Roast Venison with Chocolate Sauce and Celeriac Puree

Roast Venison with Chocolate Sauce
Amazingly, I took a day off with Helen on Friday, primarily to attend the Spice Festival in Newcastle. Unfortunately (or some may say typically), we turned up to find it didn’t actually start until 4pm. Ah well.

So, we headed off into the city for a quick look around, a decent coffee and to make the most of our rare day off together. Somewhat more fortuitously though, there was a small farmers’ market on with some good local suppliers, no doubt doing a great trade thanks to supermarkets shooting themselves in the foot. Good times.

One stall caught my eye – a small supplier selling game meat called Ridleys Game and Fish, based near Hexham in Northumberland. A quick Google on the way to get some cash, revealed they have been awarded Great Taste Awards for some of their produce, which in my experience is a very reliable seal of approval. In particular, there were various cuts of Sika Deer Venison which I’d never come across before. It’s not cheap, but I was keen to try it and I went for a rolled and tied haunch. Thankfully, I wasn’t to be disappointed, this was some of the nicest venison I’ve tasted – so much flavour and yet still tender.

I posted a venison dish a couple of weeks ago, so I apologise for another so quickly, but it is only in season for another month, so make hay while the sun shines eh? I wasn’t sure what to do with it but I did make some comments about making a chocolate sauce with real chocolate next time I made a venison dish. I also found some quince paste and remember seeing a recent BBC show that used it in a sauce. I thought it would work well here, but it is optional.

The venison itself was cooked fairly rare in about 40 minutes. A little longer than the twenty minutes some sources stated I should cook it for. I was ‘johnny on the spot’ with the themometer as it’s a very lean meat and like all leans meat can turn disappointingly dry in the blink of an eye. It really is the best kitchen gadget I’ve ever bought, well worth it.

It’s a game meat, so you can throw some big flavours at it and I added parma ham, smoked bacon lardon and shallots to the roasting process for which I used a cast iron skillet. I made a sinfully rich celeriac puree, which was inspired by a dinner I had last night with good friends in Leeds to finish it off along with simply steamed carrot and cabbage.

I will be honest, this worked very nicely. It was uber rich and all the better for it.

Serves two with leftovers:

  • I rolled and boned haunch of venison (about 1 kg or 2 lbs)
  • 100g smoked bacon lardons
  • 3 slices of parma ham
  • about 10 shallots peeled but left whole

For the chocolate sauce:

  • 2 garlic cloves
  • Rapeseed oil
  • 60ml Port
  • 300ml light stock, I used chicken, but veal/game would be better
  • 1 small knob of butter
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 tsp quince paste
  • 1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 20g dark (70% coco) chocolate (or, to taste)

For the celeriac puree:

  • Half a celeriac
  • About 200ml whole milk
  • About 1 tbsp butter or more if you like (I said it was rich….)
  • Salt to taste
  • About 10 whole baby carrots
  • 3 cabbage leaves, stems removed and sliced

Start with the venison:

Get the oven on to about 190°C/375°F.

Get the cast iron skillet smoking hot with a little oil. Season the venison and brown it all over. Remove and wrap around parma ham to cover before returning to the pan. Roast for about 30 minutes and check the centre – about 50-55°C or 125-130°F is right for rare meat.

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In the meantime, peel and half the celeriac, then cut into chunks. Bring to a boil in the bottom of a steamer. Add the carrots in a steamer insert above and leave for around 15 minutes or until the celriac is tender. For the last 5 minutes, add the cabbage to the steamer as it won’t take long.

At the same time, fry off the garlic in a small pan and add the port and stock. Simmer to reduce until halved.

Once the venison is done, leave it to rest for 10 minutes at least, in some foil and finish off the rest.

De-glaze the skillet with the stock reduction and pour it back in the pan. Reserve the roasted shallots and bacon to serve later and keep warm.

Add the chocolate and quince paste to the sauce and stir well. Taste and adjust the seasoning if need be. Cover to keep warm.

For the puree, warm the milk and butter and pour into a blender with the drained celeriac. Blend until smooth and season to taste with salt.

Slice the venison and serve the whole lot up on very hot plates with a glass of good red wine!

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Monkfish, Queen Scallops and Pea Puree

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I’m so hungry, I could eat a Findus Lasagne…..

The horse meat scandal rumbles on in Europe at the moment and whilst there’s nothing necessarily wrong with eating it, as the French and Italians in particular will no doubt protest, it raises big issues. It makes you think about the chain involved in mass manufactured food and personally, made me think about the source of the food we eat. It was sold as beef, but was nothing of the sort and that’s worrying.

I generally avoid processed foods, as I guess most people reading this will as you’re probably a ‘fan’ of good food like me. I can’t pretend to be pious enough to avoid supermarkets but try to buy better quality wherever possible.

Whenever I can though, I get meat and fish from local butchers and fishmongers where I’m happy the produce is as far away from the likes of Comigel as possible. Once such place is Latimers which I first wrote about a few weeks back.

I went down today and got chatting to the guy behind the counter who was genuinely enthusiastic about the source of the fish, even explaining that the recent weather meant a poor catch, highlighting which fish they’d had to buy in (to keep a decent range in stock no doubt). They have a couple of boats landing fish as often as weather allows and you can phone ahead to see what was bought in and order it to collect later. I love this. Proper sustainable, sourceable food and as fresh as you can get.

One fish that was landed was monkfish which has undergone something of a promotion from little regarded lobster pot bait to an expensive restaurant regular. Now, I’m not a huge fan of this fish, it can be a little bland compared to others, but it works well with accompaniments and strong flavours and sauces rather than being the ‘star of the show’.

When deciding what to do with it, I thought about contrasting the flavours and textures which is pretty much the basis of a good dish I’ve come to learn. So, I combined the monkfish with some sweet tasting Queen scallops (also from Latimers), even sweeter pea puree, salty lardons and crisp, slightly bitter braised lettuce. I was pleased with the results, but next time I would sear the monkfish some more, it would have been well worth it.

  • Once large monkfish fillet halved into two portions
  • 150g Queen scallops
  • 1 large knob of butter
  • 100g bacon lardons
  • 1 Little gem lettuce halved
  • 200g frozen peas
  • 200ml vegetable stock
  • Oil
  • Salt and pepper

Put a couple of plates in the oven to warm, they will need to be hot for this dish.

In a small, lidded, pan bring the peas to a gentle simmer in the stock and turn the heat off. Blend the peas with a little of the stock and some butter (if you like) to make a puree and return to the pan with the lid on to keep warm. Taste and season if needed.

Put a griddle pan on the hob and get it hot. Rub the fillets with oil and a sprinkle of salt/pepper and and lay then on the pan.

Monkfish - griddle pan

Fry off the lardons in a heavy pan and a little oil and remove, leaving the oils in pan. Put the halves of lettuce on the same pan, flat size down for about five minutes to caramelise.

Keep your eye on the monkfish and turn after about 5 minutes.

Remove the lettuce and keep warm with the plates.

Finally, put the lardons back in the pan and with a good knob of butter. Add the scallops and fry on a high heat until just cooked, about 5 minutes max. Don’t over-do them!

Plate up some of the scallops on the pea puree with the rest dotted around with the lardons. Slice the monkfish and pour over half of the butter from the scallops pan. Add the braised lettuce and you’re good to go!

Monkfish Scallops and Pea Puree