I am lucky. I know someone who had some extremely high-quality sika venison available, and I got a couple of cuts. One cut was a lovely 450g piece of meat, the loin. Sika deer are smaller than our red deer, but in evolutionary terms, are quite similar. They are originally from Japan and neighbouring countries in the far east, and are an introduced species in Europe.
I made this dish based on a recipe from Gordon Ramsey, adapted to suit. Remember to take your time, as the ingredients need to be chilled and resting in between bouts of cooking.
450g sika loin
3 tbsp olive oil
around 400g mushrooms
1 sprig thyme
1/2 glass dry white wine
Salt, pepper, a grate of nutmeg
2 packs of prosciutto, around 10 to 12 slices
320g jus-rol rolled puff pastry (one pack)
1 egg, beaten, or one egg yolk beaten with a little water
Heat the oven to 220C
While it is heating, put the meat on a roasting tray, brush with olive oil, and season with pepper. Roast for 15 minutes, then remove from the oven and cool, then chill in the fridge for at least 20 minutes
Chop the mushrooms to your preferred texture,
Heat 50g butter with 2 tbsp olive oil, add the thyme and the mushrooms and fry gently for around 10 minutes, until the mushrooms are soft.
Add seasoning, and the white wine, and cook until the wine has been absorbed. Don’t worry if the mixture seems loose, the venison needs a little oil. Once the mushrooms are cooked, remove the thyme and set to cool a little.
On a clean linen cloth or clingfilm, lay out the prosciutto so that it is about double thickness, overlapped and about the length of the venison. Spread the cool fried mushrooms over the prosciutto and then place the venison on top. Use the cloth or cling-film to roll up the venison inside the prosciutto, and to tighten the parcel together. Put this in the fridge to rest.
Take out the pastry, lay it out on the paper it came wrapped in, and use a rolling-pin to neaten it up. Unravel the venison/prosciutto parcel and place it along one side of the pastry, so that there is space to fold the pastry over the top. Think of a giant Cornish pasty. Before you fold over, brush the bare pastry and the top and sides of the venison parcel. Fold the pastry over, press and crimp to seal the edges, and transfer back to the roasting tray. Brush the surface with the egg wash, and use the back of a knife to mark diagonal scores along the pastry. Chill for 30 minutes.
Heat the oven to 200C. Cook the Wellington for 20 to 25 minutes. Allow to stand for around 10 minutes before slicing into thick portions.
We served this with celeriac and potato mash, and garden carrots simmered in a little white wine, butter and thyme.
This is a recipe introduced to me by one of my daughters, thanks to one of her boyfriends. I believe it is Dutch in origin.
4 local wild rabbits, skinned and gutted
2 onions, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
salt and pepper
4 apples (Braeburn or similar)
8 potatoes (general cooking variety)
more butter and/or cream
Set the oven to 160C
Mix the rabbit with garlic, onion, salt and pepper. Put it in a roasting tray with butter and water and cover with tin foil. Bake in the oven until tender, about an hour. Take the tin foil off and bake for another ten minutes or so.
When the rabbit is cool enough, strip off the meat, and put it into an oven-safe dish
Meanwhile, peel and chop the potatoes and apples. Put the potatoes in a saucepan and just cover with water, and season with salt. Cover with a layer of apples, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
Strain off most of the water, and roughly mash the apples and potatoes together, with salt, pepper, nutmeg, and an egg, butter and/or cream to taste.
Put the mashed potatoes over the rabbit meat, heat through in the oven for around 10 minutes before serving.
Bramble season in the Hebrides, much later than on the mainland. The blackberries we picked last weekend were sharp and flavourful, juicy and small. I’ve frozen some for making bramble jelly later, but I made a crumble for Malcolm, because he loves it.
1 very large cooking apple
around 200g blackberries
1 tbsp date syrup or dark brown sugar
a pinch of cinnamon, or allspice
180g self-raising flour
Preheat the oven to 180C
Make a crumble mix – rub the butter into the flour and then add the sugar. You can add porridge oats, ground nuts, use brown sugar, or add spices if you wish.
Peel and chop the cooking apple, and then combine with the blackberries and the date syrup and allspice (or other sugar, sweet spice).
Put the fruit evenly in the bottom of an oven-proof dish, then cover with the crumble mix.
Bake for around 30 minutes, then serve with custard or cream.
This looks so beautiful, adding flowers to salad, and the extra flavour that they bring just lifts the whole thing. I usually make a basic Greek-style salad and layer the flowers on top. The ingredients depend on what is available. I add the ingredients in layers, only mixing together when serving.
This is so tasty. The goose needs to be chopped pretty small though.
100ml olive oil
4 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced finely
1 medium onion, sliced finely
2 medium carrots, sliced finely
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 wild goose breast, sliced thinly and then cut into small squares
250g coarse bulgar wheat (I bought mine online from Turkishop)
Preheat the oven to 200C
Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan, and fry the potato slices. As the potato starts to brown on one side, flip the slices over. Keep stirring and flipping. Once the potato is done, put it into a large casserole dish.
Next, fry the onion slices and carrots together in the remaining oil in the frying pan, for at least 5 minutes over a medium to high heat.
Meanwhile, slice the goose and put it in a layer over the potato.
Once the onion is done, layer that over the goose.
Put the stock into the frying pan and bring to the boil, and season with salt and pepper.
Put the bulgar wheat over the top of the carrot and onion layer in the middle, making a mound.
Pour in the boiling stock, cover and bake in the oven for around 20 minutes.
Let the dish stand for around 5 minutes before serving.
It is time to make the most of what is in the freezer. I am avoiding going out as much as possible, and eating some of the odd ingredients that are stashed in our freezer. I often take inspiration from recipes from the internet, adapted to what I have. In the freezer, for this recipe, I had some venison diced for stew, and I also had an old pack of membrillo, a quince paste that is generally served with Manchego cheese.
500g diced venison
1 tsp dried rosemary
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp black pepper, ground
200ml red wine
1 tbsp membrillo paste
salt to taste
Marinade the meat for at least two hours, and preferably overnight, in the wine and olive oil, seasoned with black pepper and dried rosemary.
Strain the marinade and set aside.
In a casserole dish, fry the venison in a little more olive oil,
When the meat is browned, add the strained marinade, stock and membrillo paste.
Cook in a slow oven, around 140 C for around 1 1/2 to 2 hours, when the meat should be tender. Season to taste
A shout-out to all of you who are thinking about seeking out the food in your freezers in an emergency, to all of you who have found a couple of pheasants in there. I love a good basic pheasant casserole, it works very well in a coq-au-vin style stew. This version is from Norman Tebbit’s recipe book ‘The Game Cook’.
1 pheasant (I usually joint the pheasant but you don’t have to.)
120g streaky bacon, lardons or similar
1 large onion
200ml red wine
225g mushrooms, chopped
salt and pepper
Pinch of dried thyme leaves (or use a bouquet garni)
1 tbsp flour blended to a paste with 25g butter
Preheat the oven to 170C
Melt the butter in a large frying pan and brown the pheasant, transfer to a large casserole dish
Saute the bacon in the frying pan, along with the finely chopped onion, until the onion begins to brown
Add the fried onion to the casserole dish, along with the wine, stock, herbs, salt and pepper.
Cook in the oven for a couple of hours.
When the pheasant is almost cooked, add the mushrooms.
Once the mushrooms are cooked, you can thicken the stew with the butter/flour mixture. Adjust the seasoning, and serve
I like mashed potato and celeriac with this casserole.
There are other options to add flavour to this casserole. A spoonful of rowanberry jelly or red current jelly adds a fruity twist, or you could add a little cooking apple. Another option would be to add a splash of cream at the end. You could swap the onions for shallots or leeks.
For Christmas, we had pot-roast venison, with a lemon and horseradish gravy. We had a lot of venison for two people, so I also made this curry. It is adapted from a very odd recipe from the BBC website – the quantities were mad, and didn’t match between imperial and metric, so I sort of made up the gaps. It was delicious, although rather hot. I’d like to make it again, so here is what I did.
I am lucky to live in a place where wild venison from red deer is readily available. This year I have bought my venison from South Uist Estates. We’ve now got rather a lot in the freezer, and the Christmas Day menu is sorted.
Tonight I made a casserole using the recipe in The Game Cook by Norman Tebbit. I did add a few variations, couldn’t help myself. It was very very good.
900g shoulder of venison, diced
100g smoked pancetta, or streaky bacon cut into 1cm cubes
2 tbsp plain flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
1 white onion, finely chopped
2 sticks of celery, finely chopped
1 large carrot, diced
1 clove of garlic, crushed
150ml red wine
100g mushrooms, roughly chopped
Bouquet garni (I used the mystery herbs with added bayleaves)
a couple of good shakes of Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
150ml red wine
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp brandy or rum
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
6 black peppercorns
Peel of 1/4 orange, shredded
Put all of the marinade ingredients in a plastic box with a secure lid. Add the venison, shake it all around to mix, and then leave overnight in the fridge.
Preheat the oven to 170C
Take the venison out of the marinade, wipe off the chopped onion and orange, and set aside. Strain the marinade and save that as well.
Heat the oil and butter together in a large casserole dish, and gently fry the pancetta. Once it starts cooking, add the chopped onion, carrot, garlic and celery, and continue to cook until the vegetables are beginning to brown.
Toss the venison in the seasoned flour, and then add the flour, herbs and meat to the pan. Keep stirring the meat in the pan until it starts to brown.
Once the mixture is really dry, add the marinade, the red wine and the stock, a good splash of Worcestershire sauce, and bring to the boil and reduce to a simmer. The liquid should cover the vegetables and meat.
Add the mushrooms, check for seasoning, and then put the casserole into the oven for a couple of hours.
Serve with mashed potato, and a green vegetable. Try adding celeriac to the mash, or serving with roasted parsnips.