Roast Haunch of Venison
I eat very little red meat buy when I do my preference is for game which is low fat. I bought a venison haunch from my farmer’s market where the man who sold it to me could tell me all about its provenance down to the date it was turned into joints ready to be sold. He himself had shot the animal and this was as fresh a piece of meat I was likely to find. This is the way I like to buy meat – straight from the supplier.
I was quite excited about my purchase because I have never cooked a haunch before, albeit that I regularly sear a few venison steaks for our dinner. This seemed more of a challenge and one that I treated myself to on Mother’s Day. I know that mums are supposed to let the family cook lunch on this day, but there was no way I was letting anyone near my haunch. No, this was my treat to myself.
I did some research on cooking methods and discovered some difference of opinion on whether to lard the meat, or to bard it by covering it in bacon before cooking, or even to marinade it overnight. I decided to follow the advice in Game (by Trish Hilferty and Tom Norrington Davies) which suggested that none of the above methods was necessary. However, to avoid overcooking venison – very easy to do as it has so little fat and dries out quickly – one has to attend to the cooking process. This is not one of those slow roasts that you stick in the oven and forget about for several hours.
Ideally game should be cooked with a meat thermometer to hand, but since my kitchen equipment does not extend to this level of precision, I followed the timing suggestions to the letter. And was well rewarded.
This recipe is very simple indeed but I do think that with a great quality product one should faff around as little as possible. My husband said this was the best venison he has ever eaten. That is good enough for me.
I served the meat with a celeriac puree as smooth as butter, balsamic glazed shallots and, finally, a Francatetelli sauce. Apparently Francatelli was chef to Queen Victoria, who no doubt had a great herd of deer.
For 6 – 8 people:
1 venison haunch about 2kg
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 roasting tray with a rack
Preheat the oven to 220 C.
Rub the meat well with the salt and freshly ground pepper and set aside.
Pour the oil into a roasting tray and heat it. I actually used the last of the goose fat I had lurking in the fridge since xmas which is not exactly low fat. Bear in mind that you are only going to seal the meat in the oil and then cook it above on a rack.
When the oil is hot, seal the meat on all sides. Do this quickly as venison dries out quickly so you don’t need to get it to brown too much.
Now place the rack into the roasting tray and place the venison on top. Put it into the hot oven and time it for 20 minutes.
Reduce the heat to 150 C and time it for 10 minutes per 500g. This will give you a wonderfully tender and pink meat, medium rare. As the writers of Game point out, if you do not like your venison pink then a haunch is the wrong cut. They suggest a pot roasted shoulder as an alternative.
Once the ten minutes is up, wrap the venison loosely in foil and keep in a warm place for 20 minutes. I never quite know what that means so I switch off my oven and place the meat inside with the door open.
Have all your accompaniments ready by now and you can carve the meat. Serve on hot plates so that it doesn’t get cold too quickly.
To make a Francatelli sauce (I used a recipe from the Ballymaloe Cookery Course, Darina Allen):
225 g Redcurrant jelly
1 cinnamon stick, give it a bash
Peel of one lemon
2 tablespoons port
Heat gently and simmer for 5 minutes
This sauce is so delicious that it disappeared in a trice. I would advise making double the amount.