An elegant main course recipe* from one of my favourite food writers Sue Lawrence's A Cook’s Tour of Scotland that would be a great option for a haggis-free Burns' Night supper.
Sue writes: "This is a really tasty dish that can be prepared in advance – apart from the actual cooking of the meat. The weight of fillet from red deer can vary from around 250 – 400g/9 – 14 oz, but if you use a roe fillet, it will weigh only about 100g / 3 1/2 oz and so you must reduce the cooking time drastically (and use a fillet per person) Whichever type of venison you use, remember always to undercook and allow to rest for a perfect even pinkness and tender meat. Serve with pappardelle or soft polenta."
1 level tbsp whole black peppercorns
1 level tbsp whole juniper berries
1 whole venison fillet , trimmed (about 350g / 12 oz)
2 tbsp olive oil
Seasalt and freshly ground black pepper
For the sauce
40g / 1 1/2 oz dried porcini ( ceps), rinsed
200 ml / 7 fl oz/ 1/3 pint dry white wine
40g / 1 1/2 oz butter
2 shallots or half a small onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
200g / 7 oz fresh mushrooms, wiped and chopped
1 tbsp plain flour
150 ml / 5 fl oz/ 1/4 pint double cream
Toast the peppercorns and juniper in a dry frying pan over a high heat for about 3 minutes, shaking often, until a strong spicy smell emerges. Tip into an electric grinder - or use a mortar and pestle —and grind until coarsely ground. Brush the venison with 1 tbsp oil then press in the spices. Leave on a plate somewhere cool for a couple of hours.
To make the sauce, soak the dried mushrooms in the wine for at least 20 minutes then strain, reserving the wine. Heat the butter in a pan and gently fry the shallots/onion and garlic for 2 – 3 minutes then add the mushrooms (soaked and fresh) and stir. Cover the pan and cook for 10 minutes or until tender.
Increase the heat and sprinkle over the flour, . Cook for 1 minute, stirring, then add the reserved wine and the cream, stirring constantly. Bring to the boil then simmer, uncovered, for 5 – 10 minutes until slightly thickened. Season to taste and set aside.
To cook the meat, heat the remaining oil in a large frying pan (preferably one that can go into the oven) and, once hot, add the venison and brown all over : this takes 4 – 5 minutes. Season with sea salt as you brown it. Then transfer the pan to a preheated oven ( 220°C/425°F/Gas7) and cook for about 7-8 minutes. Remove the meat and place on a warm plate. Cover with foil and leave to rest for 10 minutes.
Carve the rested meat and serve with some of the sauce and a few shakes of truffle oil on top
What to drink:
This is a dish that is hugely wine friendly so you could drink almost any medium bodied red you enjoy. My own choice would be a Western Australia Cabernet-Merlot (Cullen’s or Cape Mentelle) or a Pinot Noir
* Note this picture is not exactly that of Sue Lawrence's recipe but similar to it. Photo © Marina Grau - Fotolia.com