I always like to cook venison for my clients. It’s surprisingly versatile and commonly badly cooked. People often comment that venison is tough and stringy, and although it can be (just like lamb or pork) if it is cooked properly and you start with the right piece in the first place then its very hard to do wrong.
This week I was very lucky to be working in the vicinity of “Sheridan’s” one of the most fabulous butchers in Scotland, if not the world. Their reputation, being the suppliers of the Balmoral Estate, among others, classes them as nothing less than extraordinary and I would have to agree. Venison often has to be ordered. Especially If you are after something more than the ubiquitous “diced venison” (this tends only to be suitable for stewing and is in large part to blame for any reputation that venison may have for being a stringy meat), but not here, a selection of different cuts as well as a butcher that can tell you what kind of dear it came from is a real treat.
Earlier in the day I had been watching “Jamie at home” and to my delight he had been having a game day. Needless to say venison was highly featured (being the
most accessable game meat after pheasant). My plan for the evening had been for a haunch, roasted with a thick gravy and red cabbage and generally speaking I do not usually change my mind hours before dinner, but in this case the simplicity of what Jamie was saying and the mouth-watering appeal of what he was preparing completely won me over.
Jamie was cooking loin, or fillet, of venison. The juiciest most delicious (most expensive) cut. With minimum effort or fuss he combined juniper berries, rosemary and seasoning before rolling the loin and searing it in a pan. After 15-20 minutes in the oven it was at its best, very red in the middle and very appealing. When I came to do my own version I added sage along with the rosemary, simply because the rosemary I had taken along was from my own batch, grown from seed this year and not yet very strongly flavoured. I also roasted it for slightly longer, not because I wanted the meat to be any better cooked – far from it, but because the butcher had said to leave it in for half an hour. I always like to ask the butchers opinion on cooking times, because so much can depend on so many different factors and if an animal is local the butcher will probably be able to give you any advice that you ask for. Perhaps because the venison he sold me was from a Red Deer, or perhaps it was just large than Jamie’s piece either way 30 minutes was his recommendation. I think in the end I gave it 25 a sort of cautious middle ground. The meat was perfect. One of the clients even hailed it the best venison he’d ever eaten (I aim to have at least one client say this about one meal in every week). Perfect venison.
Last time I cooked venison loin was at the end of last summer. A friend of ours had bought one over (after having shot it himself) and we put it, whole on the bbq. With the intention of having it quite pink with that lovely chargrilly/bbq feel and fresh salad. Perfect. As it cooked we sipped on our beers and “made merry” suddenly my friend turned to face the bbq – “where has the venison gone?” An odd search began, which luckily didn’t last long as we discovered his faithful labrador swallowing the last few inches of our lovely fillet. Classic.