Okay. Venison is the Anna Wintour of meats. Rich, very lean and for some, very scary. The thought of eating deer, or any game, rabbit, pheasant, wild boar can bring on the instant heebie jeebies in even the most committed carnivores.
From Jane Grigson's English Food,
"Game animals and birds are man's oldest food as far as meat is concerned. The deer swimming across the river painted on the walls of Lascaux, the bones in in every Paleolithic excavation, are evidence of that. The surprising thing is that deer in particular who can become tame and biddable, have never been fully domesticated. Sheep, goats, cattle, dogs have all become part of human society over the best part of 9,000 years. Why were deer ignored by Neolithic farmers, when venison had been the most widely eaten meat in Paleolithic and Mesolithic times? The bones of red deer have been found in 95% of European sites: in southern parts this means a period of 50,000 years."
The thing to consider especially if you are concerned with where your food comes from ( and who isn't? ) - is how the animals that you eat are treated.
In the UK, we have an abundance of wild deer, the population in Scotland alone is estimated at close to a million, with no natural predators,hunting and preparing your own is an option. There are an increasing number of commercial deer farms that are engaged in ethical and sustainable meat production and that may be the easier way to go. The leanness of the venison is very appealing to many but much like kangaroo in Australia, the fashion for venison goes up and down like hemlines.
Using venison sausages, this dish is the perfect introduction for people that are not so familiar with eating game, as it is not too overpowering but has a very pleasing depth of flavour.
The redcurrant jelly adds a mellow sweetness to the dish but you could substitute that with a well sieved orange marmalade or fruit conserve if you don’t have any redcurrant jelly handy. Although this recipe is for four, it can be easily doubled for a crowd and would work well as a Sunday lunch, without too much stress. Serve with wilted spinach and lashings of buttery mashed potatoes.
Venison Sausages with Mushrooms and Red Wine
1 tablespoon dried mushrooms ( porcini, chanterelles or a wild mushroom mix)
1 tbsp olive oil
8 venison sausages
6 shallots or 1 medium sized onion, cut into quarters
200 grams chestnut or baby portobello mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
25 grams butter
½ tablespoon plain flour
1 heaped tablespoon of Dijon mustard
1 large glass of good red wine
1 sprig rosemary or thyme
2 tablespoons redcurrant jelly
salt and pepper
Put the dried mushrooms in a small bowl, cover with boiling water and put aside to leave to soak.
Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed casserole and brown the sausages and the shallots all over. Remove and set aside.
Pour off the excess fat from the pan so that you are left with about 1 tablespoon. Turn down the heat, add the garlic and the fresh mushrooms and cook for a few minutes.
Gently stir in the flour, cook for about a minute, then add the wine and mustard.
Strain off the mushroom soaking liquid and add to the pan. Add all the dried mushrooms to the pan. Return the sausages and the shallots to the pan add the rosemary, redcurrant jelly, then season. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down to a very gentle simmer. Cook the sausages for a further 20 minutes. The cooking juices will reduce and thicken during this time, add a little water or a splash of wine if needed.. Taste, and adjust seasoning if necessary. Scatter with chopped parsley if you have some and serve straight away.