At this time of year Venison is a lovely alternative to turkey. I’ve done venison this way a few times now for guests, and they love it! It’s cooked in the same way as you would a chateaubriand, the whole fillet. It’s such a simple way of cooking and presenting this gamy piece of meat but looks so impressive and tastes delicious!! I don’t truss it all up like the turkey but keep it simple, just present the venison sliced into 4 portions with a big serving dish of roast tatties (potatoes), honey roast parsnips, caramelised baby onions, wilted savoy cabbage and boiled buttered carrots sprinkled with fennel seeds, and served with a big jug of cinnamon and Tay berry jus. I also add plain steamed sprouts as I love them! So up to you.
I am lucky that my husband is an Estate manager at Glenlyon, one of the Perthshire Estates, so he often comes home with different cuts of venison from a stalk that they have been on recently or some wild birds from shooting parties. Local butchers and even some supermarkets now,but definitely your farm shops, will have whole fillet or at least order it in. Ask them nicely if you can see the fillet first if it is not already on display, as you want to make sure that every bit of sinew is taken off, but even if it isn’t, the meet is so soft and tender it’s very easy to cut away without wasting any or little of the meat. You quite often get a little flappy bit on the side, I just cut that off and fry it separately and give it to the dog as a treat if I don’t gobble it up first. Or, add it to your gravy pot to add venison flavour.
Ingredients - Serves 4
1x whole fillet of venison, wild if you can get it and if you are even luckier get roe deer and if you do, you will need 3-4 whole fillets as they are much smaller but tastier
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon rapeseed or vegetable oil
2-4 bashed cloves of garlic
1 or 2 bushy sprigs of thyme or rosemary, whatever you like, or both
Salt and pepper for seasoning
Now, I’m not great at measurements so whatever you think is enough for 4 of you. I tend to eat loads so this is for 4 men portions…ha!
1 kilo of King Edward potatoes sliced and halved
600 grams or 1 bag of Brussel sprouts
2 large parsnips
2 large carrots peeled and cut the way you like. I like to thick slice them on an angel, as I would the parsnips
12 small shallots or 8 large ones
½ shredded savoy cabbage
The posh gravy…jus!
1 pint water
1 Knorr chicken stock pot, not a cube!
1 Knorr rich beef stock pot, not the plain beef as it’s not rich enough
2 clove of peeled and just panged with your hand or side of knife
½ bottle of red wine
1 fresh or 2 dried bay leaves
1 half of cinnamon stick
4 whole cloves
2-3 tablespoons red currant jelly
½ pealed carrot and break into a few pieces
1 peeled onion and cut into quarters
1/2 celery st ick pealed and chopped into a few pieces
knob of butter
Method– 90 minutes prep time, well that's how long I need and 45 minutes to cook but you but that's mainly the roast tatties, the meat only takes 10 mins or so.
I always make the gravy first as the longer it cooks and festers, the better. I put all the ingredients, except the butter and red currant jelly, into a pan and bring to the boil, and continue to simmer vigorously until the mixture reduced by half. I then add a knob of butter or 2 at the end which helps thicken and gives a lovely shine to your gravy. This I find is always done earlier in the day or the day before. I quite often put a bit of chicken or beef gravy that I have kept in the freezer as it adds a nice depth of flavour.
Take the venison out of the fridge at least an hour or so before you cook it. Meat is best cooked at room temperature, that way your timings are more exact. As mentioned earlier, make sure you take all the sinew off the fillet of venison. It is a bit fiddly but worth it as it presents better and makes sure there are no chewy bits. The sinew is shimmery and see through looking. Pour a little oil in your hand, rub your hands together and then massage the fillet. When you’re ready to cook, give a good sprinkle of sea salt, NOT table salt, over both sides of the fillet. I can’t stress the difference good sea salt makes to a dish! I use Malden Sea Salt. Also, crack fresh pepper over the fillet and leave. You don’t want big chunks of cracked pepper as it will burn, make sure your pepper mill is screwed tight so the pepper is milled fine.
Put the potatoes in a pan of cold water, bring to the boil and boil for 10 or so minutes until the outer layer is starting to flake or get soft. Drain and leave the tatties to dry in the pan for at least 10 minutes. I find that letting them dry themselves really helps crisp them up. Drizzle oil on an oven tray, sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper, add tatties and turn them over and over until they are all covered. Leave until you are ready to cook. Put in a 180-190 degree oven for 45 minutes, turn half way through, continue to cook until crispy and golden.
I don’t use a different pan for the parsnips or onions, I just add them on top of the potatoes for 5 minutes then scoop them out, dry off and add to an oven dish, sprinkle with oil, pepper and salt, then drizzle a good tablespoon of runny honey over them. Then put in the oven for 30 minutes or until caramelised.
Just before you put the venison on, put the shredded cabbage in a pan and add 2 0r 3 tablespoons of water and a knob of butter. Turn the heat up to gas mark 6 and stir regularly until cabbage is almost cooked and still has a bite. If the pan goes dry just add a little more water. Put the lid on to keep warm. This can be done while your venison is resting or do it before but take off heat and put the lid on, it will sit happily for 15 minutes or so then just whack on the heat for a couple of minutes to warm through just before you serve.
Boil the carrots until ready, drain, add a knob of butter and sprinkle of fennel seeds. As I often get my timings wrong, I nearly always put my carrots on a lot earlier on gas mark 3 and they will cook gently for 30/40 minutes. Just means that it’s one less pan to worry about. Steam the sprouts. I find putting a cross on the bottom completely pointless!
Put a non-stick frying pan on the heat and let it warm up to gas mark 6, add some butter and a drop of oil to the pan. The oil stops the butter burning. Add the garlic, thyme and/or rosemary and let the butter melt and swirl around in the pan. You want the butter to take on the flavour of the herbs and butter. Once melted, place the fillet flat side down and let it fry on gas mark 6-7 for 4-5 minutes, then turn and fry for another 4-5 minutes and baste with butter continually. Add more butter so you always have at least a tablespoon of melted butter in the pan to baste. The fillet should feel like the fat bit of your palm, soft and squidgy, that will be rare. If you like it medium cook 5-6 minutes each side. Once cooked, take of the heat and out of the pan and let the fillet rest on a warm plate for at least 10 minutes. Add the juice that runs off into your gravy pot.
While the fillet is resting finish off your vegetables and plate up. Add a handful of Tay berries to your warm gravy pot and turn up the heat and warm the berries through for a few minutes, then slice the fillet of venison on an angle so you get 4 pieces. Present on a plate, pick the berries out of the gravy pot and place over the venison and drizzle over a few tablespoons of gravy over the venison and put the rest of the gravy in a jug.
You’re done, enjoy with your guests!