No rest for the chef, especially at Christmas

At the Bird in Hand, I am very lucky to head up a team of seven in the kitchen and uniquely get to work alongside my boss most of the time. As a chef, I lead a busy life. A typical day involves waving goodbye to my wife at 7.00am, doing the nursery run to Charlbury for our younger daughter followed by walking our eldest daughter to the Wychwood school. Once the dog is walked, it is time for work and then the whole routine again in the afternoon before usually a busy night at the pub. We have 16 bedrooms next to the pub, so when they are full, we already have anywhere up to 35 people for dinner before we take other bookings.

I’m in touch with our suppliers daily. We buy fish directly from our supplier in Cornwall, cheese from Wychwood Fine Foods, meat from Bakers butchers in Witney and our bread from Mark’s bakery in Chipping Norton. Predicting what we need is sometimes tricky, but luckily, they top us up in the event of an emergency.

During lockdown, when the restaurant wasn’t open, I took on numerous projects at home, one of them was rebuilding a Cotswold stone wall and another was acquiring a greenhouse from a local Facebook site, which I then rebuilt at the back of the pub. During the summer, we managed to have homegrown tomatoes, courgettes, chillies and herbs in abundance.

My bosses (Andy and Julia Deary), former owners of the Cotswold Gateway, have been incredibly supportive throughout this difficult time and unlike other jobs in hospitality they understand how important it is to have a good home/work life balance, especially with young children.

Christmas time can be quite stressful for anybody in the kitchen, so below I have a very simple recipe that virtually anybody can cook whilst also using a unique ingredient that quite frankly, I feel, we should be eating more of.

Pheasant breast in mango cream sauce (serves 2)

4 pheasant breasts (skinned with the shot removed)
For the sauce:
4 tablespoons Mango Chutney
425ml carton double cream
2 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
Dash of tabasco
2 teaspoons wholegrain mustard
Chopped parsley (to garnish)

Preheat the oven to 180C
Panfry the pheasant breasts, gaining colour on either side.
Cook in the oven for 6 minutes.
Meanwhile mix all of the sauce ingredients together cold.
Add to the pan with the pheasant breasts and simmer gently until sauce thickens.
Finish with salt and pepper and chopped parsley

Charlie Loader

December 2021 – January 2022