Today’s recipe is setting a new precedent for Easter Sunday lunch this year because instead of the time-honoured roast lamb, a loin of venison is the easiest roast in the world to cook and serve to your guests when you want to conjure up a no-fuss special occasion meal. Anything that takes the heat off the cook, especially when she’s already committed to drinking her fair share of Champagne aperitif(s) gets my vote.
This Loin of Venison with Cauliflower Cream & Red Wine Sauce not only looks and tastes amazing, most of the individual components can be made in advance and the final roasting and resting of the venison takes minutes, not hours.
As I write this blog post, I am looking at Mirror Imaging’s photos of my finished plate of food and have concluded that I’ve been watching too many episodes of Masterchef! There’s really no need to ponce about with the Cauliflower Cream as I did. Indeed, it’s such a delicious, moreish accompaniment that a generous dollop on the plate will serve you so much better than any attempt to replicate a cheffy-style splat!
I was able to get my hands on a superb selection of exotic mushrooms from Maxey’s, a farm shop close to me that supplies the local restaurant industry. However, most supermarkets, including Marks & Spencer, sell mixed or single varieties of fresh, exotic mushrooms. Any fresh fungi that takes your fancy, perhaps enhanced by some reconstituted dried wild ones for more flavour, will work their earthy mushroom-magic in this dish.
The canon of wild venison (canon is another name for loin) was a meaty treat we purchased from Gazegill Organics farm shop - you can also try Eversfield Organics or Primal Meats. After a joyful day recently spent at Gazegill farm, where we were able to interact with some of the most contented and cared for animals I’ve ever met - amongst them adorable, free-roaming, inquisitive, newborn piglets - we were left with no appetite for pork or lamb!
Although these precious, sentient beings ultimately provide healthy, organic meat, eggs and dairy from happy animals that have been allowed to grow up as naturally as possible - grazing, foraging in the fresh air and interacting with each other - so too does wild venison. Wild venison is naturally free from antibiotics and hormones (I think intensively farmed meat and dairy sucks!) and is a lean, high-protein, nutrient-rich red meat that perfectly fuels your body. It also has the meltingly tender eating quality of organic, grass-fed fillet of beef, which costs twice as much. Back in the 1960’s I vowed that when beef fillet cost £1 per pound I’d never buy it again. Today, organic fillet of beef can set you back nearly thirty times that amount, which to my mind makes a joint of wild venison loin a very good choice indeed.
Once purchased, it was Great British Chef, Josh Eggleton’s venison recipe that inspired this recipe for Roast Loin of Venison with Cauliflower Cream & Red Wine Sauce. It’s an invitation to lunch that your friends and family won’t forget. A perfect crowd pleaser, this luxurious main course is the ultimate roast, not just for Easter, but for all those special occasions when you need to deliver good food but don’t want to grow old cooking it.
Don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients. Simply tackle the following trio of easy-to-follow recipes one at a time, spread over several days (the red wine sauce and cauliflower cream can be stored in the fridge up to two days in advance), so come the day, you can wow your guests with a celebratory meal that delivers big, mouth-watering flavours for very little effort.
Roast Loin of Venison with Cauliflower Cream & Red Wine Sauce (serves 4)
750g of loin of wild venison, trimmed of all silver skin (see Notes below)
2 sprigs of fresh organic rosemary
1 tbsp organic olive oil
15g organic ghee
300g mixture of wild or cultivated mushrooms, preferably organic, trimmed and sliced
Himalayan pink salt (or use sea salt)
Organic black pepper, freshly ground
Organic watercress - to garnish
Cheesy Cauliflower Cream
1 head of organic cauliflower (about 600g), separated into florets
50g organic Cheddar , grated
Himalayan pink salt or sea salt
Red wine sauce
1 tbsp organic olive oil
1 organic shallot, sliced
1 organic carrot, sliced
1 organic leek, top only, sliced
1 stalk of organic celery, sliced
1 sprig of organic fresh thyme
1 sprig of organic rosemary
200ml organic red wine
100ml organic port
25g organic butter, cut into small cubes
Prepare the red wine sauce in advance
Place a heavy-based pan over a medium heat, add olive oil and sauté the vegetables. Stir and scrape the pan until the vegetables turn a dark brown colour.
Add the herbs, red wine, port, and vinegar. Simmer until the mixture has reduced down to a few millimetres deep.
Add the stock, bring the sauce to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Cook until reduced by half.
Pass the reduced sauce through a fine strainer. Return to a small pan and set aside until you’re ready to serve. Just before serving re-heat to boiling point and whisk in the cold butter.
To make the Cheesy Cauliflower Cream
In the base of a large steamer, bring some salted, freshly filtered water to a rolling boil.
Trim the cauliflower away from its leaves and stem, divide into florets, place in the top of the steamer, cover and cook until soft.
Use a draining spoon to transfer the cooked cauliflower to a blender along with the cheese, butter and cream. Blend until silky smooth.
Transfer the cauliflower puree to a small saucepan. Season with salt and pepper to taste then either keep warm over a very low heat. Alternatively, cover and set aside until you’re ready to serve.
To serve, gently re-heat the cauliflower cream until it’s nice and hot. Tip: Stir the puree from time to time to ensure it warms through evenly and doesn’t ‘catch’ on the base of the pan.
Cooking the venison
Bring the trimmed venison loin to room temperature. Pat dry with kitchen paper and rub the olive oil all over its surface before generously seasoning with salt and pepper.
Preheat the oven to 180℃ / 350℉ / Gas mark 4.
Place a heavy-based frying pan over a medium-high heat and add the ghee.
Once the pan is hot and the ghee melted, sear one side of the venison for 2 minutes and then flip to sear the other side for 2 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the venison to a baking tray or roasting tin. Place half the butter (15g) cut into slivers evenly across the surface of the meat and top with the rosemary sprigs.
Place in the preheated oven and cook for a further 5-8 minutes, depending on your preference (see Notes below). When cooked to your liking, remove from the oven, loosely cover with foil and allow to rest 5-10 minutes.
Meanwhile, put the frying pan with the remaining half of the butter back on to a medium heat. Slowly sauté the mushrooms for 5 minutes until softened and turning golden at the edges. When almost finished, season with salt and pepper.
Divide the hot cauliflower cream and mushrooms between four pre-warmed serving plates.
Slice the venison into 1-2 cm slices and divide between the plates, placing them neatly on top of the mushrooms.
Finish with the red wine sauce and garnish with sprigs of fresh watercress.
To remove the silver skin from the meat, you’ll need to slip the tip of a very sharp knife between the silver skin and the meat. Starting at one end of the loin, carefully glide the knife along the meat, pulling the silver skin away at the same time. Once you’ve removed all the tough membrane, use a few strategically placed cocktail sticks to re-shape the loin and secure the meat back together again.
Don’t overcook the venison. It took just 6 minutes to cook mine medium-rare. If you don’t have a thermometer (it should read about 60℃ / 140℉ for rare to medium-rare when inserted into the thickest part of the meat) you’ll have to trust your instincts. Much depends on the thickness of your meat and the heat of the pan or oven. Clearly, there’s an art to telling when meat is cooked to your liking, but the best way to gauge ‘doneness’ is to use the finger-and-thumb test. Still not feeling it? Take a sharp knife and cut a small slit down into the centre of the meat and take a quick peek!
Fat 19g Protein 58g Carbohydrate 3g - per serving venison and mushrooms
Fat 14g Protein 6g Carbohydrate 8g - per serving cauliflower cream
Fat 8g Protein 7g Carbohydrate 7g - per serving red wine sauce