This is a great time of year to make the most out of local game and I’ve been enjoying cooking Wild Goulash, Burgers, Stroganoff and Pasties all made with Venison. Venison is a sustainable protein source, lean and therefore healthy, and full of flavour. My wife is also due to give birth this month to our third child and so I’ve had to get inventive in the kitchen to find exciting ways to feed her Venison cravings and fuel her up with the valuable iron-rich meat. Served with plenty of sprouting broccoli and curly kale – midwife’s orders…
My favourite local source of wild meats is from the Duchy Game company founded in 2012 by Scott & Marc, Duchy Game supplies restaurants and the public with wild, traceable Cornish game.
Scott Martin has a strong background in local hunting, stalking and supplying game. As a licensed hunter, Scott is able to source the finest wild game from various local Cornish estates that he has strong ties with including Caerhays Castle and Tregothnan Estate. His move from hunter to supplier began in September 2012 when, as a sole trader, he started a stall at the Truro Farmer’s Market before joining forces with Marc Dennis to form the successful Duchy Game in order to expand the reach and reputation of Cornish wild game.
Marc Dennis’s experience in the fine meat trade started fifteen years ago when he joined R.S.Ashby ltd, a quality catering butchers based in South London. There he was able to build up an extensive knowledge of the meat industry and developed a keen eye for quality products. On moving to Cornwall in 2012, Marc’s passion for locally sourced wild Cornish produce was born and he teamed up with Scott to ensure the supply of wild Cornish game from field to table, county and country wide.
The majority of Duchy Game’s birds come from Caerhays Castle, which is owned by the Williams family, located in a sheltered valley overlooking Porthluney Cove on the South Cornish Coast equidistant from Truro & St. Austell. I had the pleasure a couple of years ago to meet their resident shoot chef Maggie Semmen and the quality of the birds was fantastic. There, among the valleys, woods, cliffs & towering magnolias, Charles Williams has developed one of the best shoots in Britain — 80 days a year of top-of-the-range shooting, traditionally rearing the spectacularly beautiful Kansas pheasant.
Duchy Game Venison comes from the world famous Tea-growing Tregothnan Estate located on the Roseland Peninsula. The concept of a working country estate may be one some people believe is already consigned to the history books but Tregothnan is living, breathing proof that the working estate is as relevant today as in our past and is a place where generations of families have lived & worked the land. The tenant farmers offer some of the finest, most diverse produce in Cornwall.
Eating gnarly looking dried bits of meat is great! Desiccation solved the problem of preserving slaughtered animals for the leaner months and was an ideal technique for travelling due to its high nutritional value and convenience. To me jerky goes hand-in-hand with a fishing trip or an afternoon walk in the woods. That said, jerky is as much at home as a back-garden picnic snack or an unusual treat to eat whilst watching a film. Jerky can be made from all sorts of animals such as; goat, pork, lamb or more unusual ones like turkey, venison, tuna and ostrich. It is essentially thin slices that are dried quickly. The best cuts of meat to use are steak, skirt steak, rump roast or what is known in America as flank steak. If you want to try a vegetarian option for this technique then have a go at making your own fruit leather.
TOOLS AND EQUIPMENT
A Dehydrator is a piece of kit that will be useful for all sorts of drying and can be used for both meat, fruit and vegetables. If you are looking at preserving lots of your own food then it may be worth investing in one. If using a dehydrator for these recipes then make sure that you cut the slices of meat to a size that easily fits inside!
WILD SOUTH WEST JERKY
INGREDIENTS & INSTRUCTIONS
FOR THE JERKY
1 kg Venison flank steak
1 tbsp Honey
250 ml soy sauce
250 ml Worcestershire sauce
1 pinch cayenne
1 tsp ground coriander seeds
4 cloves crushed garlic
2 tbsp black pepper
First trim off any fat as this will not dry as well. Then freeze the venison until ice crystals start to form – this will make it much easier to slice thinly. Next start work on the marinade. The flavours will give the jerky the authentic taste at the end of the drying and the salt will also help to cure the Venison. Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl and then set to one side. Cut the meat into thin slices (about 1/8 inch thick) and place in the bowl to cover with marinade. Next pour the venison and remaining marinade into a freezer bag. Squeeze the air out of the bag and refrigerate for 2 days – turning occasionally.
Remove the venison from the bag and pat dry with kitchen roll. Then either hang for 4 days in a well ventilated outdoor space (safe from cats and dogs) or dry in the oven. For the quicker option dry in a fan assisted oven with the door slightly ajar at 50˚C to remove moisture – jerky can dry in just 4 hours. A good tip is to place a rack at the top of the oven and hang the strips of meat between rows with tooth picks. Ensure that you place a large piece of tinfoil below to catch any drips. Slow food has the reputation for tasting better and it’s certainly cheaper than using the oven – but the end results are pretty similar. You will know when the jerky is ready to eat when it is pliable but not brittle.
FLAVOUR LOGIC AND OTHER OPTIONS:
TERIYAKI – This is a favourite of mine and really adds something to the jerky. You may enjoy dipping it into some horseradish and lime mayonnaise.
250 ml soy sauce
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp rice wine
4 cloves crushed garlic
2 tbsp finely chopped ginger
2 tbsp 5 spice
4-5 chopped scallions
120 ml of orange juice
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp grated horseradish (optional)
OLD SPICE – This sweet marinade works really well with game and gives a traditional spiced flavour to the dried meat.
100 ml Balsamic or Raspberry Vinegar
Pinch of ground cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and star anise
50 ml Worcestershire sauce
100 g brown sugar
75 g Salt
1 tsp course black pepper
For both versions – Heat all of the ingredients in a small saucepan and then allow to cool. Place the finely sliced pieces of venison into a freezer bag and cover in the marinade. Squeeze out as much air as possible before sealing. Then refrigerate for 2 days to absorb the flavours before drying.
FRUIT LEATHER [vegetarian jerky]
Every year I make Strawberry Leather from the alpine strawberries that grow in my garden. But you can use fruit that is leftover in your fruit bowl. This simple technique can be applied to all sorts of fruit and it’s worth trying. Simply place all of your harvested fruit into a blender with some sugar (I normally use about 1/3 of the weight of the fruit) and add some lemon juice to tart it up a bit. Then blitz and roll out the gooey mixture onto a very fine Tamis or a piece of muslin. Place this outside in the sun for a few hours. Alternatively leave on a baking sheet in the oven on low heat 40-60˚C for 2-3 hours. The final product is as it sounds, a delicious leathery snack that can be cut into strips and is perfect for children’s lunch-boxes or as a healthy treat for the office!
This is a recipe that works really well with Venison mince and blended with local pork creates a lovely moist and deeply flavoured sausage roll. My version is very popular in delis and cafes but this is the homemade version that is something a bit special for a picnic this spring…
500 g minced Duchy Venison
250 g Outdoor-Reared Pork Belly 8mm mince (I use Primrose Herd)
100 ml local Cider
1 tbsp finely chopped Black Garlic (a lovely ingredient to play with that has a balsamic tone with umami quality)
50 g Cranberries
100g Cornish Blue Cheese
100 g Fine Breadcrumbs
1 beaten Egg to bind together
Roll this in some homemade or shop-bought shortcrust pastry and crimp down the side for a sausage roll worthy of the Duke of Cornwall. Brush with egg wash and bake at 180˚C for 35-40 minutes or until golden. My Venison Sausage Rolls are available from www.poshpasty.co
Cornwall is not only about fishing and farming there is also a thriving game scene. Caerhays estate runs a shoot in season and the beaters eat like Kings. Maggie Semmen moved into the lodge (which she calls Granny’s Castle) at the gates to the castle. She is one of my favourite local food heroes! In a cosy kitchen she cooks most days once the shooting season begins for the beaters. She also bakes to order and regularly for the country market at Veryan. On a typical shoot day the Gamekeeper’s wife Sheila brings 16 pheasants (8 brace) and Maggie deftly prepares them for her trademark pheasant and leek pie.
Visit Caerhays Castle in the spring for a splendid floral display across the gardens and estate. It is an English Heritage Grade 1 Listed Building built by John Nash and completed in 1810. Owned by the Williams family, it’s located in a sheltered valley overlooking Porthluney Cove on the South Cornish Coast equidistant from Truro and St Austell. The surrounding parkland and woodland gardens were created in the main from the discoveries of the plant hunters in China shortly after the turn of the 20th century.
GAMEKEEPER’S CASSEROLE WITH ROSEMARY DUMPLINGS
FOR THE CASSEROLE
12 Pheasant breasts
4 chorizo sausages
400 g Beef Skirt
2 diced Red Onions
4 Garlic cloves
6 sprigs Rosemary
1 bottle of Red Wine
4 roughly chopped Parsnips
1 can of Butter Beans
1 tbsp cracked Black Pepper
1 tbsp paprika
Soften the onions and garlic in oil and then braise all of the meat until starting to brown. Next add in the parsnips, rosemary, paprika, and black pepper. Stir together and then pour in the bottle of wine. Cook over a medium heat for 1-2 hours and then stir in the beans before service.
FOR THE ROSEMARY DUMPLINGS
100 g Suet
200 g Self Raising Flour
2-4 tbsp Water
1 beaten Egg
2 tbsp finely Chopped Rosemary
1 tbsp Sea Salt
Combine in a mixing bowl and then form into dumpling shapes. Place on a lined baking tray and bake at 180˚C for 20-25 minutes.