Tideswell School of Food’s Joe Hunt

Joe Hunt (pictured centre) with the group at Upper House in Hayfield who appeared on BBC's Countryfile

Joe Hunt (pictured centre) with the group at Upper House in Hayfield who appeared on BBC's Countryfile - Credit: Archant

The head chef tutor featured on BBC1’s Countryfile answers questions and shares a recipe

Joe Hunt trained at High Peak College then ran his own successful business for six years before deciding to travel. He spent a year travelling in Australia, New Zealand, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam and enjoyed discovering the different styles of cuisine. Since then he has worked locally in traditional pubs and fine dining restaurants...

What inspired you: first to become a chef, and second to teach at the School of Food?

For as long as I can remember I have cooked and been involved in the kitchen. Food has always been a big part of my family life. My grandfather on my mother’s side was French, so we had French influences when growing up and all my dad’s family worked in the industry at some point. I have many happy memories of 15-20 friends and family members sitting around the table and food being served. We’d be there for hours just chatting and eating, often late into the night. I always wanted to be a chef; when I was really small it was what I wanted to be when I grew up.

I got into teaching when I met up with my old college lecturer, Steve Vardy. He was working at the cookery school and I came to see him and have a look around. I’d been thinking of teaching for a while as I wanted to pass on my experiences and skills to the next generation of chefs.

What do you enjoy most about cooking?

Taking simple, good quality, local, often overlooked ingredients and with a few tweaks and a little know-how, turning them into beautiful dishes that make you happy when you eat them. With teaching, the best bit is the look on people’s faces when they see and taste their own finished products – the look that says ‘I made that’ with a big smile.

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Which ingredient couldn’t you manage without?

Most chefs would probably say butter but for me it’s fresh herbs. I use herbs all the time, from a little thyme in a dish through to big handfuls of parsley or basil. My travels in Vietnam were a big influence. They use loads of lovely fresh herbs and it makes such a difference.

How else have your travels influenced your cooking?

Techniques and skills learnt from different countries and cultures do appear in my everyday cookery – especially when it comes to seasoning dishes. Little things like styles of marinades and using spices to enhance certain flavours all add depth.

What are Derbyshire’s outstanding food products?

We have some fantastic producers of beef, lamb and pork. You only need to go into a good quality local butcher to see this. We also have excellent game and, with so much lovely countryside, wonderful wild and free foods. As well as great food producers and suppliers, there are some superb independent breweries who make outstanding beers. What could be better than sitting in the sunshine outside a good local pub with a pint of local beer and some great locally sourced food whilst looking out over the beautiful rolling Derbyshire hills?

What has been your most memorable meal?

The company and setting make all the difference. When teaching in Puglia in Italy recently we ate a meal down on the coast in a small shack that produced beautiful fresh seafood as we sat with the waves gently breaking and the sun on our backs. That was pretty memorable.

What turns a good cook into a great chef?

Passion: you have to love everything about food from the field to the fork. Dedication: being a chef is a lifestyle not a job. Long hours and no days off is not everyone’s cup of tea.

Have you a best and worst teaching moment?

When somebody is full of self-doubt and convinced they can’t do it, then with a little help and guidance they produce a dish that is everything they hoped for and more, that’s brilliant. As for worst moments, not really. We have really enthusiastic and friendly customers at Tideswell School of Food. They have passion and that comes through. I like our sessions to be fun and informative and we get some real discussion and banter going. They aren’t formal situations but ones where you come away feeling that you’ve had a fun day and learnt lots of useful cookery tips and techniques.

How much cooking experience do you need to take a course?

We offer courses for all abilities and interests. The majority are designed for what we call ‘intermediate level’ – the keen home cook who has some experience but would like to improve their skills and techniques and build their cookery repertoire. But we also offer courses for beginners, such as Baking Bread or Men in the Kitchen. And for anyone a little more advanced, there are master classes with highly talented local chefs such as Rupert Rowley from Fischers at Baslow Hall.

What do you consider the most important cooking skill to master?

I don’t think any single skill is more important, it depends what you cook most at home. I tend to make a lot more savoury than sweet products but as a good cook you should feel confident in all areas of the kitchen. I do veer towards the larder side, things like butchery, charcuterie including terrines and pâtés and savoury pastry products. Now and again I also like to get stuck in to some classic French pâtisserie.

BBC’s Countryfile programme recently filmed your first ‘Shoot and Cook’ course at Upper House in Hayfield, did you enjoy it?

It was great fun. We were running the course as usual and they didn’t stop-start us too much. The guys on the crew were really friendly and we had a good laugh. I know the sound man took my kilner jar of homemade piccalilli as he liked it so much. Helen Skelton is really friendly and down to earth, so much so that I forgot we were being filmed and carried on as normal. It’s a real boost to have programmes like Countryfile take an interest in us as we are a community-led social enterprise and we don’t make any profits from our courses, so it benefits the local community as a whole.

Are more people eating game now?

More people are definitely interested in this side of cookery. I think it is coming into trend again. Cooking game was often thought of as complicated when it really isn’t. When you’re cooking game it is less forgiving than farmed meat. If you overcook game it tends to be dry and tough. This is because it’s wild and doesn’t have the fat covering of farmed meat. Some of the taste comes from the diet, particularly with game birds. The length of time it has been hung is another factor. Understanding where a cut of meat has come from helps you decide how to cook it. When it comes to game though, keep it simple and treat it with care and love and you will be richly rewarded!

What game is in season in January and February?

Deer, all species, rabbit, brown hare, pheasant and partridge till the end of January, ducks and geese.

If you’ve never cooked or eaten game before, what is a good way to start?

If you’ve never cooked it, get a pheasant and remove the breasts, or get a butcher to. Season and cook in a frying pan with some butter and oil until they’re golden, then finish in the oven for 6-8 minutes. Leave to rest covered in foil and serve with lovely seasonal vegetables. Drain the fat from the pan and add a little stock to lift the caramelised juices, reduce and then season to make a quick sauce to go with it. You can do the same with some nice thick-cut venison steaks and cook these to your liking just like a classic steak. Once you get used to how the meat varies to farmed species you can then move on to different game birds and cuts from the deer. Research if you’re not sure then give it a go, keep it simple and let the ingredients speak for themselves.

Does a future in television beckon?

I really like to demonstrate and teach, whether it be to 12 at the cookery school or 300 at big shows and events. I like the interaction with people. If somebody wanted to film me then that would be great, but for now I’m very happy teaching. n

For more information about Tideswell School of Food and the courses it runs contact 01298 871262 or visit www.tideswellschooloffood.co.uk.



Knob of butter

½ large onion finely chopped

3 cloves garlic chopped

20ml medium sherry

1 tsp dried thyme

Pinch nutmeg

1 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

400g lean pork; minced

250g pheasant; minced

100g pork fat; minced

25g shelled pistachios, chopped

1 tbsp chopped parsley

1 egg beaten

250g unsmoked, rindless streaky bacon

1 Heat the butter and fry the onion and garlic until tender.

2 Add sherry, thyme, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Bring to the boil and cook for 5 mins, remove from the heat and cool.

3 Mix the pork, pheasant, pork fat, parsley, 50g chopped bacon, pistachios and egg, then blend until well mixed.

4 Lightly oil and line a loaf tin with the bacon.

5 Pack the meat in and cover with the remaining bacon then wrap in foil.

6 Place the loaf tin in a roasting tray on the middle shelf of the oven, fill the tray half way up the loaf tin with hot water, slide the shelf back into the oven.

7 Bake at 180°c for 1+ hours or until the pork is cooked all the way through. If using a probe it should read 75°c. Leave to cool.

8 Loosen the edges with a palette knife dipped in hot water and cut into thick slices, serve with crusty bread, cornichons, pickles and Dijon mustard.



1 whole pheasant

200g diced venison shoulder

50g bacon lardons

1 red onion

2 cloves garlic

1 bay leaf

½ carrot

½ stick celery

2 sprigs thyme

1 sprig rosemary

500ml red wine

300ml water

Salt and pepper to season

15g butter

6 button mushrooms

10 silver skin onions

2 tbsp chopped parsley

2 tbsp plain flour

1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp tomato paste

2 tsp rapeseed oil

1 Remove the meat from the pheasant. Brown the venison and pheasant meat in a large frying pan with a little oil. Remove and set to one side.

2 Brown the bacon in the butter until golden, add the diced onion and cook until tender. Add the diced celery, carrot and garlic. Cook for 5 minutes until they turn slightly golden and soften slightly. Stir in the flour.

3 Add the meat and vegetables to a large saucepan and pour over the water. Add the Worcestershire sauce, tomato purée and herbs.

4 Pour wine into the saucepan and bring to the boil, reduce by a third and add to the casserole.

5 Cover and simmer the casserole for 1½–2 hours until the meat is tender. Add the silverskin onions and mushrooms for the last 30 minutes.

6 Remove the meat from the casserole and bring the gravy up to the boil. Reduce the gravy until thickened and then check for seasoning, adjust as necessary. Add the meat back to the pan and heat through. Stir in the parsley.

7 Serve with dumplings, crusty bread and roast vegetables.

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