This is a recipe for Venison Haunch Sous Vide. It is also a plea for Ireland to fix the venison supply chain. There are reputable suppliers. But, it still operates in a bit of a grey market with significant poaching a nod and a wink being good enough to get meat into the system in many cases. To prevent confusion, I will write my supply chain gripes in bold italic and the recipe in plain text. Though, the relationship between my struggles to prepare a decent recipe and messed up supply chain is obvious to me and should not need to be separated. However, for those looking for a recipe and not interested in a gripe, I separate the two.
For this piece of deliciousness, you will need the following.
Ingredients (feeds six+)
- 2 small venison haunch joints (boned and rolled)
- Bunch of thyme
- Sea salt
- Black pepper
- 500ml of great beef stock (mine is concentrated and fits in that small jug)
- 250ml of good red wine
- 2 shallots
- 2 beetroot
- 1 celeriac
- 3 parsnips
Season the venison loins with the salt and pepper. Sit the thyme on top and vacuum seal in a bag.
Pop it into a water bath at 55ºC/130ºF for a couple of hours. I did mine for two and a half.
Do this with some poor quality venison and you could end up with what looks like undercooked, tough, fibrous meat that will really disappoint your guests. If you are unlucky to get meat from an old/male beast, you will need to cook for far longer to get a chance of a decent result. I wouldn’t attempt it, if I thought the meat came that way. Most people buying through butcher shops have no way of knowing.
Peel and cut the winter vegetables into bite size pieces. Season and roast (for about 20 minutes) until done.
I recently paid the same price as one would for prime steak for “Venison Steaks” The packaging was very professional and I was buying from a reputable butcher. I felt reassured. When I opened the packet to cook a meal for two, I got three pieces of meat, one steak and two “bits”. No self respecting butcher would do this to a customer. Why is this OK for the venison supplier?
Make a nice sauce to go with this. Dice the shallots and fry in a little oil until translucent. Turn down the heat. Add the red wine and the bag juices from the venison. Gently heat until just boiling. Add the beef stock and bring to a rolling boil. Reduce by about two thirds. Strain and keep warm. While this is happening, brown the venison on a frying pan. Taste and season. Carve the venison and serve with the winter vegetables. The red wine sauce goes particularly well with this.
I recently declined to buy some venison fillet. By weight, it was almost twice the price of beef fillet. This seems ridiculous to me. The beef would have to be reared and fed by a farmer, then dispatched before butchery. There is a significant expense in this. The venison will have been hunted and shot with no rearing expense. The hunter needs his cut as does the butchery, distributor and retailer. But the significant expense of growing the beast is not there. Why is venison so hugely expensive?
The venison was melt-in-the mouth. It had a lovely gamey/meaty flavour. This is how venison should be.
I get my venison from a number of sources. Two are friends who are licensed hunters. I am lucky to be in their good books and on their distribution lists. They are not allowed, under their license, to sell the meat to me. The third and fourth are reputable butchers who stand over the quality of what they sell. I just wish I could feel completely confident when buying venison. I suspect if the supply chain was less opaque and it was not priced as an exotic meat, the market would warm to it.
I do understand that there are many well meaning and professional people working in the Irish venison supply chain. But, until consumers can depend on consistency of quality, availability (not withstanding seasonality) and price, it will remain a minority product for those of us lucky enough to know a hunter or two or for those of us prepared to take a chance.
We live in hope.