Winter flavours: chef Richard Corrigan's favourite ingredients and indulgences

The chef talks about his seasonal pleasures, from cooking with wild game to experiencing Ireland's wild Atlantic coast.

By Ella Walker
Published 23 Dec 2021, 11:13 GMT
Hook Lighthouse on the Hook Peninsula is one of Richard Corrigan's ideal winter getaways. "The seas ...

Hook Lighthouse on the Hook Peninsula is one of Richard Corrigan's ideal winter getaways. "The seas are really rough, the waves are coming in over the roads along the coast, and I love going down to the small harbours with no one in them and just passing a couple of days." 

Photograph by GETTY Images

What does winter food mean to you?

I’m a farmer’s son, and in Ireland we have a very large sustainable grow operation, so the first taste of winter to me is my nice late celery. Early autumn, it starts coming out of the garden and then roots and shoots: the roots in the ground and the shoots in the polytunnels. When the first frost lands on my garden and I pull the first Jerusalem artichokes — because we never pull them before the first frost — that’s really when winter starts for me.

What dishes do you most look forward to eating in winter?

From a wonderful little bit of poached, salted gammon bacon to some roasted roots, some walnuts — anything that’s simple, seasonal and just ‘now’. It depends on my mood, as well. Fish, I love, especially wild, smoked varieties — they fill my heart with warmth. On the cold days, there’s something nicely Presbyterian about smoked fish. You don’t need too much of it for it to really make you feel very happy.

What’s your favourite winter ingredient to cook with?

Walnuts and Jerusalem artichokes have that autumnal/wintertime feel for me. I always break the year up into the autumn-winter period and the spring-summer period. The autumnal wintertime for me is all roots and game. Not driven game on big shoots, I’m talking about just a bit of snipe, woodcock. We call them rough shoots: two people, two dogs. That’s one of my favourite things in the world —  the odd wild pheasant, a little bit of rabbit or hare, but just enough for my table, never any more than that. 

What do you love about hunting for the table?

Tasting wild game, like the roe venison at this time of year — there’s something very special about it, it’s very pure and beautiful. And just waiting every year for it makes it special. But we’re not dressing up like gentleman farmers. Good boots up to your ankles, double thick socks, waterproof clothing and a good, warm thermal underneath jumpers to keep yourself from shivering, plus a nice flask of thick soup, some sandwiches — my god, what a great day.

How are you cooking that game?

Anything that’s feathered, I always like it roasted on the bone and served with roasted potatoes and a really nice spiced bread sauce, which I love making with a little clove, a little mace, a little cinnamon and some roasted roots. Absolutely simple. I like it a little pink for the pheasant, a little rarer for the wild duck, the mallard, the teal and the snipe as well.

Richard Corrigan at Bentley’s Oyster Bar & Grill, London, enjoying the fruits of his labours.

Photograph by Richard Corrigan

What’s your biggest winter indulgence?

Especially in January, Seville oranges — a big sticky, sweet Seville orange pudding. With a wonderful custard made on the side — oh! It sends shivers down my back, you know what I mean? The glutton in me comes forth like a speed sprinter.

What’s your perfect Christmas dinner?

I always start in the morning; I open champagne for the rest of the family. Around 11 o’clock, we have some nice light canapes, always seafood-based, and then we break Christmas into two parts. We normally do a seafood or shellfish kind of cocktail, langoustines, and then we take a break for two or three hours. Then, in the afternoon, around half five, six o’clock I always sit down to a goose or duck or a KellyBronze organic turkey. We make our Christmas puddings so they’re nicely boozy, but we normally have them much later in the day.

Where’s your ideal winter getaway?

I’m really not looking for sunshine. I love what life throws at me and what the weather throws at me in the UK and Ireland. I love going in November down to the south of Ireland onto the Hook Peninsula. The seas are really rough, the waves are coming in over the roads along the coast, and I love going down to the small harbours with no one in them and just passing a couple of days. I normally take three days out during that time of year, and the wildness of the Atlantic is absolutely amazing. Going back then, lighting a fire and having a few neighbours in for a light supper or a glass of wine… Because I work in a highly stressed environment, a little slight isolation and me-time is a good thing for your mind and your health in general. I feel totally invigorated when I come back to London.

Do you have a preferred seasonal drink?

I’m passionate, I’m forever changing and I’m easily bored. There are times when I like a little glass of single malt whiskey. And I don’t need any big brand; it doesn’t have to be selling for gold dust. I do like Green Spot, which is a blended Irish whiskey. It’s incredibly well made. At Christmas time, and in winter time, a glass of port, I reckon, is the finest drink you can put to your lips. And it’s not an old man’s or an old woman’s drink. It is a drink made by artisans for artists, and it needs to be taken from the dusty cupboards of most people’s households and put right on the shelf beside the whiskey, because it’s a wonderful product.

How do you eat oysters at this time of year?

European native oysters, you know, they’re an indulgence. You don’t need anything on them. Please, no lemon. When you taste such a beautiful product, a beautiful marine wild shellfish, I think to put anything on it is almost sacrilege. A little milled pepper, maybe. Just enjoy the deep flavours that fill your mouth and all your senses with something wonderful.

Richard Corrigan's earthen soup, which calls for the vegetables to have a slight bite and to retain as much of their natural flavour and colour as possible.

Photograph by stock

Recipe: Richard Corrigan’s earthen soup

This soup combines root vegetables with sausage and pancetta meatballs, creating a hearty, warming dish.

Serves: six
Takes: 1 hr 

100g white onion, diced
100g carrot, diced
100g celery, diced
100g celeriac, diced
100g leeks, diced
knob of butter 
olive oil, to sauté
1.5 litres vegetable stock
125g pancetta lardons, rind removed, 
finely chopped
125g sausagemeat, removed from casing
100g parmesan cheese, grated
3 garlic cloves, grated finely
½ bunch parsley, chopped
½ bunch basil, chopped
150g fresh sprouting broccoli
crusty bread, to serve

1. Heat a splash of olive oil in a pan set over a high heat, then add the onion and carrot and cook for 1 min. Add the celery and butter and cook for 1 minute more, then tip in the celeriac and sweat with a little salt and pepper until soft but not coloured, around 5 minutes. Pour in enough stock to just cover everything, then simmer on a high heat for around 10 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, tip the pancetta, sausagemeat, garlic and parmesan into a large bowl and mix together to make a paste; alternatively, give it all a pulse in a mixer. Fold through the parsley and basil and chop through the mixture again until it comes together. Season well. 

3. Use the palm of your hands to mould the mixture into approximately 24 small balls.

4. In the last minute of cooking the vegetables in the stock, add the leek and meatballs. Simmer quickly until everything is cooked and the vegetables have a slight bite, retaining their flavour and colour. Add a touch more stock if needed, but only to cover. 

5.  Remove the pan from the heat. Add the broccoli and pour in some more stock if needed, then cover and allow the broccoli to cook in warmth of the soup.

6. Season to taste and leave to rest for a moment, allowing the flavours to develop and bind together. Divide the soup between six bowls and serve with a good slice of warmed, crusty bread.

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