Outside catering for game shoots can be a sophisticated affair
PUBLISHED: 00:00 10 November 2015 | UPDATED: 18:41 13 November 2015
Harriet MacArthur braves all weathers in some of Lancashire’s remote regions to feed hungry people on game shoots. Emma Mayoh reports. Photography by Glynn Ward
Harriet MacArthur’s introduction to catering for game shoots was certainly a high profile one. While working at prestigious shooting estate called Gunnerside, the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Westminster were among the first to be served her food. Some might be intimidated by such impressive dinner guests, but Harriet was not fazed.
‘It isn’t daunting,’ she said. ‘I am always hidden in the kitchen. It doesn’t matter who it is. I want to do the best I can each day whether it’s for the Prince of Wales or whoever. Everyone gets the same treatment.’
‘I wasn’t nervous about it, there’s no point in getting stressed. I do cook for a lot of people, some from the aristocracy, but a kitchen is a kitchen to me.’
In fact, after leaving college and since launching her own catering company - Main Course, Starters & Puds Too - eight years ago, Harriet has an impressive list of clients. She has catered for Lord Cavendish as well as the Duchy of Lancaster Council ahead of the Queen’s visit earlier this year and functions hosted by the Lord Lieutenant of Lancashire at Lancaster Castle. She also caters for weddings and other private functions including canapé parties and afternoon teas.
Main Course, Starters & Puds Too
John Bolton and Joe Woodcock
Fuelling up after a busy morning on the grouse moor
Arron Gundy, Ben Scott and Jonty Kean
Service with a smile
Fuelling up after a busy morning on the grouse moor
Tucking in to a delicious lunch at Fourstones
Harriet Macarthur cooking up lunch in a small hut without electricity at Fourstones
Richard and Laura Wolfenden, gamekeepers at Fourstones
But one of her busiest times is autumn and winter. Harriet does outdoor catering at game shoots across the county and beyond. On several days of the week, she will be setting up lunch or dinner for a group of guns on a shoot in some of Lancashire’s most spectacular countryside. She will be huddled over her trusty camping gas ring heating up the superb food she has prepared using the best produce our county can offer. She caters at many places including Fourstones, a wonderful grouse moor near Bentham, Underley Estate, near Kirkby Lonsdale, Littledale Hall near Lancaster and for let days at Abbeystead Estate.
‘I feel very lucky to do what I do,’ she said. ‘I get to visit and work in places that most people will never have the chance to see. Fourstones is one of my favourites. It doesn’t matter what the weather is like, it is always beautiful.
‘When it’s sunny you can see across Morecambe Bay, the spectacular moors and over to the Lake District hills. It is incredible. On a foggy day it is beautiful in different ways. I was on a shoot recently, I was there before the guns and it was so quiet. It was eerie but also really special to be there and experience that.’
Harriet has to be organised making sure she has all of the food, drinks and equipment she will need for the shoot – there isn’t the luxury of nipping to the local shop for forgotten supplies when you’re in the middle of a grouse moor. She prepares all of the food at home, ready to be reheated when she is on site.
‘Being organised is definitely my biggest challenge,’ explained Harriet. ‘I’ve never had any big disasters. I forgot the coffee once and they didn’t want tea. But I was forgiven. I have to remember everything from cutlery to mugs for soup, glasses for gin and tonic and the food, of course. You definitely don’t want to forget anything.
‘It is a lot of fun. I get to meet a lot of varied people. When you’re in the middle of a grouse moor, people are grateful for anything. More often than not, it is something hot and warming. Being out on a grouse moor, or a pheasant shoot is absolutely fantastic. I love doing catering up there.’
Harriet selects some of the best local produce Lancashire has to offer including meat from Cornvale Foods in Melling, vegetables from George Speight and Sons in Lancaster, fish from JD Fisheries in Nether Kellet, cheese from Chipping based Proctors Cheeses and Fiddlers Crisps from Rufford.
The 45-year-old, who lives with husband Glenn and ten-year-old son Jack, started working in the catering industry in her late teens. But it had never been in her long-term plans. As a young woman she wanted to pursue a career in farming but, she did not want to continue formal education. However, the opportunity that arose after that has set her on the career path she has today.
She said: ‘My mum sent me to Leith’s in London where I did a cookery course for a year. It taught you all of the basics of cookery. Our first lesson was how to make scrambled egg.
‘I remember there being some girls who were looking quizzically at the egg, wondering how to get it out of its shell. By the end of the course we were using food processors and making good food. It was different to when I used to make cakes when I was 14. I made them with a friend and my mum used to sell them at her WI meetings. We did it for pocket money.’
That training set her in good stead and she has worked at various estates. But it is running her own business that she loves.
She said: ‘I feel very lucky. I love it because it’s all different. Every single shoot is different.
‘I don’t have any huge ambitions to expand or do more. I’m happy doing what I do and that is the way I would like to keep it.’