A guilt-free bowl of goodness, this tropical Hawaiian classic is given a British twist using home-grown veg and tender venison
I’m not usually one for food fads. You’re more likely to find me flipping through a copy of Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management than trying out the latest trend to take the culinary world by storm. But the recent heatwave changed all that.
After three days of mercury-soaring temperatures, during which my only solace was lying on a bare wooden floor while praying for even the slightest breath of air to come through the window, I knew that standing in front of a hot stove was the last thing I wanted to do – but how to make salad exciting for the third day running?
Looking for inspiration in my vast collection of recipes, I came across a recipe for poke (pronounced ‘po-kay’), a dish that recently hit our shores and quickly gained popularity on the ‘trendy’ food scene. Commonly served in a bowl as an appetizer, poke is a Hawaiian staple of raw fish, vegetables and rice.
Bowl food is having a ‘moment’. Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? People have been eating from bowls for centuries! But the dishes that are associated with this ‘recent phenomenon’ are quick to prepare and healthy – with a nutritious balance of protein, grains and vegetables – offering a ‘pick and mix’ type of dining, where you, the diner, are the creator of each forkful, each one providing a different flavour experience.
Its informal nature also appeals, especially when you’re boxset-binging every night of the week. Or you’re in need of a quick meal before heading out lamping.
But the real joy of bowl food is that it’s so flexible: pick your favourite ingredients, fill up a bowl and away you go – the possibilities are endless.
Although cooking would have been kept to an absolute minimum if I’d used raw fish, as is traditional in Hawaii – tuna or salmon, for example – I opted to put my own spin on things and create a game version, using venison loin. Rather than keeping the meat entirely raw, I seared it for a few short minutes in a very hot pan, giving it just enough time to form a crust, for colour and texture, but not long enough so as to lose its pinkness in the middle. The only other bit of cooking involved was to boil up the rice.
I also created my own marinade and vegetable combination to complement the venison. But, don’t feel you have to stick to this recipe religiously; tweak the marinade to your taste and use alternative vegetables that are in season – just make sure they’re fresh and crunchy to add bite to your poke.
It’s never too hot to cook with game; even when temperatures sky-rocket there are quick ways to bring your hard-earned prize to the table, leaving you more time to enjoy the long daylight hours and that long-awaited breeze.
POKE-STYLE VENISON (Seared venison with pickled vegetables and rice)
Serves 2 Preparation and cooking time: 35 minutes
250g venison loin olive oil 150g jasmine or sushi rice 2 tbsp Japanese rice vinegar 2 tsp caster sugar pinch of salt ¼ red cabbage, finely shredded ½ carrot, grated 50g radishes, sliced 2 tbsp soy sauce 1 tbsp sesame oil 1 tsp grated fresh root ginger 1 red chilli, finely chopped ½ tbsp honey 2 spring onions, finely chopped
1 tbsp sesame seeds, lightly toasted in a dry pan gherkins (optional)
1. Brush the venison with a little olive oil and sear in a very hot pan for 2-3 minutes until browned all over. (I have left the venison quite rare here – if you prefer it medium-rare, cook for another minute or so.) Remove from the pan and allow to rest.
2. Cook the rice according to packet instructions; drain.
3. Mix together the vinegar, sugar and a pinch of salt. Stir half through the rice. Toss the other half with the cabbage, carrot and radishes.
4. Mix together the soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger, chilli, spring onions and honey in a bowl.
5. Slice the venison as thinly as possible and add to the marinade. Leave to marinate for 5 minutes.
6. Divide the rice between two bowls. Top with the venison and cabbage. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve immediately, with a gherkin on the side.
‘Tweak the marinade to your taste and use alternative vegetables that are in season – just make sure they’re fresh and crunchy to add bite’