Beast in a bag This one has tomatil­los, figs, ap­ple and onion in it.

NZ Lifestyle Block - - DIY Food -

I’VE BEEN ON a sort of culi­nary quest lately. How do you cook large bits of veni­son with­out dry­ing the meat out?

Then a friend men­tioned that she al­ways cooks roast chicken in a bag be­cause she doesn’t like it dry­ing out, and that con­ver­sa­tion must have stuck in my head. Why not use a bag as a way to con­serve and add ex­tra mois­ture and flavour to a piece of veni­son while it cooks? There were a few bits of leftover deer that I thought could be ap­pro­pri­ate for an oven bag experiment.

When it comes to ex­per­i­ment­ing with food, it’s all about what’s avail­able at the time. At this par­tic­u­lar time we were sidestep­ping buck­ets of ripe figs, tomatil­los and ap­ples do­nated by gen­er­ous neigh­bours, and all these things came to­gether in one gallant rush.

I took a front leg out of the freezer. My Dearly Beloved sawed the thing in half so that it would fit in the oven bag, and I be­gan ar­rang­ing fruits and veg­eta­bles around the meat with gay aban­don.

Ini­tially, my idea was to have ‘be­fore’ and ‘af­ter’ shots of the dish but un­for­tu­nately (that is, un­for­tu­nate only for the pur­poses of dig­i­tal record­ing, not for din­ers) the fruits so dain­tily ar­ranged around the bones fell apart and turned to mush. This un­ex­pect­edly cre­ated the per­fect base for a sump­tu­ous, del­i­cate, fruit-flavoured gravy. The figs, ap­ples and tomatil­los had done a fine first job as a steam baste for the meat - all I had to do was add a bit of corn­flour - and their juices had a sec­ond life as gravy. 1.5-2kg veni­son 4 tbsp olive oil ■ ¼ cup red wine or cider or white wine vine­gar 1 tsp mus­tard pow­der 1 tsp of pa­prika or 1 tsp cumin ½ tsp salt ■ ½ tsp freshly ground black pep­per ■ 2 heaped tsp of dried herbs – I used oregano and rose­mary 1 ap­ple 4 cloves gar­lic, peeled 1 stick cel­ery ■ Op­tional: figs, tomatil­los, cherry toma­toes Corn­flour Milk Pre­heat the oven to 200°C. Put the veni­son into a large oven bag and place in a roast­ing dish. Mix the oil, vine­gar, mus­tard pow­der, pa­prika or cumin, salt, pep­per and dried herbs in a jug, then pour over the meat in­side the bag, coat­ing the pieces as best you can. Cut the ap­ple into quar­ters and chop a stick of cel­ery into 4-5 pieces, then add these and the gar­lic to the bag. If you have figs, tomatil­los or cherry toma­toes, add 4-6 of each. Se­curely tie up the bag with the plas­tic tie pro­vided and bake for 1 hour. Re­move from the oven. Tak­ing ex­treme care, turn the bag over so you re­dis­tribute the juices onto the other side of the meat. You can also open the bag at this stage and add chunks of veg­eta­bles like parsnip, ku­mara, potato, beet­root, car­rot and pump­kin. Be very care­ful open­ing the oven bag as the steam from the juice comes rush­ing out and can cause nasty burns (I speak from ex­pe­ri­ence, so be warned!). Bake for a fur­ther 30-45 min­utes, then open the bag and drain off the liq­uid into a small pot. Add 1 tbsp of corn­flour mixed in 3-4 tbsp of cold milk for ev­ery cup of meat juice you pour off. Slowly bring to a sim­mer, un­til thick. Add a dash of cream if you like your gravy creamy. ■

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