Boar necessities: Two restaurant-owning brothers are hunting down top-notch meat

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

The brothers have taken the business of acquiring meat into their own hands. Jamie Merrill joins them in the hunt.

The labels on our supermarket cuts of meat work hard to reassure us that our chosen steaks and joints are "farm-assured" or "locally sourced", while the menus of Britain's gastropubs are cluttered with a collection of culinary buzzwords designed to make us feel happy about where their flesh comes from.

Quality is king, it seems, as more of us take an interest in what exactly we are eating. And that's what enterprising brothers Tom and Ed Martin are hoping. The owners of ETM Group, a small group of high-end London gastropubs, including the White Swan off Chancery Lane and the Botanist in Sloane Square, say that top-notch meat is so prized by their well-heeled clientele they are prepared to take matters into their own hands to provide it.

The brothers, who have a hint of old money-meets-ambitious-upstarts about them, had already made it their business to visit the farms and specialist producers who supply their eight establishments. But with British beef and Welsh lamb no longer enough to satisfy the carnivorous urges of their punters, they needed more adventurous meats for their menus. With sales of game booming – up nationally by 92 per cent since 2002, with Marks & Spencer reporting 40 per cent growth this year – wild boar seemed an interesting, if not obvious solution. For the brothers that means an annual pilgrimage to the forests of Cheb in the Czech Republic. The logic is simple, says older brother Tom: "Game is so much cheaper for us to hunt in the Czech Republic than it would be in Scotland or France, so it's a great way for us to be able to source great meat, including some of the best wild boar in Europe."

The brothers started hunting about seven years ago and it's clear the trip is at least to some extent a corporate jolly, but Ed is adamant it has a genuine aim. "We're both believers in real food from the wild," he says. "This gives our chefs, who come along with us every year, the chance to try something new and fill up a chiller van to dispatch back to England at the same time."

It's not just Tom and Ed who are wild about boar. Its flavour is somewhere between beef and venison and has attracted fans in high places. Michel Roux Jnr cooks with it at home for Christmas, while Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is taking a break from his latest vegetarian adventure to include it in his festive ingredients on Channel 4's River Cottage. At the Cinnamon Kitchen, one of London's smartest Indian restaurants, the founding chef Vivek Singh regularly offers it on his menu, with boar vindaloo a favourite among his regulars. Being a strong believer in the put-your-money-where-your-mouth-is school of meat eating (I've stalked deer in Scotland and seen farm animals butchered), I jump at the chance to tag along and help Tom and Ed stock their kitchens. But Cheb isn't Perthshire and the procedure is somewhat different to the Highland experience. Our group of half a dozen ETM Group staff, including the head chef and sommelier, each has a guide and a different patch of woodland set aside for us. Tuition and training consist of one round at a firing range.

As darkness falls I set out with my guide Zdena, a 65-year-old forester who has come out of semi-retirement to help me bag a kill. Wild boar, he tells me, is very common in the Czech Republic but the cloudy sky and lack of usual November snow means it will be tough to spot one. He doesn't look confident as he explains that like most European boar hunters he prefers night, when the animals are feeding and highlighted by moon against the snowy ground. "What about a fox instead or a deer? More likely," he suggests hopefully.

After a short hike into the woods, we establish ourselves three or four metres up in a hide to sit in wait for our prey. I try to put Zdena's expectation management to the back of my thoughts as the temperature drops. The hours drag by as my guide sighs in frustration with every rustle as I shift position to avoid the biting wind. My mind starts to wander, seeing shapes that don't exist in the gloom. Then I'm informed that others are having more success as a shot rings out from several miles away. But after another hour's cold wait we hear something real in the darkness. "Silence," Zdena hisses as he passes me the rifle, safety off, and raises his binoculars. Leaves rustle and twigs crack as two small wild boars approach. Zdena says he can just make them out darting playfully across a forest track before us. I'm not so sure. He points into the darkness and whispers, "shoot only when you are certain".

The shapes are just too blurred and too distant for me to be sure. I lower the rifle and the crashing moves into the distance. "Too hard," Zdena says. We return crestfallen to the hunting lodge, where a grinning Ed Martin is struggling to heave a adult boar the size of a cow off the back of a truck and into the cold store for its return to England.

Buoyed by his success, we feast on a traditional Czech meal of braised boar, stuffed trotters and fresh venison liver (our guns bagged 23 beasts in two days, including several fallow deer as well as boars) prepared by ETM Group's top chef, James Lyon-Shaw. "There's an element of Ready, Steady, Cook with hunting," he says. "We're never quite sure what we'll get back to England so our pubs have to be creative and change their menus quickly."

The next morning I rise early and head out again with Zdena to wait again. A small fallow deer obligingly walks into my sights. It's no boar but the chiller van still has space and I fire from 80 metres or so. The small beast turns as I squeeze the trigger and blood spurts into the air, while its organs and stomach fall from its body. The force of the bullet sends it tumbling down a sharp ravine in its death throes. A gun dog is called for and Zdena and I spend half an hour searching for its body in thick brambles and dense woodland. It's a world away from cellophane- wrapped "farm-assured beef" or "locally sourced lamb" in my local supermarket. When we finally track it down it's long dead, bent double in a pool of its own blood in a muddy riverbed. Not a pretty sight. Zdena doesn't seem annoyed with its end, or the extra work. "This is real hunting." he says. "Real experience. Good meat."

Roast boar saddle, braised shoulder, quince and beetroot

By James Lyon-Shaw

Serves 4

600g boar loin, 1 boar blade, 1 bottle white wine, 200ml Madeira, 1 star anise, 1 cinnamon stick, 5 cloves, 1 onion, 2 celery sticks, 1 carrot, 1 head garlic, bouquet garni of thyme, bay and parsley stalks, 1 large beetroot with 2 bunches of baby beetroot with leaves, 2 quince, 1ltr chicken stock, 750ml veal demi glaze, 275ml apple juice, 100g caster sugar, 30ml champagne vinegar

Method

Marinate boar shoulder overnight with the celery, carrot, garlic, wine, maderia, and spices. Marinate boar loin in garlic, thyme and olive oil. Sear in a hot pan on all sides then set aside. Brown mirepoix in the same pan then pour in marinade and reduce.

Put shoulder back in pan and add the stocks (keep 250ml for the beetroot glaze), boil then simmer. Place in oven at 140C for four hours.

Remove the shoulder and press between two trays. Pour braising juices into a clean pot and reduce to a sauce consistency.

Grate beetroot and put in a pan with apple juice and chicken stock and reduce to a glaze. Roast the baby beetroots in a sealed foil parcel with olive oil, garlic, thyme, champagne vinegar and salt.

Peel baby beetroots and cut in quarters. Bake quince with the sugar and some water. Purée baked quince and add a splash of champagne vinegar. Wash leaves from the beetroot well and dry thoroughly.

To assemble, brown off the loin and place in a hot oven on 180C until medium rare. Reheat boar shoulder in the sauce. Wilt the beet leaves in an emulsion of butter and water with a splash of champagne vinegar.

Serve with dauphinoise potato, reheated quince purée and baby beetroot in the beetroot glaze.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Ashdown Group: Print Designer - High Wycombe - Permanent £28K

    £25000 - £28000 per annum + 24 days holiday, bonus, etc.: Ashdown Group: Print...

    Recruitment Genius: Business Travel Consultant

    £20000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With offices in London, Manches...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer and Brand Manager

    £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Customer and Brand Manager required for ...

    Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator

    £25000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator A...

    Day In a Page

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
    Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

    Why are we addicted to theme parks?

    Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
    Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

    Iran is opening up again to tourists

    After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there