I started Hunter Gather Cook in 2011, to help teach other people some of the know-how I’d acquired growing up in East Sussex (and beyond), as a game-hunter, wild-food forager, and chef.
I found a mixed-woodland location not far from Lewes, and gradually built a team of likeminded chefs, hunters and foragers to help on courses, entirely based around wild food and fire cookery. We teach people how to skin, pluck and butcher game, and how to forage for food in the land around the two-storey treehouse that we built. This is followed up by a five-course taster menu from our woodfired kitchen.
This year we have expanded the operation, acquiring a former threshing barn on the Firle Estate, so we can spread the wild-food word simultaneously in two different places, all year round. We’ve equipped the place with a fully fitted kitchen, though, of course, everything we cook, we cook on a real fire. We’ve got space outside with raised beds, so we can add home-grown produce – if necessary – to the mix.
Using game, rather than farmed meat, is an integral part of our ethos. So, when I was looking for a Mexican-style tacos recipe, fallow deer was the perfect pairing.
The bed for the meat is a slaw, which is easy to make: to serve six people, finely slice half a red cabbage, one large red onion, ten radishes, a cucumber, one red chilli, and a bunch of coriander leaves. Just before serving, add the juice of a lime, a tablespoon of red wine vinegar, and two tablespoons of olive oil, and mix.
The secret to guacamole is its simplicity: with a fork, squish together two large ripe avocados, the juice of a lime and a pinch of sea salt. That’s it!
I’ve called this ‘dirty doe’ because the meat is cooked directly on charcoal, or wood that has burnt down to form coals – you can do it on your barbecue. Get the charcoal burning well, fan off any ash, then put whole cuts of venison on top: I favour the back haunch cuts for this dish – pavé or fat flank, but silverside is perfectly good, too. Flip the meat, when it’s nicely browned, onto a fresh patch of coals behind. We use a digital thermometer to tell us when it’s medium rare (55c). Then rest for five minutes wrapped in silver foil. Lightly toast the corn tortillas – twenty small ones for our purposes, on a grate over the charcoal. Carve the meat when these are ready.
Part of the fun of tacos is putting everything together, so leave the ‘creative’ side of things to whoever’s lucky enough to be at the table. Add a hot salsa, pickles and ferments – which we source from our ever expanding foraged larder – then… go wild!
For more ‘adventures in wild food’ check out Nick’s latest book, Hunter Gather Cook. See also huntergathercook.com for courses, banquets and events