By Chef Will Devlin
Loin of venison with chestnuts, bacon and cabbage and toasted barley creams with blackberries and linseed cracker
Venison is a hugely underrated meat. It’s wild, plentiful, sustainable and delicious cooked fast and pink or low and slow. This is a warming wintery dish, but it is celebratory enough to grace the festive table.
Serves 2 for a main course
2 x 200g venison pieces, trimmed of any sinew
300g winter cabbage such as savoy or cavolo nero, washed and shredded
100g chestnuts, ether vac packed or roasted and deshelled weight
100g smoked belly bacon
4 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
3 sprigs thyme
500ml beef or chicken stock
250ml red wine
150g unsalted butter
Prepare the sauce by simmering the stock and wine until reduced by three quarters and intensely flavoured. Keep warm.
Season the venison pieces well with salt and pepper and sear in a medium hot pan with a little rapeseed oil, turning often for an even colour all over. Add 50g butter, two lightly crushed garlic cloves and a sprig of thyme. Keep spooning the foaming brown butter over the venison as it pan-roasts, for about four minutes. At this stage it should feel firm to touch and will be medium rare on the inside and caramelised and golden on the outside. Keep warm and leave to rest.
In a small frying pan, add a drizzle of rapeseed oil and the bacon and fry until the fat renders and is crispy. Add the chestnuts and coat in the bacon fat until starting to caramelise and add the reduced stock and wine liquid to deglaze the pan. Stir and keep warm.
In a small saucepan, with a lid, add 100g of butter and the remaining cloves of garlic and thyme. Stir until melted and you can smell the garlic and add the finely chopped cabbage. Stir and replace the lid, moving the pan every so often while the cabbage cooks in its own steam. Remove the garlic cloves and thyme and season with salt.
To serve, slice each venison loin into three or four pieces and plate with the cabbage and bacon and chestnut sauce. Good served with mashed potato and swede and a glass of the same wine used in the sauce.
Toasted barley set cream with blackberries and linseed cracker
For the blackberries
Put the blackberries and sugar into a medium sized pan and cook gently for a couple of minutes until the juices just start to run. Cool and put in the fridge until needed.
For the toasted barley cream
100g pearl barley
600ml double cream
3 gelatine leaves
Toast the barley in the oven at 140c for 40 mins. In a pan, heat the cream, buttermilk and sugar to 80c and tip in the toasted barley to infuse for 30 minutes.
Bloom the gelatine leaves in iced water until they are soft. Pass the cream and barley infusion and gently reheat 200ml. When hot, stir in the gelatine and then add to the rest of the cream. Pass through a fine meshed colander and pour into shallow bowls or moulds to set over night.
Combine the linseeds and water and leave in the fridge overnight. The next day spread the mixture onto a greaseproof tray and into a preheated oven at 75c for 12 minutes. Remove and cool.
Place a spoonful of the poached blackberries on top of the set cream and top with broken pieces of the linseed cracker. Garnish with wood sorrel leaves and pour over a little reserved and chilled blackberry liquor.
Will Devlin is the chef owner of the Acre Group an award-winning collection of restaurants in Kent and East Sussex. The Acre Group includes The Small Holding in Kilndown which has a Michelin Green Star, The Curlew in Bodiam and Birchwood in Flimwell, which is part of the 46-acre Flimwell Park. Acre champions seasonal, sustainable and local food, wine, farmers and producers.