Game’s afoot

Medallions of venison with haricot bean purée, roasted onion and ceps

In the UK, game season starts on 12-Aug—it’s called “The Glorious Twelfth” and runs through to 31-Jan. So what better time to enjoy Médallions de Chevreuil, Mousseline de Haricots Coco, Sauce Poivrade or pan-fried venison medallions with white beans and a peppered game sauce? And roasted seasonal game birds in the traditional way? Or, as the French would say, Gibier à Plumes de Saison Rôti.

Venison first.

Well, beans first.

The skin was removed from a chunk of smoked bacon. Lardons were sliced then slowly rendered. A mirepoix of carrot and celery was added to the pan for a couple of minutes before soaked haricot beans went in with a bay leaf and chicken stock. On went a cartouche and a lid to accelerate the cooking. Braise the beans too fast and their skins burst. Not good.

The venison loin was trimmed and the silver skin reserved for the sauce. The loin was rolled in cling film to maintain a cylinder shape and placed in the fridge to set up.

Venison bones were roasted in the oven then degreased. The silver skin and trimmings were added next and browned. Then the mirepoix. Tomato paste went in and was cooked out for a few minutes before red wine was poured in to deglaze and reduce. Lastly in went the veal stock with bay leaf, thyme sprigs, a clove, orange zest, and crushed peppercorns and juniper berries. Once the sucs had lifted from the bottom of the pan, the lot was transferred to a narrower deeper pan to infuse. This ensured the bones remained covered by the liquid and made skimming easier. Eventually the liquid was passed and reduced further. With game sauces you shouldn’t reduce too far because the flavour becomes too gamey.

Red onions were cut into 1cm rings. These went into a cast iron pan with oil, thyme and garlic over a low heat. Another warm cast iron pan was placed on top. The onions slowly fried without taking on colour.

Once the beans were ready, some were reserved while the rest were blitzed with warmed cream and butter to create a delicious smokey purée. Some of the purée was added to the reserved beans and chopped parsley folded in. This was used to stuff a roasted onion ring.

Ceps were cleaned and scraped. The smaller ones were quartered. The larger ones were cut in half and their bodies scored. The mushrooms were fried in butter with thyme and garlic halves. I made a mistake here and didn't have the pan hot enough. The mushrooms cooked but didn’t achieve the desired caramelisation on the scored faces. Pity. Because ceps produce a great super tasty caramelisation.

The venison cylinder was cut into medallions. The cling film was kept in place during cooking to ensure the circular shape of the meat. Be careful at home if you want to do this. Check you have the correct cling film. The medallions were pan-fried in oil with thyme and butter added to finish, of course.


Grouse, red-legged partridge and mallard

Red-legged partridge, mallard and grouse were up today. Grouse are delicate creatures that don't take to being farmed and are picky about the heather they consume. They have awesome furry legs. Quite strange to see on a bird. And did you know that Scotland has its own turkey? Of sorts. It’s called Capercaillie and is part of the grouse family; sometimes called a wood grouse or heather cock. So there you go.

The whole birds were prepared in the usual manner. A singe, a pluck, a scrape here and there. Head off. Guts out. Neck and Parsons Nose removed. Wishbone out. Grouse apparently are at their best just as they turn green while hanging. That became all too real when chef cleaned the bird and bright green guts spilled out. Stinky. Game birds are traditionally trussed with their legs intact and their feet crossed. Chef did this for the grouse as the legs were not broken. The partridge and grouse are lean birds and were larded with thin strips of back fat.

Grouse, larded and trussed

Partridge, grouse and mallard prepped for roasting

The wishbones and trimmings were roasted with onion, carrot and celery, then deglazed with white wine. Veal stock was added with bay leaf and sprigs of thyme and left to infuse before being reduced and passed. It was surprising how gamey the flavour was given the small amount of trimmings.

Bread sauce was next. Yum. Milk was infused with onion studded with clove and bay leaf. Diced onion was sweated in butter then diced white bread added. The milk was poured in and whisked over low heat until all the ingredients softened and the mixture thickened. Double cream was added off the heat with seasoning. I got to do a quality check. Grin.

A game farce was made from the livers and hearts out of the partridge and grouse. These were chopped and sautéed with thyme and bay until they were just firm to the touch. The pan was deglazed with cognac, flambéed, then red port added. The herbs were decanted and the mix blitzed until smooth, adding cubes of butter gradually. It came out of the blender as a liquid and firmed up as it cooled. Like a pâté really. Bloody lovely spread on croutons fried in clarified butter.

The birds were simply roasted and, according to tradition, served with bread sauce, Pommes Gaufrettes or more commonly game chips, fried breadcrumbs and a small jug of clear, punchy game jus.

Look at the birdie.

Grouse and red-legged partridge served traditionally with a game jus, bread sauce, fried breadcrumbs and Pommes Gaufrettes

Roasted mallard

The partridge was pleasant. The grouse meat was very strong. Definitely an acquired taste. The mallard was strangely fishy. Chef had warned us in advance. Strange that I don’t have a picture of the croutons topped with game farce. They were the best bit. Maybe they got eaten before I could snap.

I learned later that this is the demo all the chefs want to avoid—because there’s a lot going on in 2-3 hours.