Saturday 16 January 2016

Venison with Neeps

This week has seen the belated advent of some "proper" Winter weather, so today I am writing about a proper Winter meal - ideal for warming you up after a chilly day working in the garden or on your allotment.

The full dish is this: Venison haunch medallions in a Port sauce, bashed neeps (mashed Swede turnip), braised buttered Leeks, and Bubble-and-Squeak cakes. Does that sound OK to you?

This is where it all began - a pack of Venison that we bought in our local Lidl supermarket. Lidl is not the place where we normally do our shopping, but we do visit from time to time because they are very good for meat - especially game. I must say though that I was very disappointed to see that the deer for this Venison had been reared in New Zealand! I thought it would have been from Scandinavia, or at least Europe.

The meat in this pack was a number of smallish pieces rather than the steaks I had expected, though this was not a problem in view of the dish I had in mind. I cut the venison into even-sized chunks ("medallions") and marinated them for a few hours in a marinade made of chopped shallot, fresh Thyme and crushed Juniper berries, held together with a spoonful of vegetable oil.

I also prepared in advance my Bubble-and-Squeak cakes. I cooked some potatoes and some leaves from a home-grown Brussels Top (the cabbage-like tuft of leaves at the top of a Brussels Sprout plant).

In a deep bowl I roughly mashed the potato and the Brussels Top, together with about 25g of butter cut into small pieces, and lots of pepper and salt. Then I flattened the mixture out on a chopping-board and shaped it into cakes / patties using a cookie-cutter.

Later, these are fried in a frying-pan until they go brown at the edges. This of course will be helped by the butter in the "cakes" melting.

I also made my Port sauce well in advance, and re-heated it at the last minute. The inspiration for this sauce came from the fact that we had about one glass of Port left in a bottle which we had opened at Christmas, and it needed using up. I made a rich stock using some Lamb bones I had bought for a very small price at Morrison's, and reduced it by boiling hard for a few minutes. Then I added the Port and a knob of butter, stirring all the while. The latter gives it an attractive shine. That's it. Easy!

Bashed Neeps are also easy. Peel your Swede and cut it into chunks. Boil them in salted water until tender enough to mash (about 15 - 20 mins). Drain, mash and season with copious amounts of pepper. If you like, you can add a bit of butter or cream at this point. It depends how nice your Swede is! If space on the cooker-top is short, the Swede can be kept warm in the oven.

The braised buttered Leeks require a bit more time and attention. Wash and trim the (Baby) Leeks, ensuring they will fit comfortably in a deep frying-pan. Lay the Leeks in the frying-pan, add a few knobs of butter and enough chicken or vegetable stock to cover, along with a few sprigs of a suitable herb (I used Winter Savory). Simmer gently until the Leeks are tender. If you have the patience you could turn up the heat and reduce the buttery stock to a sticky glaze, but this is not vital, and you would have to be careful to avoid over-cooking the Leeks.

I retrospect, I am conscious that this meal needed a lot of co-ordination! Just before meal-time you need to fry the Bubble-and-Squeak, braise the Leeks, boil the Swede - and of course cook the venison. I gave the meat just a few minutes in a hot griddle-pan, turning each piece a couple of times using a pair of tongs. Venison is best served fairly rare, so that it doesn't go dry and tough, therefore it doesn't need a long cooking time.

Here is the whole thing put together...

I know that a lot of people say that they don't like venison because it is too gamey, but honestly it isn't. Farmed venison (which this was) is quite mild - like a very tasty beef. The vegetables were very tasty too  - soft oniony Leeks, comfortingly pungent Swede, and those iron-rich Brussels Tops in the Bubble-and Squeak cakes - perfect!


  1. Quite a nice looking meal. Here we'd call your bubble and squeak, potato pancakes. A great use of leftover mashed potato. I usually coat them with flour before frying up in a bit of butter.

  2. Delicious and hearty meal - as you say, perfect winter food. I've never tried leeks cooked in that way before - would that work with larger leeks as well or is it best with the smaller ones?

    1. Hi Margaret; I don't see why this technique wouldn't work with bigger Leeks. You would just need a bigger (& deeper) pan.

  3. Now that looks a great meal, just right for this time of year!

    All the best Jan

  4. Lots to like in this post, the tips on how to prepare the meal, the photos, the use of many vegetables, the exotic meat; all fully as strange to me as some of your elaborate foreign concoctions.

  5. When the cooker top is busy, I often cook patties of bubble & squeak (or swede/potato, parsnip/potato patties) on a baking sheet in a hot oven. Not quite as crispy as frying but very convenient.

  6. What a beautiful meal. Thank you for the directions and mouth-watering photos.

  7. It looks very good Mark, I rarely go to Lidle but I have heard it's good for meat. I have some similar size leeks in the garden so I shall cook them in a similar style to yours.

  8. I like the idea of bubble and squeak cakes.

  9. now that looks like a proper meal! i love the bubble and squeak cakes!


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