Chevreuil aux Lentilles du Puy

Venison with Le Puy Lentils

In and around Le Puy I looked for fields of lentils, but it was too early in the season. I had to be satisfied with the vivid description of the small, blue-flowered plants given me by the charmingly lively ladies in the Baiser de Nègre pâtisserie which was doing a roaring trade in elaborate croquembouches (a pyramid of choux pastries) this Whitsuntide morning. The lentils themselves, dull, dark green, have a pepperiness which I find goes well with robustly flavoured meat like ham, pork, venison and game.

Ingredients

  • 1 kg( lb) piece of haunch of venison
  • bottle Côtes du Rhône red wine
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely sliced
  • a few sprigs of thyme
  • a bay leaf
  • salt, milled pepper
  • 55 g(2 oz) butter
  • 225 g(8 oz) lentilles du Puy, green lentils
  • finely grated rind and juice of an orange
  • 2 tablespoons redcurrant jelly
  • a little vieux marc or port

Method

Place the venison in a bowl or a better idea is to use a plastic bag in the bowl so that, when sealed, with most of the air excluded, the marinade comes into contact with all surfaces of the meat.

Mix the wine and oil with the shallot, garlic, thyme, bay leaf and some salt and pepper and pour over the meat. Cover the bowl or seal the plastic bag. Leave for 1–2 days in the refrigerator or for 8–10 hours at room temperature, turning the meat over now and again.

Take the meat from the marinade and brown all over in half the butter in a cast-iron casserole. Add the marinade and bring to the boil. Place a buttered paper over the meat, cover with a tight-fitting lid and transfer to a moderate oven (Mark 4, 180°C, 350°F) and cook for 1 hour.

Meanwhile wash the lentils in cold water then cook in water to cover for 30–40 minutes, until tender. Rinse the lentils in clean hot water and drain well.

Lift the venison on to a plate and stir the lentils into the cooking juices. Replace the meat on top and cook in the oven for a further 30–40 minutes until the venison is tender and the lentils have absorbed the flavour of the cooking juices.

Transfer the meat to a carving board, stir the rind and juice of the orange and the redcurrant jelly into the lentils and cook over moderate heat for 2–3 minutes. Check for seasoning and spoon the lentils into a hot serving dish. There should still be some meat juices left to make a little sauce. Simmer with a dash of marc or port and, if necessary, a little water or stock. Remove from the heat, add the remaining butter in small pieces and shake until thickened. Serve the sauce with the carved venison, the lentils and ideally a sharp fruit jelly like crab apple or quince.

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