I was walking to the tube from my house in Archway the other day and passed a perfectly formed little turd perching on top of a takeaway pizza box. It felt like an omen – a symbol of neglect and its inevitable consequences. I’ve been too busy for this sweet, bulbous little blog. This ray of culinary sunshine that kept boredom from the door during interminable hours in west London and that I have neglected in the interests of a trifling little thing called a career. Never again. The two can work alongside each other. I will force them to be friends. Pinky promise.
I suppose I probably owe you another apology, too. Generally I’ve been cooking food that each and every one of you can cook and afford. This doesn’t really fit into that category – not because it’s too difficult but because I doubt many people would be willing to make the kind of effort this dish requires. Unless you’re going to get laid because of it, which is practically a certainty with this one.
Venison is one of those meats that sings of decadence. I imagine fat warrior kings ripping into it with relish (both kinds). I imagine plump rumps of it steaming on overladen tables. It’s bloody, it’s muddy and it’s toe-curlingly delicious. I like it tunnel-boned (bone removed without opening the flesh) because I seem to be totally incapable of carving anything with a bone in it.
The parsnip crisps are pretentious, unnecessarily complex and totally awesome with the full butteriness of the venison. Parsnips are always good, obviously, but with venison their inherent creaminess can be a bit much – particularly if they’re roasted sweet and sticky. The crisps add much needed crunch and edge to a meal which is otherwise pretty much a portly belly on a plate.
Haunch of Venison with Pomegranate Syrup, Parsnip Crisps and Cumin Cabbage
- Haunch of venison, tunnel-boned
- Fatty bacon, enough to cover the venison
- Handful of cracked black peppercorns
- 3 or 4 parsnips, cleaned but with skin on
- Sea salt
- One white cabbage
- Cumin seeds
- Juice of one pomegranate
- Caster sugar
- Dash of sherry
- A little lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 220°c or medium-high (around gas mark 7). Lie your rosemary and thyme on top of the meat before sprinkling with a handful of cracked black peppercorns. Wrap the bacon around the meat, herbs and peppercorns. This is called barding – it’ll keep the meat tender as well as adding extra flavour. Tie the bacon on with string. It’s best to get butcher’s string to avoid getting any fibres on the bacon.
The time the meat takes to cook depends on how much it weighs. If the joint weights less than 2kg, roast it for 20 minutes at 220°c before turning down to 170°c and roasting for another 10 minutes per 500g. If it’s more than 2kg, give it 30 minutes rather than 20 for the initial sizzle. These timings will give you rare meat, which is really the only way to eat it. If you’re of a more delicate constitution, you should give it 12 minutes per 500g for medium rare or 15 for medium. Anything more is frankly wasteful.
Whilst the meat’s cooking, use a swivel peeler or better still a mandolin to shave thin curls of parsnip. Usually I’m all for being dangerously blasé in the kitchen, but be careful when you’re doing this. I once peeled off half my thumb and had to stumble up the Tottenham Court Road to A&E holding my hand, which my ex-girlfriend had tightly bound with her tights, in the air.
Either use a deep fat fryer or heat about 10 cm of vegetable oil in pan until it shimmers a little. Again, be careful. Dry off your strips of parsnip before dunking them in the oil for around two minutes per batch, stirring to keep them from sticking together. Remove them with a slotted spoon, allowing surplus oil to drain off, and place on kitchen towel. Set to one side, uncovered. They may be a little limp when they first come out of the oil but they’ll crisp up.
Once the meat’s done and is resting, turn off the oven and put the parsnip crisps in as it cools. This will keep them warm without burning them or losing their crispiness. Make a start on the cabbage and the syrup. First up, chop the cabbage into manageable chunks and steam. If you haven’t got a steamer, just put a little water in the bottom of a deep pan and put a sieve over it. Put the cabbage in the sieve and put the lid on. It’ll only need a few minutes, until it goes limp. Don’t worry if the cabbage needs to be done in batches, just put the cooked cabbage to one side. You’ll be coming back to it just before serving anyway.
In a shallow pan (a frying pan with sides will do the trick), heat the pomegranate juice, lemon juice, sugar and a dash of sherry to a gentle boil until the sugar has dissolved. Turn the heat down to a simmer and reduce until syrupy. This shouldn’t take too long. You want to keep the syrup dribble…able? Whatever, you need to be able to dribble it over the meat so don’t let it go to sticky.
Whilst the syrup is reducing, heat some butter in a pan. Once it’s melted and is foaming add the cumin seeds and stir for a minute or so. Add the cabbage and fry until the cabbage is soft but retains a little bite. Serve immediately.