The Food of Kings

Beasts of field, stream and forest are going into hiding. It is game season and DonQui is in a particular carnivorous mood.

With a herd of visitors on their way, DonQui decides that a haunch of venison is in order. There are few meats he enjoys more than this food of Kings — except perhaps for wild boar. Good wild boar is almost impossible to find in England. What is sold as such is cross-bread with domestic pigs, or farmed, or both. So venison it is.

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The friendly butchers at Mills and Sons (and daughters) in Southwold, have prepared a particularly excellent 1.7kg joint for him. It is from a wild Red Deer hind which had been happily running around the local fields not very long ago. It has been hung, tied and larded with fat to gently baste the meat as it cooks. Proper wild game has virtually no fat, this is one reason why it is such a health source of protein. A bit of larding (added fat) on the outside really helps the cooking process and stops the outside from drying out. Some vegetables from the local farm shop will be added to the feast.

larding

Aiding him in his quest to produce the perfect roast venison is Nichola Fletcher’s most helpful Ultimate Venison Cookery book. She advises roasting times based on the width of the joint rather than overall weight. This makes sense to DonQui as, after all, a long thin piece of meat might weigh more than a short fat one but is likely to cook more quickly.

The trick is to roast quickly at high temperature followed by a very long resting time. When resting the joint will continue to cook slowly — the result being something that is evenly pink and tender. As it has no fat, roast venison will dry out, becoming dry, tough and tasteless if it is cooked more than ‘medium rare.’

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DonQui rubs the outside with a mix of salt and pepper then browns the haunch on all sides in oil and butter at high heat. This gives the outside nice colour and flavour. If you do not do this beforehand the outside can tend to look a little greyish.

Then he pops it in a pre-heated oven at 200º C for 40 minutes. This is based on Nichola Fletcher’s advice of 3 minutes per centimetre of width. DonQui’s haunch is 14cm thick at the widest point so 40 mins seems about right. Then he takes it out of the oven, covers it loosely in tinfoil, and leaves the meat to rest for another 40 minutes while he gets on with the roast potatoes and finishing off the gravy.

resting

The lovely juices which collect in the pan during the resting process are added to the gravy. This DonQui makes from a variation of his usual rich meat sauce with the addition of 12 crushed juniper berries, mushroom stalks, thyme, rosemary, garlic, tomato paste and red current jelly. This time he does not make a roux, as through reduction it seems thick enough. This is rather fortuitous as, unbeknownst to him at the time, one of his guests likes to avoid gluten.

roastOvercooking roast venison will toughen it and leave you with nothing better than old shoe leather. The meat should be a lovely even pink throughout — DonQui is delighted to see that this is indeed the case.

carved

As he carves, he can tell that it is also beautifully tender. He has heard that some people do not like rare meat. If that is the case then they should not try roasting a haunch. Far better in that case to slow cook diced venison in a wine-based stew until the meat falls apart.

final

DonQui serves his venison carved on a platter with some of the gravy poured on top with the addition of fried mushrooms along with a scattering of chopped parsley and thyme.

Aldeburgh Food and Drink Festival

On the drive back home from Spain, DonQui sees a sign on the side of the road. It has a picture of a rather fine looking crab with a caption telling him that he is only 5 miles from the most delectable delights. This is too good to pass up so he follows the sign to find himself at the Aldeburgh Food and Drink Festival which is not at Aldeburgh at all but rather at the nearby Snape Maltings.

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He pauses for a moment when he sees the entrance price but, as he likes to support local farmers and local produce, he digs deep into his wallet to produce the required £8.

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On entry he is confronted with a plethora of stalls displaying their wares and all offering tasty samples. He goes from stall to stall trying out what is on offer and doing his best to be disciplined and not buy everything that takes his fancy.

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“I’ll come back and buy later,” he say more than once, determined to see and sample everything before filling the tote bag he had been given on entry with the stuff he really wanted.

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He has a plan to buy something for supper and so tries to avoid filling up too much on all the goodies on offer.  So he passes by the many tempting stalls offering everything from suckling pig to goat burgers and crispy duck wraps. Instead he lunches on the free samples.

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After tasting the goats’ cheeses offered by Fielding Cottage, his resistance breaks down. He buys several of them while Duchess also adds curds and some lotions made from goats’ milk.

wild meat

DonQui  loves wild meat and the Wild Meat Company is one of his favourite suppliers. Wild boar, venison and guinea fowl all end up in his bag. With a couple of wild boar filets he hopes to recreate the delicious meal he had in Seville a few days ago.

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The Kenton Hall Estate is offering Longhorn beef. Not to be confused with Texas longhorns, these cattle are a medieval British breed which are much slower than modern cattle to raise and the price is correspondingly high. DonQui decides to buy a couple of small filet steaks to see if the difference is worth the effort and cost. If nothing else he wants to support the survival of ancient breeds.

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DonQui samples several beers on offer from Barrel and Sellers. Unlike most English beers this is bottle rather than cask conditioned. DonQui loves English beer and is a great fan of his local Adnams brewery. However it is hard to take a decent pint home as the beer in the bottle has none of the character of the draught as English beer is usually cask conditioned. He pronounces these new bottle conditioned beers to be “rather good.”

raw milk

The raw unpasteurised milk and cheese from Fen Farm Dairy are very tasty but DonQui does not buy any as he has already filled his cheese quota from Fielding Cottage. He takes their card and vows to buy some at a later date. Mass production and the necessary corresponding health and safety regulations have almost wiped out non-pasteurised milk products and DonQui is rather pleased to see some local producers are still able to supply them.

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All of this has taken a bit of a toll so DonQui decides to take a break amongst the beans and pulses at the Hodmedod’s stall. He has met the lovely people who offer these products before at the market in Halesworth and they are happy to let him rest a while.

book

They have a book on sale: Out of the Pod by Vicky Jones.  The recipes look rather delicious so DonQui decided to buy a copy and at some time in the future he will try out some of their suggestions and let readers know how they turn out.

cheese and wine

When he gets home Duchess cooks a lovely dish of kale with goat curds which DonQui rounds off with some of the delicious Fielding Farm’s goat’s cheese, fresh sesame baguette and a rather fine bottle of Côte-Rôtie which DonQui had bought in Vienne a few months ago.

In all pretty hard to beat!