Now its time for the main event. The main course needs to be impressive and this really fits the bill. Take this to the table and carve a piece of tender meat wrapped in crispy pastry and its sure to seduce. The rest is up to you.
The second of our classic dishes is a take on beef wellington. I love the original made with a whole fillet of beef and carved at the table in front of everyone it’s a real showstopper. I have made this with a piece of venison fillet which has a more interesting flavour than the standard beef, and will give you and your partner something to talk about for weeks to come. (Honestly, the Photographer won’t shut up about it now!)
Serve this with the two veg of your choice and the only other thing it needs to go with it is some more wine to help set the mood.
10oz venison fillet
1 Savoy cabbage
100g button mushrooms, sliced
¼ tsp thyme chopped
500g puff pastry
1 egg beaten
6 slices Parma ham
1Tbsp vegetable oil
Sauté the mushrooms in the butter along with the thyme. Season, then whiz in a food processer till it makes a coarse mushroom pate. Leave to cool.
Heat the oil in a heavy pan until very hot. Season the venison fillet and sear on all sides until browned. Place on a plate to rest.
Remove 4 large leaves from the cabbage and cut out the stalks. Bring a pan of water to the boil then blanch the leaves for 1 minute. Refresh in cold water. Remove from the water and place on kitchen paper to dry.
Pull out a length of cling film. On it lay the cabbage leaves. They need to overlap to form a sheet longer than the fillet and wide enough to roll round it. On to the cabbage lay the slices of ham in two rows of 3, making one large sheet of ham.
Take the mushroom pate and spread it over the ham. Place the fillet on the middle of the sheet of ham.
Now lift up the edge of the cling film furthest from you and fold the cabbage and ham over the venison. Roll it up in to a sausage and twist the ends. Place in the fridge while you roll the pastry.
Roll the pastry out into the thickness of a pound coin, making it longer than the cling-filmed parcel and wide enough to wrap round it.
Un-wrap the parcel and place in the middle of the pastry. Brush the edges of the pastry with egg then roll the pastry over, folding in the sides to form a neat little package.
If you have any excess pasty you can use it to decorate the top of the wellington. Something romantic and heart shaped should do the trick.
It can now be chilled until you sit down for your starter. When you are ready, brush the top with egg and bake at 200’c for about 20 minutes then allow to rest for 10 minutes.
You can cook it to the same level you like you steak, and the best way to do this is to invest in a digital meat probe. It might sound fancy, but they are quite cheap now, and available even from some supermarkets. Cooking temperatures are as follows:
It’s not every day that a man turns up at my kitchen door with a deer on his shoulder, but when it does happen it’s very exciting. The dog certainly found it fascinating and kept looking through the kitchen window hoping that itwas a late Christmas present. Unfortunately I had to disappoint the mutt as I had plans for this beast.
With most animals, different cuts of meat should be treated in their own way, some benefiting from long slow cooking, others a quick fry, and all the stages in-between.
I wanted to use the whole animal in one dish in this case, but I kept the loin to one side for something a bit special, which I’ll show you soon.
So I butchered and diced all the meat, then roasted the carcass and made a venison stock to give the pie a great flavour. At home it might not be practical to butcher your own deer and make a stock, but diced venison is readily available, and a good quality fresh beef stock would make a good substitute for venison stock.
Venison and Red Wine Pie
For the pie filling:
1kg diced venison
500ml red wine
1 onion, diced
100g button onions
100g streaky bacon, diced
40ml vegetable oil
1tsp thyme, chopped
30g plain flour
Salt and pepper
1 egg, beaten
For the pastry:
250g unsalted butter, at room temperature
500g plain flour
2 eggs, beaten
In a hot pan brown all the venison using the vegetable oil. Do this in batches so the pan is not over-crowded, and to ensure the meat gets well coloured. When each batch is done place in a bowl for later.
Now in the same pan sweat the onion for 4 minutes. Add the meat back to the pan with the thyme and some seasoning. Now add the red wine and stir, scraping all the bits from the base of the pan. Pour in the stock and bring up to the simmer. Reduce the heat and cook for 1 and a half hours.
After this time fry the bacon in a frying pan, then using a slotted spoon, lift into the venison pan. Fry the mushrooms off in the bacon fat then add to the stew.
Cook the stew for another 30 minutes then beat the butter and flour together. Take small pieces of the butter mix and drop into the stew. Stir this in and keep adding more until the stew reaches a nice thickness. Check the seasoning and transfer the stew to a shallow container with a large surface area so it will cool quicker.
While the filling is cooling make the pastry. Rub the butter and flour together until they resemble fine breadcrumbs. Mix in the salt, then the eggs. Add only enough of the milk to bring all of the mixture together into a ball.
It’s best to rest the pastry for at least 1 hour in the fridge before rolling.
Pre-heat the oven to 200′c.
When rested, roll out the pastry and line 6 tart tins. Spoon the venison into the pastry cases and brush the edge of the pastry with the beaten egg. Roll out 6 disks to top the pies and drape over. Crimp the pastry down, joining the lid to the base, and trim off any excess pastry. Make a small hole in the top of each pie for steam to escape.
Brush the tops of the pies with egg and bake for 30 minutes until golden and bubbling.
Remove from the tins and serve with mashed potatoes, as the dog looks on in hatred.
Last month there were a lot of American recipes about for Thanksgiving, and it made me crave pecan pie. As tasty as that is, I wanted to do it a bit differently, and use a selection of nuts. You can use any nuts you like, but I think whole nuts or large chunks look best. Its really a great tart to clear out the store cupboard and use up all those different opened packets – or wait until after Christmas and spend an few hours in front of the TV cracking the untouched nuts in the bowl. In America they often put a few shots of bourbon in their (photographer) tart, but you could use any whisky. I have decided not to do this, but instead I’m going to make a bourbon toffee sauce to pour over the top.
For the pastry
125g butter, softened
250g plain flour
15g caster sugar
For the filling
260g mixed nuts, chopped
6 eggs, beaten
125g golden syrup
75g unsalted butter
125g Muscovado sugar
1 vanilla pod, split
110g unsalted butter
55g Demerara sugar
2Tbsp double cream
Place the flour in a bowl and rub in the butter until it resembles breadcrumbs, then mix in the sugar. Pour in the egg, then drizzle in the milk with one hand, bringing the mixture together with the other hand only using as much milk as is needed to form a ball. Flatten the ball and wrap in cling film. Rest in the fridge for at least one hour before rolling.
When the pastry is rested, roll it out to about the thickness of a 50p piece, and line 8 tartlet cases. Using a fork prick all over the base of the tarts then line with baking parchment and baking beans. Place into the fridge to rest for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 200’c
Bake the cases for 15 minutes then remove the lining. Bake for another 5 minutes.
Whilst the cases are baking, make the filling. Melt the butter and golden syrup in a pan then mix in the sugar and vanilla. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the nuts and the eggs. Remove the vanilla pod and pour the mix into the blind baked pastry cases. Place back in the oven for 20 minutes until set.
To make the toffee sauce, put all the ingredients in a pan and slowly melt. Bring to the boil. It will thicken and turn a lovely golden brown colour.
To serve – remove the tarts from the tins, top with ice cream and pour over some sauce. You won’t be sorry!