ROAST VENISON WITH A CHOCOLATE CRUST
Preparation 15 minutes Cooking 1 hour 5 minutes, plus 20 minutes resting Serves 6 Slightly sweetened or unsweetened dark chocolate provides a mysterious smoky scent that works wonderfully with venison.
FOR THE CRUST 150g fresh white breadcrumbs 150g unsalted butter, softened 1 heaped tsp thyme leaves, plus 1 tsp to serve 3 tbsp grated unsweetened or 80% cocoa chocolate pinch of cayenne pepper FOR THE VENISON 1.5-1.7kg boned and rolled haunch of venison 1 tbsp vegetable oil (optional) 1 scant tsp English mustard powder
50g unsalted butter, softened (optional) redcurrant jelly, to serve
1 Put all of the crust ingredients with a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper into a food processor and blitz until the mixture is crumb-like. Press into a dough, place between two sheets of clingfilm and roll it out the length and width of the venison joint. Set aside in a cool place.
2 Heat the oven to 150°C (130°C fan oven) gas mark 2.
3 Unless the venison is larded, heat 1 tbsp oil in a large frying pan over a high heat. Using a tea-strainer, dust the joint with the mustard and season it with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Sear on all sides until well-coloured.
4 Transfer the venison to a roasting dish that holds it snugly. Unless it is larded, smear the butter over the surface. Roast for 50-60 minutes depending on its thickness, to leave it rare, until it registers 45-47°C on a meat thermometer. If you have smeared it with butter, baste it halfway through. Loosely cover it with foil and leave to rest for 20 minutes.
5 Heat the grill. Skim the pan juices of fat, peel the top layer of clingfilm off the crust, lay it top-down on top of the joint and peel off the second layer of film. Press the remaining thyme into the surface and grill for 5-6 minutes or until golden. Thinly carve the venison. Some of the crust will fall off and soak up the pan juices, which is all to the good. Serve with the redcurrant jelly, creamy mashed potatoes or a celeriac mash, and mushrooms.