The butcher (Don Hayes in Staple Hill) had venison loin last weekend and I just had to buy some. I love venison but it isn’t a meat that I eat very often, mainly because it isn’t always easily available.
I had two pieces of loin and wanted to cook something that looked impressive as well as doing the meat justice. I decided on cooking it en croute, wrapped in puff pastry and stuffed with a duxelles mixture, otherwise known as venison Wellington. For this, you need the following;
2 pieces of venison loin, about half a kilo in weight, trimmed of any membrane
100g chestnut mushrooms
1 large banana shallot
fresh parsley and tarragon
two small small glasses of white wine
salt and pepper
puff pastry (I used bought)
1 egg yolk
1 glass of port
a small amount of light stock (chicken or veal)
red wine vinegar
First I made the duxelles stuffing. For this, you finely chop the shallot and mushrooms and sauté them in butter, adding finely chopped parsley and tarragon, salt and pepper and then one glass of the white wine. You cook this out until the mixture is dry and set it aside.
Next, using some more butter, season the venison and sear the outside, but do not cook it through. You need the meat to remain very rare. Set aside to cool and deglaze the pan with the other glass of white wine. Add in the stock and the port, stirring and allowing it to boil. Then add the quince jelly and keep stirring until it is melted. Taste and add some red wine vinegar. This will offset the sweetness of the quince. Pour off into a jug and set aside.
Now assemble the dish.
First, lay out the slices of prosciutto and put one piece of loin across them. Then spoon over the duxelles (you might not need all of it) and put the other piece of loin on top.
Next, carefully roll up the prosciutto to form a tight sausage shape.
Finally, lay out the pastry and place the meat on top and roll this into a neat parcel.
This can be placed on a buttered non-stick baking tray and glazed with beaten egg yolk and refrigerated until it is time to cook it.
The Wellington needs to be baked in a pre-heated oven at 180C for about 25 minutes, so that the pastry is cooked but not so long as the meat is overdone. The meat needs to stay rare.
While it is cooking, you need to reduce the sauce in a saucepan, so that it is thickened but not jammy.
I served this in slices with some spinach wilted in butter and a simple potato gratin.
To drink, we had a bottle of L’instant Truffier Malbec 2012 Rigal, PGI Côtes du Lot from Majestic, a wine made in the same region as Cahors and from the same grape, the Malbec (also known in the region as Côt or Auxerrois). This is a big wine, not as deep as actual Cahors, but rich and flavoursome, with good tannins.
Roast pork is great, lots of lovely crackling and really tasty meat. The important thing is making sure you cook the right cuts in the right way. Loin of pork, for example cooks a lot faster that belly, leg or shoulder and therefore, you won’t get decent crackling in the same time as it takes to cook the meat so that it remains succulent.
If you do cook a loin joint to get crackling, the meat will be all dried out. So, if you are roasting a loin joint, remove the rind and cook it separately to get proper crackling.
Anyway, the joint I cooked here was a boned and rolled spare rib joint, which is actually a shoulder cut and nothing to do with the spare ribs with bones that you get in sticky sauce in a Chinese restaurant.
This is a joint that will stand a longer cooking time without drying out because it contains more fat and is muscle that has worked more than the loin. The joint was scored and tied by the butcher, so there wasn’t any preparation required, apart from rubbing salt into the rind.
I like a flavoursome gravy, made with the pan juices, and to help this I roast my meat on a bed of chopped vegetables and herbs and, in the case of pork, sliced apples too.
I used sliced onion, skin included, sliced carrots, sliced Cox’s apples (plus the cores from the apples I was going to braise with red cabbage) and a mixture of fresh thyme, rosemary and sage. This layer was seasoned with salt and pepper and the meat placed on top.
It was roasted in a 180C oven for about two and a half hours, at which point the crackling was done and the meat nicely cooked through. The vegetable layer was caramelised and a bit charred, which is exactly what you want.
I added in some boiling water and gave it another 15-20 minutes so that the water would take up the flavours from the roasting pan. At this point, it looked like this;
While the meat was resting, I poured the pan liquid through a sieve into a bowl and used a ladle to remove as much fat as possible from the surface of the stock. Then, I added half a bottle of dry cider to the pan and cooked it on the hob, scraping up all the caramelised meat and sticky gunk from the pan.
This was then strained through the sieve into the stock and the gravy was simmered in a saucepan and thickened with some potato flour mixed into a thin paste with cold water.
Finally, the crackling was removed from the meat before carving and serving.
We had the pork with roast potatoes, roast parsnips and the previously mentioned red cabbage braised in cider with apple.
I realised the other day that I’d not posted anything on here in ages and the reason is that I’ve, once again, been eating things that I cook all the time and which I have blogged already.
Anyway, last night I cooked something pretty special because we had a friend over for dinner.
A ballotine is a dish made from boned,stuffed and rolled poultry. These were traditionally tied with butcher’s string but nowadays clingfilm is common, particularly if you are poaching the meat. They are similar to paupiettes.
I used boned and skinned chicken breasts which I cut open with a filleting knife and then beat out thinly with a meat hammer, with the meat between two pieces of clingfilm.
The stuffing was made from pork and wild mushroom sausages, with the meat removed from the sausage skins, and cubes of black pudding.
The ballotines were rolled up in clingfilm into a nice tight sausage shape, with the ends firmly twisted as tight as possible and chilled until it was time to cook them.
I soaked some dried morels and ceps in boiling water to extract the rich mushroom flavours. I removed the soaked mushrooms from the water, cutting the morels in half and chopping the ceps into pieces The saved soaking water would be the basis of the stock for the sauce.
The sauce was made by sautéeing the soaked mushroom pieces in butter and adding a glass of dry white wine, which was allowed to boil and reduce a bit before the mushroom water was added, taking care not to add the gritty sediment which you always get with dried mushrooms. I also added a small amount of jellied chicken stock for more flavour. This was further reduced and then seasoned with a little salt and pepper. It was quite thick at this point but it could have been thickened with some potato flour or corn flour mixed with cold water, if desired.
The ballotines were poached in boiled water for about 20 minutes and left in the water to keep warm while the dish was finished off.
I served the ballotines cut into three pieces, with carrots and green beans and with the wild mushroom sauce poured over the plate.
I also fried some cubes of potato, which were added last of all at the table.
The wine we drank with this was a classic red Burgundy, a 2008 Savigny lès Beaune from the Cave de Nolay, a lovely rich example of classic Burgundian Pinot Noir, with a nice depth of flavour, good tannins and that classic whiff of the farmyard on the nose.
As I’ve said before, roast chicken is my favourite roast dinner, but this isn’t really about the chicken. Today, I want to talk about gravy.
To get good gravy you need to get flavour into the roasting dish and you need a dish that will go on the hob.
The best way is to put the meat or bird onto a bed of chopped vegetables and herbs and, as the meat roasts, the juices and fats will help caramelise the veggies. This caramelisation will give flavour, and also colour to your gravy.
You can vary the vegetables but I think that the essentials are carrots, leeks and onions. For herbs, I think that thyme and parsley stalks are the best, but bay leaves are also useful. You need the woody-stemmed herbs really, because they will have most flavour. You also need to season with salt and pepper.
You don’t need to peel the vegetables and you can use the green parts of the leeks too. You want all the parts with flavour. You won’t eat the vegetables, they will get thrown away.
So, once your roast is resting, you need to put the dish on the hob and add some liquid and keep stirring. You can use water alone, but some added booze is better. Red or white wine are fine, but something fortified like port, sherry or Madeira is even better. A dry vermouth is also good. For a gravy to have with roast pork, try some cider, it works brilliantly. You can even use beer.
Anyway, you need to heat up the liquid, stirring all the while to melt the sticky bits in the dish and get all the flavour from the vegetables and herbs. You will also need to skim off the surplus fat from the dish, to avoid having an oily gravy.
You need a fine mesh sieve and a saucepan. Strain the liquid from the dish, pushing the veg with a spoon to extract as much flavour as possible.
Then, heat the stock, because that is what it is, and reduce it a bit. Taste it and adjust the seasoning, if necessary and thicken it with beurre manié or a thin cornflour or potato flour paste. I like a fairly thin gravy, but you can thicken it as much as you want.
You can whisk in some redcurrant jelly if you like, this is nice with roast lamb, or leave it plain.
That is it, really. It sounds like a lot of work, but it isn’t really and it is loads nicer than granules.
A hint: if you like a darker gravy, you can get this by adding in a couple of drops of dark soy sauce, but be careful. Too much and your gravy will be dark brown. It is also worth checking how salty your gravy is before doing this too.
I suppose it really should be curry goat (note: NOT goat curry), however I didn’t have any goat meat but I did have lamb neck fillet.
Curry arrived in the West Indies with the indentured workers from the Indian sub-continent in the 19th century who replaced slaves, after slavery was abolished within the British Empire.
The main difference between Indian curries and Jamaican ones is the blend of spices used. Jamaican curry powder typically contains allspice, which is not used in India and tends to avoid spices like cardamom, which are commonly used in Indian masala blends. You can make your own Jamaican curry powder but there are several good commercial blends available. I like Tex’s, which is widely available in many West Indian shops.
The actual curry is pretty easy to make.
I used cubed lamb neck fillet, but shoulder or leg works well too. The dish also contains cubed potatoes, onions, garlic and tomatoes, along with scotch bonnet chillies.
I fried the chopped onions and garlic in sunflower oil until softened and then added in two tablespoons of curry powder and a tablespoon of flour, stirring this in well. They I added the meat, potatoes and tomatoes, together with some salt (the curry powder contains some too), black pepper and the finely-chopped scotch bonnet chilli, stirring well so that everything in mixed together and coated in the spices.
Then, I added sufficient boiled water to allow the meat to cook and make a nice sauce (the flour helps thicken this.
The curry cooked on a low gas for around an hour and a half, so that the meat was tender and the sauce thickened. I added in a small carton of coconut cream towards the end of the cooking time. It helped the texture of the sauce and gave a nice flavour too.
As with an Indian curry, you serve it with rice, or maybe you could do Jamaican Rice and Peas.
This was inspired by watching the Adam Richman TV series, Man v Food.
Obviously, I don’t have access to those huge barbecue ovens that all the restaurants on the show have, but I thought that pot-roasting a piece of brisket would work after a fashion.
I started this off on Friday morning by making a dry rub from the following; soft brown sugar, garlic powder, salt, black pepper, smoked sweet and picante pimenton, chipotle powder, dried oregano, dried thyme and powdered cinnamon which I rubbed all over the meat in a large plastic freezer bag.
This was then left in the fridge for 24 hours.
On Saturday morning I sliced up a couple of carrots and onions (skin included) and put them in an enamelled iron oven pot. I added a couple oof dried chillies, a few bay leaves and a couple of sprigs of fresh rosemary. I put the brisket on top and poured in most of a bottle of cheap white wine that would make up a gravy and provide steam while the meat was cooking. I sealed the pot with tin foil and put on the lid and then put this in a low (120C) oven for about four and a half hours. After that. I turned off the oven but left the pot in the oven, to get the benefit of the remaining heat.
On Saturday evening, I poured off the rick stock and reduced it down in a saucepan.
The meat was wrapped in foil and warmed through in the oven while some jacket potatoes were cooking.
To serve, I made a kind of coleslaw with red and white cabbage, grated carrots and sliced red onions in a mustardy vinaigrette made with olive oil and cider vinegar.
The spuds were topped with butter and grated cheese and the reduced gravy poured over the incredibly tender meat.
Or, in English, leek tart.
This is one of those classic French open tarts, that we often call a quiche in the UK nowadays, but in France these are generally called tartes.
It is a simple thing to make.
Line a buttered pastry ring with a removeable base with short pastry, prick the bottom with a fork and blind bake until the pastry has firmed up and taken some colour.
It is worth it if you don’t trim the pastry before the initial blind bake, because of shrinkage. Once the pastry case has cooked down, you can trim the edges with a sharp knife.
Make the filling as follows;
Beat two eggs and two egg yolks into a bowl with half cream or crème fraiche and half milk, salt and pepper. I tend to judge the quantities by eye, because it is tricky to know exactly how much you will need.
Sauté three finely sliced leeks in butter with a little oil until they are softened but not browned. You want to avoid them taking on too much colour, because this makes them go bitter.
Spread the leeks evenly over the base of the pastry and sprinkle with a good handful of grated Emmenthal or similar cheese; Gruyère or Comté would be equally good.
Then carefully pour in the eggy custard mixture until it fills the case to the edges.
Bake on the middle shelf of an oven at 170C until the custard is set and golden on top.
When it is cool, it should be easy to remove from the pastry ring.