On Thursday evening I was a little bored. I’d spent the day avoiding correcting my thesis and starting, but somehow not finishing, several posts for this blog. For the first time in weeks, I decided to surf around the other blogs and, as usual, my first port of call was Trig Brooks’ site. After a few minutes of reading the posts my eye was caught by the seasonal food item of the week, towards the bottom of the side bar.
Fifteen minutes later I realised I was still staring and drooling.
There is definitely something about rare venison that makes it impossible to resist. it’s more than just the fantastic flavour. I think it’s the association with the cold winter months and the inevitable comfort that game dinners bring. Plus rare venison has such a beautiful colour and the slices of meat topped with a few sprigs of rosemary look delicious.
These thoughts all coincided with the arrival of a message from Goon over the internet saying something along the lines of “PLEASE SAVE ME! I NEED MEAT!” Goon had gone to visit his parents for Christmas and apparently they don’t eat as much meat as we do*. He was missing the 250g steaks that I regularly cook for him. I had little sympathy as I’d just spent Christmas with my vegetarian and practically teetotal parents (more on that soon) but I thought Goon’s imminent return to London was an even better excuse to go get us a big chunk of deer meat.
Luckily for me, despite it being that awkward time between Christmas and New Year, the Borough Website informed me that the market would be open that Friday. And so I went down there to fetch my venison. I also got a couple of duck breasts, a haggis and a rather nice black pudding. During the walk home from Borough, my mind was boggling with potential ways of cooking my deer. Eventually it settled on this rather neat idea which uses something that can ALWAYS be found in the ‘Living To Eat’ household: good quality gin.
Loin of Venison with a Fruity Gin Sauce, Blackberries and Apple and Celeriac Mash
Ingredients (for two people who like their meat)
- 500g venison loin
- 2 teaspoons rosemary leaves, very finely chopped
- 8-10 juniper berries, finely ground
- 2 teaspoons coarsley ground black pepper
- 3 medium/large mashing potatoes ( I used Vivaldi), peeled and cut into small cubes
- the same volume of celeriac peeled and cut into small cubes
- 1 large bramley cooking apple, peeled and cut into small cubes
- 1 heaped tablepoon finely chopped parsley
- A splash of single cream ( around 50ml)
- 100ml game stock (chicken stock would do)
- large splash gin (about 75ml)
- splash of cassis (50ml)
- a sprig of rosemary plus extra to garnish
- 1 teapoons raspberry or red wine vinegar
- 10 blackberries, cut in half plus a few whole ones to garnish
- Preheat your oven to gas mark 6.
- Coat the venison sparsely with the ground pepper, juniper and chopped rosemary. Get a frying pan very hot and sear the meat on all sides, reserving any liquid that comes off for the sauce.
- Transfer the venison to a roasting tin and place in the oven for 10-12 minutes for rare meat.
- Once the venison is cooked, remove from the oven, wrap in foil and rest for 15 minutes or until ready to serve. Again, any pan juices will enrich the sauce, so keep hold of them.
- While the venison is in the oven, take the cubes of apple, celeriac and potato and place in a pan. Cover with water and bring to the boil.
- Once the vegetables are tender (after around 15 minutes) drain thoroughly and then mash with the cream and the chopped parsley, making sure you get the vegetables evenly mixed.
- In a small saucepan, bring the stock to a bubble, then add the gin, cassis, sprig of rosemary and the blackberries. Pour in the pan juices from the venison and allow the mixture to reduce to a thick syrup. Stir in the vinegar, taste, adjust seasoning, then strain off the solids.
- To serve, slice the venison on the diagonal and arrange around a mound of mash. Drizzle the sauce over the meat and decorate with blackberries and sprigs of rosemary
I was very impresed by this meal. The flavours were great and the venison was perfectly done. I think some lightly cooked savoy cabbage would have been a better accopaniment than the asparagus that we decided to have, but apparently Goon had been fed more cabbage than he thought was possible over the previous week and really couldn’t bear to have any more.
The only problem with the meal was a few woody bits of celeriac in the mash. Since I have only cooked celeriac once before I’m not sure if this was because I didn’t peel it adequately or because that is how celeriac always turns out. So, if anyone can give me advice on how to improve my mashed celeriac, I’d appreciate it.
*This isn’t saying much. We both eat far too much meat.