Only two more sleeps! That is, until I eat way more than is healthy for any human.
Home-made pancakes for breakfast, with bacon and maple syrup; a four-course traditional Christmas Day lunch at my sister Donna’s and the mandatory festive sandwich later in the evening – fried for max affect – when I fool myself into thinking I’m hungry again; I have it all planned out already. Then there’ll be the wine and possibly a craft beer or two and the obligatory chocs from the weans’ selection boxes when they’re not looking. Lord, I can hardly wait.
You may have noticed last week that I was off hunting in Baronscourt Estate; now that was an experience I won’t forget in a hurry. Whilst we didn’t shoot anything (my patience was shot by the end, right enough), I was happy to accommodate a haunch of venison donated as a consolation prize. I cooked it up that Sunday in traditional fashion with added veg and oodles of red wine gravy. Even the weans loved the gravy.
I’m thinking too that it – another haunch – would make a nice New Year’s Day centre piece, though I’d imagine the Duke will make me cough up for the next one. I suppose I can’t expect everything to come for free. Still, from last Sunday’s experience, wild venison is well worth paying for. Not only was it subtler than I’d ever imaged, only the mildest hint of wild game, the Sika meat was tender as you like but resplendent with deep flavours. My father went so far as to remark it was one of his most memorable roasts.
This recipe is about as simple as it gets with venison but as with any great product, the less you mess about with it the better. The gravy is optional of course, and if you didn’t want to go to that trouble, horseradish works amazingly well too (this I discovered via a sandwich the following day).
You hear me spouting about this food or that food week after week, but this venison is a real award winner. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
1 haunch of Baronscourt venison (about 3kg) bone in
2 tablespoons of goose fat
Freshly ground black pepper
RED WINE GRAVY
Tbsp of flour
3 or 4 tbsps of the venison juices
100ml of red wine
2 heaped tbsps of red currant jelly
1 sprig of fresh thyme
400ml of light beef stock
Start by pre-heating the oven to 220C. As that’s happening, sprinkle the haunch all over with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Rub it all in.
Add the goose fat to a large cast iron roasting dish. Set the dish on the heat and when it’s nice and hot, brown the haunch all over, turning and browning and turning. You want a good colouring over as much of the meat as you can manage. This will probably take about ten minutes.
When that’s done, remove the haunch and pour away any remaining fat from the pan. Put a metal grill on the roasting dish, set on the haunch and place into the oven.
Depending on how big the haunch is will determine for how long it cooks. But however long it takes to cook, you want to give it 20 minutes at 220 and then turn the oven down to 170C and cook for 10 minutes per 500g for rare and 15 minutes per 500g for medium to well-done. Cooking a haunch until it’s completely cooked through will make it tougher.
Altogether, for my 3kg haunch it was in the oven for 1 hour and 45 minutes. Then it came out to rest for another 20 minutes before carving. The exterior slices were nearly well done and inside it was still wonderfully pink.
During the rest time, make the gravy.
Spoon the juices out of the pan and into a sauce pan on a medium heat. Add the flour and stir until you have a kind of roux – about two minutes. Next add the redcurrant jelly and the wine and stir it up for another minute, until the alcohol cooks away.
Pour in the beef stock gradually, whisking as you go and when that’s in, add the thyme sprig whole and turn the gravy down until it’s on the barest simmer.
Stir it now and again for about ten minutes, taste for seasoning and it’s ready to go.
If it’s a bit thick, simply add a touch of water out of the kettle and whisk through. Remove the thyme before you serve.
For this feast, I carved up the venison and served with buttered carrots, some lightly steamed broccoli, a roast potato or two, honey roast parsnips and a few simply boiled spuds.
Then the whole thing was swimming in red wine gravy and it slipped down a treat.
Although I’m not sure it was the best ever roast, it was definitely the best venison I’ve ever had. Then again, I don’t eat it that often.
Until now, that is. Happy Christmas!
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