Saddle of Venison

If you have bought well-hung, well-flavoured venison, the last thing to consider is masking its taste and texture with a marinade or inflicting some pointless massage of spices onto its surface. Well-hung meat will have a developed a distinctive taste and the traditional course has been to counter any rankness or gamey flavour with something sweet, the same logic that paired mutton with redcurrant jelly. Most venison is not gamey enough to need this and, just as the logic of mutton and redcurrant jam is ludicrous when used for delicate new season lamb, the sweetness of heavy port and fruit-based sauces is irrelevant to the venison now available. I like to match its texture with that of goats’ cheese gnocchi or to make a soft mash of potato and then add a few wild mushrooms to the cooking juices.

Ingredients

  • 10g (½ooz/½ cup) dried morel mushrooms
  • 2kg (4lb 8oz) saddle of venison
  • 1 medium carrot, roughly chopped
  • 1 stick celery, roughly chopped
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
  • 50 ml (2fl oz/½ cup) red wine
  • 1 teaspoon arrowroot
  • 25g (1oz/¼ stick) unsalted butter
  • salt and pepper

Method

In a small pan of water, bring the morels to the boil, then remove from the heat and set aside. When the morels are cool enough to handle, rinse, then cut off the stalks and slice in half.

Heat the oven to 200°C (400°F/Gas 6). Trim away everything extraneous from the saddle of venison and leave only the meat and bones. Cut up these trimmings and place in a roasting tray to cook alongside the saddle and h ëî to flavour the sauce.

Carefully cut away the membrane that covers the eye of the meat and brush the exposed fillet with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, then place in the roasting tray. Add the carrot, celery and onion and roast until medium-rare. The meat will probably take 30 to 40 minutes depending on thickness.

Let the joint rest for 3 to 4 minutes in the roasting tray so that any meat juices may run back into the sauce base. Lift the saddle of venison out for carving.

Pour the red wine and 200ml (7fl oz/scant 1 cup) of water into the roasting tray and deglaze it. Bring the mixture to the boil, then strain into a small saucepan.

Add the morels and return the sauce to the boil. In a small bowl, mix the arrowroot with 1 teaspoon of water and add to the pan. Bring the sauce back to the boil and whisk in the butter to finish. Serve with the carved meat.

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