One of the best things about going from autumn into winter is the warm, hearty food we can look forward to. At this time of year, I like to take advantage of the abundance of wild foods in season. This time of year is also game time - which includes feathered and four-legged animals. The season for feathered game runs from the beginning of October to the start of February and the four-legged game season runs from September 1 until March. Over the coming weeks, venison, rabbit, grouse, mallard, teal, pigeon, woodcock and snipe will be in season and we look forward to sampling some of them on our KOOKS courses.
I recommed getting to know your local butcher. He or she will be only too happy to accommodate your requests for game and if they don’t normally stock it they will be happy to either order it for you or steer you in the right direction. You’ll find your local butcher is very keen to share their passion for their craft with you. My local butcher knows I like most of the meat I buy to be hung for longer than is usual and so when I buy it they are very happy to oblige and hang it for a further week or so in their large fridges until I am ready to use it.
At last week's KOOKS Dinner Party Class we cooked a beautiful venison dish. Venison is a wonderfully pure meat that has fewer calories and less fat than beef, but it needs careful cooking to render it succulent.
Here's the recipe from our class. If you don't have time to make the delicious accompanying sauce, a really quick alternative is to simply add the blackberries while finishing the venison (at the final saute stage).
Loin of Venison with Port and Blackberry Sauce (Serves 4)
4 pieces of venison, approx 150g each
Marinade - 20ml olive oil and a pinch of chilli powder (mix these ingredients together in a bowl)
20 fresh blackberries
2 shallots (finely diced)
1 clove garlic (finely diced)
Dash of olive oil
Fresh milled black pepper
3 knobs of unsalted butter
1 tsp honey
1 litre chicken stock (or venison stock)
Dash of brandy
1. Heat a little olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat, then add the shallots and garlic and season with salt and pepper.
2. Sauté for a few minutes, allowing shallots and garlic to colour slightly, then stir in the honey, blackberries and the port.
3. Bring to the boil and let it boil until it reduces by half.
4. Pour in the stock and cook at the same heat for a further 20 minutes or until the liquid has reduced by three quarters.
5. Remove from heat and strain through a sieve. Taste and correct the seasoning.
6. Return sauce to the heat and whisk in butter, then serve.
Method (Venison) :
1. Rest the venison in its marinade overnight in the fridge.
2. Season the venison pieces on both sides and sauté on a hot pan over a medium heat turning occasionally until golden brown in colour.
3. Remove and place on a roasting tray.
4. Cook in a preheated hot oven (175C) for 5 minutes.
5. Remove from the oven, return to pan and sprinkle with crushed black pepper corns. Sauté over a medium heat for a further minute and flambé with a dash of brandy.
6. Remove from heat and allow the meat to rest for three to four minutes before carving.
This dish is delicious served with fondant potatoes. To cook the potatoes firstly cut them into quarters. Season and brown them in a pan on a medium heat. Remove and place them in a small baking tray. Add enough chicken stock to cover them to half. Cook in oven (at 170 C) for about 20 minutes or until the liquid has evaporated.