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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Slow Cooked Venison and Roast Butternut Squash

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Well the sun was out, the temperatures were bearable and it’s the half term school holidays next week meaning one thing – everybody was out and about. We headed up to Gibside on the fringes of Gateshead for a walk around the ruined Gibside Hall. It’s eerie and spectacular in equal measure, being now little more than an overgrown shell of a once grand house. The chapel and ‘column of liberty’ have fared a little better and still stand a mile apart and in direct view of one another. Hopefully this lends a scale to the size of the estate. We headed up around the far reaches of the estate for the better views and steeper climbs and before we knew it a couple of hours had passed.

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Gibside Chapel

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Ruins of Gibside Hall

Column of Liberty

Column of Liberty

Front of Gibside Hall

Front of Gibside Hall

And so, a moderately lengthy winter walk requires a sturdy dinner. I’ll admit, I’ve put this together based on a couple of dishes I’ve eaten at The Broad Chare, a favourite of mine, mainly for its rustic British food and locally sourced produce. They were actually starters of braised venison with Elsdon cheese on toast and blood pudding with roasted squash and I kind of pulled the two together. Not having Elsdon (a firm goats cheese), I substituted some Wensleydale which has a similar sharp flavour. The venison was diced shoulder, slowly simmered for two hours in wine and beef stock until massively rich. The sweet butternut squash and sharp cheese were perfect companions!

For someting a little different, I tried an ingredient given to me by a friend in a Christmas hamper – some chocolate extract. Chocolate is seemingly unlikely friend of venison and this did lend a nice flavour to the dish overall, without dominating it. I’ll experiment further though….

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Serves 2.

  • 500g diced venison suitable for slow cooking.
  • 2 large glasses of red wine, I used Rioja.
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 1 garlic clove, 1 carrot, 1 onion and 1 stick of celery finely diced.
  • 1 litre (2 pints) rich beef stock
  • 1 good splash of Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 bay leaves and a large sprig of thyme, leaves only.
  • 70g smoked bacon lardons
  • 1 butternut squash, halved, seeded and cut into chunks
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Wensleydale cheese to serve
  • Optional – chocolate extract to taste.

In a heavy casserole dish, heat some oil and fry off the venison and lardons (in batches) until well browned.

Stir in the vegetables and soften them. Return the meat and stir though the flour, adding a little water to make it ‘stick’. Pour in the wine and stock and add the bay leaves. Stir thoroughly.

Put the lid on the pot and simmer on the lowest possible heat for about two hours.

After an hour, place the prepared butternut squash in a tray, season with salt and drizzle with oil. Roast in a moderate oven for about an 45 minutes to 1 hour until very tender.

For the last half and hour of the vension, remove the lid to reduce and concentrate the liquid and for the last 5 minutes, add the thyme leaves. Add the chocolate extract to taste if using at the end – it’s worth a try.

Serve the dish up with shavings of Wensleydale cheese and a large glass of Rioja. Perfect.

Venison and Butternut Squash