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Every few weeks or at least once a month, we try to have a date night. It’s not that we don’t always talk or do things, but we make a conscious decision to sit down and have a proper meal, some wine and a long romantic dinner. Sometimes we go out and sometimes I make an effort to cook something that I think Damian will actually like.

About a year ago, we went for dinner locally and had the most amazing dish. We tried Venison for the first time. And I remember trying to describe what Venison was to D and all I can remember is sheepishly telling him we were eating Bambi. As much as I hate to eat cute things, the Venison was gorgeous!! So last night I tried to recreate that meal somewhat and to cook something I’d eaten but never cooked before too. All I can say is I can’t wait to cook with Venison again and have already planned what different things will accompany it next time. My boss at work gave me tips on how to cook it (which was a lifesaver as I would have done it totally differently had I not known) and didn’t totally ruin it as a result. The accompanying items were all new to me too which was great as I found something that D totally loved…the veg! And have been asked to make him a massive dish of just braised cabbage and leeks again because I obviously didn’t make enough. So to begin… Last nights dinner was:

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VENISON STEAKS WITH CAULIFLOWER PUREE, BRAISED LEEKS AND CABBAGE AND A BLACKBERRY SAUCE

  • 2 venison leg steaks

For the sauce:

  • 125 g blackberries
  • a glass of red wine (about 125 ml)
  • 225 ml good meat stock (I used chicken)
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp cranberry sauce
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • a knob of butter (optional)

For the cabbage:

  • 2 medium leeks, cut length ways in half and then thinly sliced
  • 3 tsp butter
  • 2 pieces of smoked streaky bacon, finely diced
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 80 ml chicken stock
  • 250 g cabbage (or half a medium head of cabbage), thinly sliced

For the cauliflower puree:

  • 1/2 litre of milk
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • a bay leaf
  • 1/2 a head of cauliflower, cut into large chunks
  • seasoning (a pinch of salt and  freshly ground pepper)

I always start by prepping and getting everything sliced and diced and in a neat arrangement so I can cook everything at the same time and don’t have to panic mid cooking.

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THE HOW

Take the venison out of the fridge (as meat is much better cooked from room temperature) and season.

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Start with your sauce as it takes a little time to reduce to form a nice consistency. Put the wine in a pan, over a high heat and burn off the alcohol (takes about 2 minutes and you will know that the alcohol is burning off when you can smell it in the air).

Add the blackberries, balsamic, stock and cook over a low heat for a further 10 minutes.

Add the cranberry sauce and honey and on a low heat, stirring occasionally, reduce for 20 minutes until the sauce has halved in volume and the berries have become mushy and the sauce glistens. If you want you can add a knob of butter to give it a real shine.

For the puree, put the milk, bay leaf, onion, cauliflower and seasoning in a pot and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the cauliflower is tender, 15-20 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and with a slotted spoon, put the cauliflower and onion into a blender. Reserve the liquid in the pan. Blend your mix. It should be a fine silky texture. If it is too thick and gloopy, add a little of the milk reserve. You want to be able to put it on a plate and for it to hold some shape but not run all over the place.

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For the accompanying veg, put 2 tsp of butter in a frying pan and add the diced bacon. Fry until just getting to the point of crisping. Spoon the bacon (leaving the buttery liquid in the pan) onto a plate lined with kitchen towel and leave aside. This is to absorb the fatty liquid. In the same frying pan add the last tsp of butter and leeks and season. Add the stock and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the cabbage and simmer until tender. If the mix looks a little dry add more stock as you don’t want to brown or burn it, just braise it. Pop 3/4 of the bacon into the mix and stir. Leave the remaining bacon for sprinkling on top when plating up.

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Now for the important part, the venison! Tip of the day: venison should be cooked long and slow or short and hard so seeing as I’m not making a stew I choose the short and hard version. Heat a pan, I would normally use a griddle pan for steak but not in this case. I used a normal frying pan. Let it heat properly so you get a nice sear. Place your veinson in the pan. I set my alarm for 5 minutes as I have a tendency to forget how long the steak is on for. And every 20 seconds or so I turned the steaks to get a nice crisp sear on them. Also searing the sides. When you feel the steaks beginning to firm up, take them off the heat. The time this takes all depends on the thickness of them. Anymore than medium and they will become tough. Leave them to rest for about 5-7 minutes. This gives you time to reheat the other components and start plating up. Slice your venison, it makes it look way prettier! And add your sauce.

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