Venison steak and pomme fondant (revisited) with bramble and juniper sauce

After my meal at Howie’s in Edinburgh last week involving venison leg steak and very disappointing faux pomme fondant (conglomerate) and bramble and juniper sauce,  the general dissatisfaction made me obliged to cook my own version of the meal at home at the weekend. The hardship!

I was irrationally upset about the denial of the pomme fondant and all week there was a little ‘je ne sais quoi’ missing from my life.  Good to get these things out of your system, so a culinary cure was called for.

I was determined to make this a ‘Uist meal’ as much as I could and to use what I had by the way of stored veg, or growing veg in the raised beds. Over the last month, the raised beds have been left almost  to manage themselves (with the exception of garlic planting and associated rodent management).

Sprout success – exploding buds pending…

This was telling when I saw to my horror that one variety of sprouts (Darkmar 21 – organic seeds), in their apparently exceptional happiness with the growing conditions were at risk of buds exploding forth from their stems.  Dense packing of the buds had kept a lid on the situation, but intervention was urgently needed. It is the first time I’ve grown a mid-season variety so don’t usually check sprouts until at least December. At least I had found one veg for my meal.

So, for stored veg, I recovered some carrots that were layered in sand in the shipping container.  To leave them outside is to risk sustaining the rat population, as I found out to my chagrin last winter.  I pulled up carrot tops, the root removed by stealth using mole-like tunnelling action below ground.  I suppose it could have been a Were-Rabbit. To keep them safe in the ground I would need “Anti-Pesto”, for that coveted Golden Carrot award to be mine….

I grew a mixture of 3 varieties of carrots this year: a standard Nantes orange variety I plant each year (in case other varieties under test fail me), Yellowstone and Purple Dragon (heritage), for colour contrasts. The dry, cold spring meant I had to work very hard to get them to germinate, but I got there in the end with tenacity and successional sowing.

Carrots stored in a fish box found while beach combing, sand left over from a building project. Recycling is part of life in the Hebrides.

I turned to my stored potatoes to select the best variety for the pomme fondant.  I needed a waxy variety that would retain its shape during cooking, so chose Edgecote purple, a heritage variety first listed in 1916. It has  yellow flesh and purple skin.

This was all a great excuse to use my new wooden vegetable trug, a present from my parents, given to me partly in jest.
Comparisons had frequently been drawn between the beautiful portrayal of the whimsical TV world of English gardening and Uist growing.  In dreamland, baskets and trugs feature large on the arms of presentable maidens donning Laura Ashley and Hunter wellies in leafy cottage gardens, heady with mellifluous scents of deep herbaceous borders. My parents decided a trug was what I needed to enhance my Uist gardening experience.  The real image is one of sporting ‘Uist hair’ in a gale, wearing waterproofs and trying to stop the veg flying out of the trug as you shield it from the gusts and run for the house.

Trug – a gardening icon in Uist. Rachel De Thame would be proud.

 

Venison with pomme fondant, sprouts and bramble and juniper sauce
Most of the ingredients are from Uist – North Uist venison and game stock and all veg, and herbs from the garden, brambles foraged locally in September.  Still working on the chicken stock.  Hard to get birds locally. Best start with the potatoes as they take longest. I didn’t measure anything out for this recipe, so quantities are approximations.  Sorry!  All recipes serve 2, so scale up for more people.
Pomme fondant
Not a dish for the health conscious, but a luxurious occasional treat. This can be a wasteful dish as the pieces are cut from the centre of potatoes. The smallest potato will dictate the size of the pieces, if you want them to be of a uniform size. A 4cm cutter will make a portion of 3 fondants per person, for a 6cm, 2 fondants are enough.  I used the leftover potato pieces to add to chicken, potato and leek soup next day. This also stretched the chicken carcass that provided the stock to make another meal.

Pomme fondant with butter, thyme and garlic.

Set the oven to 190oC
Ingredients:
4-6 largish waxy potatoes
60g of butter
250 ml of chicken stock
salt and pepper
sprig of thyme
garlic clove cut in half
Scone cutter (4-6 cm depending on potato size)
Ovenproof frying pan
Method
  • Cut out a cylinder of potato about 2.5 cm thick using the scone cutter.  I used 4 cm cutter, as I wanted a uniform size and my potatoes were quite small. Trim the edges to prevent them sticking in the pan – and to make them look neat.
  • Put the butter in the ovenproof frying pan on a medium heat with the garlic and thyme, salt and pepper.
  • Once it is melted and starts to hiss and bubble gently, add the potatoes. Turn after 3-5 minutes.  They should be golden and the butter will be turning slightly nutty, but take care that it does not burn.
  • When both sides are coloured, add the chicken stock.  Add enough to come about 3/4 way up the sides of the potato.
  • Bring to a simmer and place in the oven for 15 -20 minutes.  Most of the stock should by then be absorbed into the delectably soft and flavoursome tattie.
  • This leaves time to deal with the venison and sprouts.  I start the sauce at the same time with the potatoes as it needs this amount of time to develop depth of flavour.
Venison topside steak
Thick steaks (at least 1.5 cm) are recommended  for this quick cook method to ensure it is rare and remains so while being rested.
Set the oven to 100oC
Ingredients:
venison steaks, 1 per person
knob of butter
salt and pepper
Method
  • Heat a griddle pan until almost smoking and add some groundnut or olive oil.
  • Season the venison steaks, place in the hot pan and add a dollop of butter.
  • Turn after 3 minutes and cook on the other side for the same time. They should be nicely caramelised with lines across each from the griddle pan.
  • Remove from the pan (if the hot griddle pan is placed in the oven, the steak will continue to cook and will be overcooked) and place in a warmed roasting tray and into the oven to rest for about 5 minutes.
Bramble and juniper sauce
It can tricky to get the balance right between fruit acidity and infusion of just enough juniper.  Taste the sauce frequently throughout and adjust seasoning accordingly.  The recipe is a variation of a Michel Roux recipe for juniper sauce.
Ingredients:
2 shallots, finely chopped
200 ml red wine
300 ml game stock
60 g brambles/blackberries
30g butter, cold, diced
4 juniper berries, crushed
1 tsp rowan and apple or redcurrant jelly
salt and pepper
Method:
  • Put the red wine and shallots in a pan, bring to the boil at a medium heat and simmer until the wine has reduced by 1/3.
  • Add the stock, crushed juniper berries and brambles and simmer for 15 minutes.  Add the rowan jelly and let it dissolve.
  • Strain the sauce through a chinois into a clean pan and whisk in the butter cubes a few at a time. Season and taste.  A bit more rowan jelly can be dissolved in at this stage, if required.
Brussel sprouts with bacon and juniper
This is a Nigel Slater recipe from Tender Volume 1. I use it a lot as it has converted me to the delights of sprout eating.  I have adjusted the volume by half and tweaked the sprout cooking from boiling to steaming and cut the number of berries. Serves 2.
Ingredients:
200g brussel sprouts
125g pancetta or smoked bacon
8 juniper berries, crushed
pepper
Method:
  • Remove outer leaves from sprouts and retain for garnish (see below).
  • Pierce the bottom of each sprout with a knife and place in a steamer.  This will speed up cooking of the harder base.  Steam for about 7 minutes, until just tender.
  • Fry the pancetta until crisp and golden and remove with a slotted spoon. Drain on kitchen paper.
  • Half the sprouts and add to the same pan, add the crushed juniper berries.
  • As the sprouts soften and colour after a few minutes,  add the bacon back into the pan and season.  They are ready to serve.
Carrots
Juliene then steam for 3-4 minutes and toss in butter and some orange juice, add salt and pepper.
Garnish
Deep fry shredded outer brussel sprout leaves in ground nut oil.  Minimise on waste and add a flavour and texture contrast.

Venison with pomme fondant, bramble and juniper sauce with sprouts. Sprouts married with bacon and juniper hit the spot.

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4 thoughts on “Venison steak and pomme fondant (revisited) with bramble and juniper sauce

  1. Loved the trug beats my black plastic fish bucket or red sheep feed container (harvested from the beach!).
    I’ve given up with sprouts – providing each plant with scaffolding to withstand the wind was too much like hard work for a vegetable that I do not particularly like.

    • Thanks, yes, my parents recognise me for the style guru that I am (!). Guess what I used before – a black bucket! Sprouts would certainly have an even tougher time where you are Up South. Mine have been blown clean out of the ground before. Isn’t the weather here bizarre this winter – so calm? I can imagine there’s a lot of people saying “Aye, we’ll pay for it later”, in the cheery, positive way Scots do!

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