for figs’ sake

Deer reader, you are owed an apology.

This recipe has been in the works for nearly a year. Nobody should be deprived of food so simple and delicious, for that long.

If you’ve also never had venison shoulder before, you’re in for a treat.

Autumnal flavours and colours are in plentiful supply here. Slow cooked venison shoulder with a caramelised shallot & fig sauce, pumpkin purée, and fondant artichoke is a recipe that’ll no doubt slot in nicely to your catalogue of roast dinners.

[Blue Water Highway – Year of the Dragon, 2022]

Shopping list (serves 6)
Venison shoulder (bone removed & portioned into 6) x 1kg
Figs (quartered) x 6
Large shallots (very thinly sliced) x 4
Smoked bacon lardons x 50g
Garlic cloves (smashed) x 3
Carrot (diced) x 1
Thyme x 1 handful
Plain flour x 1/2 tbsp
White wine x 250ml
Chicken/game stock x 1L
Thin slices of 1 fig to serve

Pumpkin purée:
Pumpkin (peeled & diced into chunks) x 1.5kg
Unsalted butter x 50g

Fondant artichokes:
Large Jerusalem artichokes (roughly peeled & sliced lengthways) x 6
Unsalted butter x 50g

You’ll most likely be visiting your butcher to source the meat, so it’s worth making sure that the meat hasn’t been diced, as you’ll want at least six equal portions.

Season the venison in oil, and liberal amounts of salt and black pepper. Over a very high heat in a casserole dish or large deep pan with a lid, brown the meat for five minutes on each side. Remove and set aside.

Turn your oven to 200°C (fan)/220°C.

In the same dish or pan, fry off the shallots, garlic, and lardons in a glug more oil. Do so over a medium heat for at least 15 minutes, stirring often, to ensure everything is caramelised evenly. Add the flour and carrot, and stir again for five minutes.

Add the wine and reduce for another five minutes over a high heat, as well as adding the thyme. Once reduced, season well, then add the stock and figs. Stir well a final time, and place the browned venison portions back into the liquid.

Cover the meat before placing in your hot oven, turning the heat down to 140°C (fan)/160°C when it goes in. It’ll take at least five hours, at which point you can remove from the oven. Take out the meat carefully, cover, and place to one side. Sieve the rest into a saucepan, and reduce over a low heat until you have around 400ml of sauce, adding a touch more boiled water if it gets too thick.

To make the pumpkin purée, simply fill a saucepan with cold well-salted water, and gradually bring up to a gentle simmer, then leave to cook for 30 minutes. Remove from the water, and allow to steam-dry for at least 10 minutes. Blitz together with the butter, season to taste, and keep warm until needed.

When it comes to around 30 minutes before eating, make sure the sauce is on a gentle simmer. Add the portions of meat back into the saucepan with it, and cover.

In a large frying pan (preferably with a lid), heat the butter for the artichokes with a glug of oil, over a low heat. Use a touch of oil and salt to season your artichoke portions. Gradually cook the vegetables on the cut side, over a low heat for 30 minutes, basting frequently. Once cooked through and golden on one side, remove and place briefly on some kitchen roll.

Serve the portions of tender venison shoulder, drenched in sauce, with the warm pumpkin purée and fondant artichokes.



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