Sometimes I just cook venison for the puns. To date, I’ve yet to find a river of potential wordplay more enjoyable to roe one’s boat on. Add some chocolate to the mix, and you’ve got a recipe fit to soothe anyone’s bad temper.
This venison loin with a chocolate sauce and sweetcorn bhaji requires you to procure some ingredients in advance from your butcher, namely the loin and the beef bones. If you can’t source the loin, then this can be substituted easily with any other venison cut from your supermarket.
The first reiteration of this dish actually featured beef shin in the sauce, providing a slow-cooked alternative to a pan-fried cut, which also works wonderfully with the sauce.
Shopping list (serves 4)
Venison loin x 400g
Beef bones x 250-300g
Smoked lardons x 80g
Echallion shallots (finely chopped) x 3
Carrots (finely chopped) x 1
Large celery stick (finely chopped) x 1
Garlic cloves (crushed) x 4
Chocolate (90% cocoa solids, broken into small pieces) x 60g
Madeira wine x 300ml
Juniper berries x 1 tsp
Star anise x 1
Fresh thyme x 1 generous handful
Bay leaves x 2
Chicken stock x 750ml
Sweetcorn bhajis (makes 4):
Canned sweetcorn x 300g
Large leek (roughly chopped) x 1
Onion marmalade or chutney x 1 tbsp
Ground coriander x 1 tsp
Sumac x 1 tsp
Garlic cloves (minced) x 1
Gram flour x 3 tbsp + more for deep-frying
Vegetable oil for deep-frying
Celeriac x 1
Knob of butter
Pinch of salt
Begin by placing your beef bones on a baking tray and roasting at 220 degrees celsius (200 fan) for 15-20 minutes until well browned. Remove from the oven, set aside, and reduce the oven to 200 (180 fan).
In a large pan with a lid, slowly render the fat from your lardons without any oil, for 10 or so minutes. Once they are starting to brown, add your 4 garlic cloves and continue to fry until the garlic also starts to colour.
You can now add your carrot, celery, and shallots on a high heat with a good glug of oil and a pinch of salt. Throw in your juniper berries and star anise, continue to cook on a high heat for another 10 minutes.
Place your bones into the pan along with your thyme and bay leaves. Add your madeira wine, and reduce for at least 5 minutes on a medium heat, stirring well. Before adding your stock, add your chocolate as well as another pinch of salt and pepper. Stir well and cover.
Place into the hot oven, and reduce the heat to 160 (140 fan) for 4 hours. Remove, allow to cool slightly, before sieving. Continue to reduce the sauce by about a half, season to taste and then set aside.
To make your celeriac purée, simply chop your celeriac into 4 or 5 pieces and boil in salted water for 20 minutes. Remove, and allow to cool on some kitchen paper. Purée until smooth, before popping back on the hob to keep warm, stirring through a good knob of butter at the same time.
For the bhajis, fry your leeks and garlic clove with a pinch of salt until soft, for no more than 10 minutes. Mix in the spices and your onion chutney, and turn off the heat. Blend your drained sweetcorn into a paste. Combine together in a mixing bowl with the 3 tbsp of gram flour, and leave to chill for around an hour.
Remove your venison loin from the fridge, to come down to room temp for around 45 minutes. Before you start the bhajis, cover your meat liberally in oil, salt and black pepper.
In a heavy-bottom pan, heat your vegetable oil to 175 degrees celsius. Evenly shape your bhaji mix into four portions, coating generously in more gram flour. Drop them carefully into the hot oil, and leave for no more than 1 & 1/2 minutes. Remove, and leave to drain on kitchen paper.
Using a red-hot griddle pan, or dry frying pan, sear your venison loin on each side for 3 minutes. Leave to rest for 5 minutes, before slicing into 4 medallions. If you prefer your venison less pink, then pop into an oven at 200 (180 fan) for 5 minutes before resting.
Plate alongside your warm chocolate sauce, bhaji, and celeriac purée.