Country Living (UK) - - Food & Drink -

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.

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