The word venison comes from the Latin venatio – ‘hunt.’ In French the term is used not only for deer meat but for the meat of any large game animal including wild-boar, while base venaison is the description given to hare and wild rabbit. In England however venison is the generic term given to all meat that comes from deer. While most venison comes from wild animals shot on estates or moorland, farmed venison is also available all year round.
Deer are a natural asset and an integral part of our countryside, with their presence influencing the environment around them. Currently in the British Isles it is possible to find six species of deer in the wild: red, sika, fallow, muntjac, Chinese water deer, and roe. While red and roe deer are the only native to the UK, the other species have established themselves after being introduced or escaping from private collections and deer parks.
Yorkshire and Humberside have an increasing population of roe deer but venison is not something you commonly see on the menus of York restaurants. These deer are incredibly beautiful and majestic animals, and sentimentality naturally follows when we view them. However, the selective management of deer to provide a sustainable population is essential for the health and welfare of these wonderful animals, as well as for the surrounding environment.
The by-product of sympathetic deer management is venison. This delicious meat provides very healthy, good eating with very little waste.
Pan-fried Venison with Pears
I have always found that pear compliments venison perfectly – the rich and distinctive flavours of the meat beautifully softened by the subtly sweet and vinous character of the pear. Pear also makes a great partner for ingredients with a tannic edge such as red wine – so this fits wonderfully with a red wine sauce for the venison.
If you’re looking for an additional or alternative flavouring for venison then look no further than juniper. Juniper, the principal flavouring of gin, has the evocative taste of the country estate. While pear is a great sweet and balancing ingredient for venison, juniper can be paired with other strong bitter flavours such as game and rare meat to great effect.
Red wine sauce
500ml red Burgundy
1 finely chopped shallot
100g of cooked and pureed carrots
Bring the Burgundy to the boil, and flame it to evaporate the alcohol. Add the chopped shallot and reduce the sauce by 3/4. Add the pureed carrot to the sauce and season to taste. Remove from the heat and set aside.
4 firm cooking pears
Finely slice the pears and coat with lemon. Melt the butter in a pan, add the pears and cook gently until tender and slightly browned.
Season (preferably lean noisettes or medallions of) venison steak with salt and pepper. Melt 25g of butter in a frying pan until foaming. Add the venison and cook over a high heat for two minutes on each side, or until well browned on the outside and still slightly pink in the middle.
Reheat the sauce, adding 150g butter – whisking hard continually. Drain the venison on paper towels. Deglaze the frying pan that you cooked the venison in with a little water and reduce for one minute. Whisk this reduction into the sauce, and season to taste.
Coat warmed plates with the sauce and then arrange the venison and pears on top.
For a lovely traditional meal serve your pan-fried venison and pear with a beautiful creamy mash and a vegetable of your choice.
This time I sourced my venison from the Shambles Butchers.