is a great base flavour for so many dishes.

In no time at all I was looking rather proudly at my five neatly displayed cuts on the chopping board and choosing my fillet to turn into the perfect Wellington.

The final stage of the recipe is to wrap it all up neatly in puff pastry and carve your initial so the boss knows which is which when it comes back from the kitchen (there are no cooking facilities upstairs).

And guess what? Mine was deemed ‘best in class.’ I have never had a prouder moment and beamed all the way through our very delicious, venison-themed three-course lunch paired with wine chosen by Chapter One’s Sommelier Dilyan Kolev.

Now I want to learn how to fillet fish – I’m definitely hooked.

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