Born of Spanish parents in the UK José Souto nevertheless spent many holidays in Spain, either learning about fishing and hunting from one side of the family who lived in Andalucia or learning about produce from the land from the other, the farming side of the family, in Galicia.
But it was his passion for game, coupled with his enthusiasm for cooking and teaching which were to shape his career.
A passion for game
Whilst studying at London’s celebrated culinary arts school the Westminster Kingsway College he discovered a serious interest in working with game.
After college and some time spent honing his skills abroad he returned to the UK to work as a chef at the House of Commons along with other establishments like Mosimann’s, The Ritz and the Savoy Grill.
Whilst at the House of Commons he put together some game training seminars for the other chefs which led to him being invited back to the Westminster Kingsway College to lecture on the subject.
Today José is Senior Chef/Lecturer, as well as being one of the UK’s leading game chefs – an expert not only in cooking it, but also about its harvest and preparation.
Like us he is fascinated by the stories that food can tell: how we should value it, understand its qualities, where it comes from and how to respect it.
Photo credit: Steve Lee
Seminars and demonstrations
Having seen him at work with some of his current students and also sat in on one of his fascinating seminars it is easy to see that he is a born teacher.
He lectures and demonstrates not only at the college but also at various Game fairs around the country.
José’s all too few one-day seminars, whilst not for the squeamish, are rivetingly interesting.
The morning session deals with feathered and small furred game and includes classification, recognition, and preparation.
The afternoon session is devoted to recognition of the UK deer species plus a demonstration on skinning a carcass plus butchery.
Venison : the game larder
For anybody seriously interested in learning more about venison either buy, or ask for as a present, José Souto’s superb book ‘Venison: the game larder’.
The book’s 246 pages deal with all aspects of venison from the different species of deer, to harvesting and storing, butchering, smoking and curing, deer management and recipes.
Along with 30 of José’s own recipes are several from guest chefs. Recipes range from the slightly more basic, like the venison lasagne recipe below (which we reprint with kind permission of the publisher) to lavish dinner party dishes.
Even for those of us are not interested in hunting and harvesting venison it is a stunning book; one enhanced by the magnificent colour pictures taken by the very gifted photographer Steve Lee.
Venison: the game larder. José Souto and Steve Lee. ISBN: 978-1-906122-96-6. £25. Merlin Unwin Books. www.merlinunwin.co.uk
José’s Venison lasagne (Mince & Dice)
Photo credit: Steve Lee
Lasagne is an Italian classic normally made with beef mince but venison mince is a great alternative, as it is low in fat and full of flavour. My wife Charlotte loves this recipe and I often make it at home to freeze and eat at a later date. Serves 6.
1 litre venison stock or dark chicken stock
light olive oil
1kg venison, minced
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, very finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped
2 sticks of celery, finely chopped
2 tsp tomato purée
1 sprig thyme
1 tsp chopped oregano
1 bay leaf
50g plain flour
2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
1 bay leaf
50g plain flour
75g cheddar cheese, grated
25g parmesan, grated
400g fresh or dried pasta sheets
- In a saucepan bring the venison stock to the boil and keep warm.
- Place a little oil in a large saucepan. When hot, fry half the mince until cooked then remove from the pan. Add some more oil to the pan, reheat and fry the rest of the meat and again remove from pan.
- In the same pan cook the onion and garlic in a little oil without colouring. After 5 mins add the carrot and celery and fry for 4-5 mins, then add the meat, stir well, add the tomato purée and herbs and cook for 4 mins. Stir in the flour well, add the tinned tomatoes and cook for a further 5 mins. Add the hot stock and bring to the boil.
- Cook over a gentle heat for at least an hour and a half. If it becomes too thick, add some more stock. Correct seasoning and allow to cool before using.
- Put the milk, ½ onion, bay leaf and cloves in a saucepan. Bring to the boil then turn off and keep warm. In a separate saucepan melt the butter, stir in the flour and mix to form a roux. Cook for about 2 mins then pull off the heat and allow to cool slightly.
- Remove the onion, bay leaf and cloves from the milk then place the roux back on the stove over a gentle heat. Stir a third of the milk into the roux, mixing well until smooth, then add another third, stirring again until smooth and then the final third. Turn the heat very low and allow to cook for 30 mins then add 25g of the cheddar cheese and all the Parmesan to the sauce, stir well, then allow to cool.
- Once the meat and cheese sauces have cooled down, take a deep oven-proof dish and start by spooning a little of the cheese sauce into the dish, then place some of the pasta leaves onto the sauce. Now add a layer of meat sauce to coat the pasta then cover with more pasta and then sauce. Continue this layering until you are 1cm below the lip of the dish then finish with a layer of cheese sauce and sprinkle the last of the cheddar cheese on top.
- Pre-heat oven at 180°C then place the lasagne onto a baking tray to catch any drips and cook for 1 hour, checking that the centre is cooked and hot before serving.