As one of the nation’s most widely recognised game meats, venison if often used as a healthy alternative to beef or lamb. With a close, lean texture, venison is particularly low in fat but not by any means lacking in flavour. Its gamey tendencies makes it a particularly sweet, rich meat that is intensified through slow cooking. Venison meat comes from either wild or farmed deer, with the free-range, wild variety delivering far superior flavour. Species common to the British Isles include fallow, roe and red deer found predominantly in the Scottish highlands. February sees the close of the game season but farmed venison is readily available throughout the year.
Seasonal period: September to February
Flavour friends: Venison’s depth of flavour is best enhanced with robust, earthy ingredients. Berries and fruits in season during the game season are often matched with venison for their tartness; redcurrant and juniper berries are particular favourites. Other ingredients, often high in tannins are commonly paired with venison to counteract the richness of the meat, such as; gin, red wine and port.
Buying, storing and preparing: Preferably source free-range or park venison for increased flavour and leaner meat. As long as the meat is carefully wrapped, venison can be stored in the fridge for 3 – 4 days. Due to venison’s low fat content, cook either hot and quick, or low and slow. Add extra moisture by marinading before cooking – this will also further tenderise the meat.
Cooking: Panfried, roasted or braised, always brown the meat first in a hot pan to develop sweet, caramel flavours. Always allow to rest before serving.
Panfried: 5 minutes (+ approx. 2 minutes for rare, 4 minutes for medium and 6 minutes for well done). Roasted: 8 – 10 minutes (medium). Braised: 60 minutes +
Words by Helen Upshall