Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Wild Venison

You've got to admit, there's something inherently exciting about any food with 'wild' in the name. 'Wild boar' sounds so much better then 'pork', for example and I'm sure even 'wild carrots' would attract more attention than the common or garden variety. So, when visiting a relatively local farm shop recently I came across wild venison, well, I could hardly turn down the opportunity to try it out. They sold either fillet steak or rump steak, so I went for the rump steak as it was slightly cheaper. I incidentally also bought some carrots while I was there, although they were not described as being 'wild'.
Venison is quite an interesting meat – it's quite dark in colour and has a heavy, almost livery smell when raw. It's also naturally very lean, as the packaging in this case testifies. It can be cooked just like a fillet of beef or any other steak really – in a pan. Of course, there are many other ways of cooking venison, pot roast in particular springs to mind, but I quite like to have the steak almost just as it is. So, simply season lightly with salt and black pepper (freshly ground if possible!). Then simply place in a hot frying pan, or as I'm using here, a grill pan. The pan needs to be really hot before the meat goes in as we are aiming to seal in the juices and hence the flavour. If the pan was too cool and the meat heated up slowly, then it would lose a lot more juice.
Cook on one side for three to four minutes, before turning and repeating the same on the other side. I tend to turn the heat down a bit at this point, so that I don't fill the kitchen up with smoke, but it should still be kept fairly high. How long you cook it for depends on how you like your steak. Deciding when a steak is done the way you like it is something that takes a bit of practice (best to get this right before cooking for guests!). My method is to press my finger onto the top of the steak in the pan (you have to be fairly quick, to avoid getting burnt) to feel how firm it is. You can then compare this to either your top lip, the tip of your nose, or the centre of your forehead. This isn't as crazy as it may sound! If the meat is as soft as your top lip, for example, then it will be rare. Likewise, if it feels more like the tip of your nose, then it should be roughly medium. Obviously, if it is really firm, like your forehead, then it will be well done. Note that this is really only good as a rough guide line! You'll need to try it out once or twice to get the hang of it. If you're just cooking for yourself, then it doesn't matter if you cut the steak in half to see how it's doing in the centre and if it's not done well enough, then simply put it back in the pan for a few more minutes. If you are aiming for medium to well done, then it helps to turn the steak over occasionally since this makes sure it gets more evenly browned, which makes presentation easier and it will slightly speed up the cooking process.

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