It’s been a tough week. My Dad is ill in hospital and, while thankfully he’s stabilising now, it was touch and go for a few days. Naturally, I’ve come home to Ireland, and while here have not had many opportunities to cook. I am really starting to feel it.
Cooking, whichever meal, is one of the few times in my day that I am completely focussed and I find it utterly relaxing. I love playing with my food. I have not been cooking at home or eating well though, instead I have been eating at the hospital café, and really, I am sure Scotch Broth soup is not supposed to taste like damp warm socks, or coffee like grainy Bovril. ICK. They do have the beloved toasted special there but with plastic reconstituted cheese and I just can’t do it. Shouldn’t hospitals have good food, to help people get better, and to help ease the stresses of those visiting?
Luckily across the road from the hospital there is a very nice shop which sells almost everything and also sells very good food. Lots of local produce and interesting more widespread Irish produce. So I stocked up with the intention of eating a bit better and exploring local products I had yet to try. There are still a few!
I started with some wild venison. I wondered what to do with it, and while out walking past some brambles, I spied some blackberries which were still fresh and juicy, and it seemed like the most obvious thing in the world.
I figured that blackberries, cooked with some of that nice rioja that I had at the house and a little balsamic as they were very a little sweet rather than the more sour blackberries earlier in the season. The rich balsamic tang would be good with the gamey venison too. Some honey would reassert the balance if required, and some fresh meat stock would add depth. A brown stock like veal stock would be best here but I had fresh chicken stock so I used that.
The sauce was a revelation, rich with the rioja and the stock with the juicy and slightly sour blackberries flirting with the balsamic. I want to try it with game birds too, I think it would be very good. The only odd thing is, it really does look like a puddle of blood underneath Bambi, but try not to think about that ;)
You will have to forgive the poor char on the venison, I was a bit distracted and didn’t heat the pan enough (you really need to heat those for a good 5 minutes until they are as hot as the center of the sun). It deserved a crisp char but it still tasted great though. The lean venison, served rare with that rich and juicy blackberry sauce was perfect. Some sauté potatoes and some kale or cavolo nero would be a great accompaniment. Alos beetroot, which is a perfect partner to the balsamic in the sauce.
With regard to the recipe for the sauce, this like anything you cook, requires you to taste it. Volumes of each ingredient depend on the sweetness of the blackberries, the richness of your stock and the wine you use. It’s very flexible so feel free to adjust to your likeness.
Wild Venison with Wild Blackberry Sauce
2 wild venison steaks about 2cm thickness (what ever cut you can get – I had quite a lean bit of loin)
A glass of red wine (rioja or something similarily full bodies works – whatever you have)
250ml meat stock (fresh if possible, veal of light beef best but chicken works too)
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp honey
Add the wine to a pan over a high heat and burn off the alcohol (you will smell it in the air) for a couple of minutes.
Add the blackberries, vinegar and stock and cook over a low heat for about 10 minutes until the blackberries are cooked and mushy.
Add honey to taste.
Serve warm under the steak.
Ensure that your venison is at room temperature. Salt & Pepper your steaks on each side and rub with a small bit of neutral oil (rapeseed or sunflower work – try not to use one that is strong flavoured). The pepper isn’t essntial but l like it.
Heat a griddle or similar until extremely hot. For a good 5 minutes if you can.
Fry the steaks for 2-3 minutes on either side for rare (which is really how you should eat good wild venison), 3-4 for medium, 5-6 for well done (but please don’t do that!).