Venison Haunch Steak with Spelt Grain and Red Wine Sauce
When Polly Robinson from Food Safari UK invited me to come along and cook at her’ Wild Meat in a Day’ event, I could not contain myself. I had been to a few of Polly’s events last year and came home every time with ingredients that I used to create wonderful recipes inspired by the day’s events.
I have gone slightly bonkers by creating a number of wonderful venison recipes. Polly has inspired me to cook with venison and it has taught me a few valuable lessons about healthy eating and how to cook venison for everyday meals and not just special eating occasions.
Healthy eating has been on the agenda for quite some time now. We are recommended to try and avoid as much red meat as possible due to the high fat content, however venison meat is as lean as it’s going to get. This venison haunch steak is superbly delicious and the perfect alternative for that once a week treat of steak and chips. Well lets forget about the chips and opt for glorious spelt grain instead.
There are a few secrets in cooking venison to ensure this lean meat retains its succulence and tenderness. My main recommendation is that if you like well-done meat then it would be best to avoid this cut of venison, as this meat if cooked in this manner will result in an unpleasant livery taste, rubbery texture and very dry stringy meat. I cooked these 150g steaks for 2 minutes on both sides but the most important part is the resting time. The resting time should be equal to the cooking time and as it rests the meat relaxes and the unwanted red myoglobin protein juices will drain away. Do not be fooled as you might think this is blood but it’s not. The well rested haunch steaks will be tender and succulent.
I normally associate venison with fancy and expensive dinners but this is definitely not the case. Venison can become a normal everyday household ingredient. Just like beef, pork or lamb there are various cuts of venison and they are priced much in the same way as beef . The tender loin would be the most expensive cut whereas minced venison would be the least expensive. The delicious recipe of venison and smoked pancetta meatballs with curly kale mash and red onion gravy, uses venison mince. Then there is the delightful Venison Shank and Chestnut Mushroom Suet Pudding which will knock your socks off, but it takes a bit of time to make but is absolutely worth every minute spent making it.
I’m a firm believer of utilising the whole carcass (called carcass balance), if we only choose to eat the prime cuts we become not only boring cooks but become terribly wasteful too. You can get a wonderful casserole mix using a few different cuts of the various muscles of the animal, my venison casserole with cheddar and chive dumplings is the perfect recipe to illustrate how to put the casserole mix to good use.
I do have a slight fixation about using local seasonal produce. Well technically Suffolk is not my direct local surroundings but it’s close enough, albeit a 65 mile diversion. At the Aldeburgh food festival last autumn I found spelt grains from Maple Farm Kelsale among other fantastic ingredients such as local venison from the Wild Meat Company and plenty of other wonderful local ingredients. I thought that this delightful venison haunch recipe would go incredibly well with this Maple Farm spelt, the combination of the iron taste of the venison compliments the earthiness of the whole grain spelt. The dish is finished off with a deep red wine sauce and a few carrot crisps, they are completely optional, well then there needs to be a slight compromise for the direct substitute of Steak and chips.
Venison Haunch Steak with Spelt Grain
- 4 x 150g venison haunch steaks
- 200g spelt grains, raw
- Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
- 2 leeks
- 50g unsalted butter
- 1tsb sunflower oil + extra to fry the carrot crisps
- 1 carrot
- 1 sprigs of fresh thyme chopped
- red wine sauce
First make the sauce as it takes the longest, you can make the sauce a day in advance, keep refrigerated until needed.
Cooking the Spelt: Use a medium size saucepan and add 3 times the amount of water to spelt grain, bring the water to the boil, reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and cook until the spelt is tender, add a teaspoon of salt right at the end of the cooking time. The spelt takes about 10 minutes to cook, drain using a colander.
Chef's Tip: Adding the salt at the end of the cooking time for grains and pulses is to prevent the grains from becoming tough(on the outside) and chewy. This method only applies to grains and pulses.
Carrot Crisps: Peel the carrot and use a vegetable peeler to create long carrot peelings, heat a deep fat fryer to 160°C and fry the carrot crisps until crisp, drain on kitchen paper and season with salt once cooked. Set the crisps aside until needed.
Sauteed Leeks: Wash and cut the leeks into 1cm rings, heat a non-stick frying pan with half the butter and saute the leeks until golden on both sides, season with salt and pepper and set aside until needed.
To cook the venison steaks: Heat a large frying pan with the oil, season the steaks with salt and pepper on both sides, place the steaks into the hot pan and do not touch the steak for 2 minutes. After about 1 minute place three finger- nail size knobs of cold unsalted butter into the pan. After the 2 minutes cooking time turn the steak over, cook it on the other side for another 2 minutes, again add 3 small knobs of cold unsalted butter half way through the cooking. Transfer the steaks to a tray lined with kitchen paper and leave to rest for 4 minutes.
Chef's Tip: The normal rule of thumb is that you should rest the meat for the same time as it took to cook.
While the steaks are resting bring the sauce to the boil, add the cooked drained spelt and the chopped thyme, taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.
Carve the steaks into 1cm thick slices and serve on top of the hot spelt, sauce and leeks.Garnish the dish with the carrot crisps and serve immediately.
Red Wine Sauce
- 1 carrot, peeled
- 1 onion, peeled
- 1 leek
- 2 sticks of celery
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 raw beetroot, peeled
- 1tbs sunflower oil
- 1tsp coriander seeds
- 3 crushed juniper berries
- 3 cloves
- 2tbs tomato puree
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 large sprigs of rosemary
- 2 large sprigs of thyme
- 500ml red wine
- 700ml chicken stock
- 70g redcurrant jelly
Prepare the vegetables by peeling and washing all the vegetables. Cut them all the same sizes about 2cm pieces and just crush the garlic with the heel of your hand.
Heat the oil in a large saucepan and saute all the vegetables, coriander seeds, juniper berries and cloves until golden brown, this should take about 10 minutes. Do not burn the vegetables. The idea is to caramelize the vegetables and bring out the natural sweetness.
Add the tomato puree and continue cooking for a further 5 minutes, stir regularly to prevent the puree from burning. Do not be tempted to add extra oil as it will make the sauce greasy.
Add the red currant jelly, bay leaf, thyme and rosemary and deglaze the pan with the wine, turn the heat up and cook until the wine reduced by half.
Add the stock, bring the sauce to a gentle simmer, do not boil the sauce too fast and do not cover the pan with a lid. Gently simmer for 20 minutes, removing the impurities with a ladle.
Pass the sauce through a fine sieve, discard the solids and return the sauce to a clean saucepan.
Reduce the sauce until it has a coating consistency.
Set the sauce aside until needed.