There seems to be a bit of a problem with deer in the country at the moment. There are around 2 million deer in Britain, of which the main species are red deer, roe deer, fallow deer and muntjack. This, it seems, is far too many, and a serious cull has been called for. Bad for the deer, good for us.
OK, let’s look at both sides of this before people start telephoning the RSPCA. On the one hand there is no denying that they are absolutely magnificent animals – dignified, even kingly – and that the unabated slaughter of them (or indeed any animal) is completely unjustified and verging on the insane. However, if you look at both the human and ecological impact of so many deer, the argument for culling is compelling. The damage that deer do to the natural habitat of literally thousands of species renders it uninhabitable, so the biodiversity in vast swathes of forest is shrinking at an alarming rate. Wildlife needs delicate management. Furthermore, the road accidents caused by the sheer volume of deer is perhaps reason enough to cull (“just don’t drive!” I hear you cry…a discussion for another day/blog perhaps).
Anyway, either way experts reckon that we need to cull about 100,000 deer a year, which means that venison (the meat from deer) is going to become more and more available. At home we have a lot of roe deer in particular who, while beautiful to look at themselves, render the woodland less so, destroying young woods with ease. As a result there is often a fair bit of venison around, and I have found it rather too easy to get into the habit of basic ‘roast, rest and eat’ cookery. But it’s such a wonderful meat that it lends itself well to adaptation. It is very lean, so any stewing needs doing with a hefty amount of bacon or something similar. But its loin makes wonderful carpaccio, or can be a great replacement for a steak.
This is what I did with a haunch the other night. If you’re not confident with a knife you could get the butcher to do the first part, but it’s not a particularly complicated piece of butchery.
Braised haunch of venison with chorizo and mushrooms
1 roe deer haunch
2 large onions, peeled and sliced
300g chorizo, roughly chopped
500g button mushrooms, halved
200ml red wine
Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 190C.
First remove the bone from the haunch by cutting down the length of the bone and working the flesh away around it. Lay the meat out flat like a giant steak and season all over with salt and pepper.
Heat some oil in a large saute pan or roasting dish, brown the meat on all sides (this will take a few minutes) and set aside.
Add the onions, chorizo and mushrooms and stir over the heat for a couple of minutes, then add the wine and stock. Bring to a boil, add the meat, cover (tightly with foil, if using a roasting pan) and cook in the preheated oven for 30-40 minutes.
Rest and serve with butternut squash mash and purple sprouting broccoli. And a hefty amount of the chorizo and mushroom jus.