********** Yoshinori Ishii Executive chef of Japanese restaurant UMU in London ******************

------------------ 英国の日本料理店 UMU 総料理長 石井義典 のつれづれなる話 ------------

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Game season ジビエの季節です

In Japan, duck, dear and boar start to circulate in autumn as the hunting season opens, but foodies await the arrival of this season more in Europe where venison and hunting culture are more prevalent. Despite the decrease in the numbers of venison in most countries, due to a rapid increase in market needs and indiscriminate hunting, it is much more sustainable in Britain due to the Game Act of 1831. Also benefitting from the geographical character and the fact that hunting developed as gentlemen’s sport for the royalty and aristocrats, the wild animals still appear in strong numbers and they can be seen even just outside London. Therefore getting good venison as ingredients is comparatively easy over here and truthfully, richer in variety. For example I have used for my menus this year a variable feast of quail, pheasant, duck, pigeon, boar, rabbit and dear, just to name a few, and also a snow grouse which is a protected animal in Japan, and I am considering using woodcock in our future menus.

When I first encountered venison, cooked by locals in Geneva, the very first European city I lived in, I could not resist incorporating them into my cooking immediately. I realised that the locals’ attitude towards their culinary culture is not unlike how Japanese respect and preserve the culture of eating different fishes according to seasons.

This type of dish is called “game” in English and that is how we call it  in our English menu at the restaurant, however for the Japanese menu, I felt a nuance might be lost in a literal translation. Then I came up with the idea of picking Japanese letters phonetically according to a French word “gibier” and create a new word specially for the menu (the pronunciation of the still same as “gibier”). The Japanese characters I picked represent the meaning of; “By the arrival of winter and the ground gets colder, the nature prepares for such weather and every aspects of it become fuller in flavour”. The arrangement of words was a little pushy, but at the end I quite like it.

I want to grill lightly by charcoal like Japanese kind but for building structural reason, the method is not an option in Umu, so instead we finish the dish roasted or slow cooked. As for sauces and sides, we use variety of mushrooms and nuts to create classic style, and roots vegetables for seasonal taste as they become sweeter and more suitable by the arrival of winter.


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