I tend to associate game with the autumn and winter months but a haunch of venison, cooked pink, is delicious at any time of the year and cherries are in season now. You don’t have to pickle the cherries … try adding the fresh, stoned fruit to the pan instead, or make a sauce using redcurrant jelly, ideally with pickled or fresh redcurrants thrown in at the last moment.
You can cook a venison haunch on the bone but it’s a lot easier to carve if it’s boned out. Because venison is very lean it can dry out in the oven. The traditional way to combat this is to lard the meat, threading pieces of fat through it with something that looks like a large darning needle. Frankly, life is too short.
Alternatively you can cover it with streaky, but that imparts too much of a bacony flavour for my taste. So I opted to wrap mine in beautifully lacy caul fat, often used to encase faggots or rissoles. It has a tracery rather like the veins on a cabbage leaf and it will melt into the meat, basting it as it cooks. As nobody seems to make faggots any more, you may have to order it from your butcher specially. Any excess will freeze well.
I like a sauce that clings a little. If you prefer a jus, omit the flour.
Roast Haunch of Venison with Pickled Cherries
1 boned haunch of venison (mine weighed 1.8 kg)
1 tspn coriander seeds
1 tspn black peppercorns
1/2 tspn salt flakes
4 fresh bay leaves
1 large sprig of fresh rosemary
1 quantity of caul fat
For the sauce:
The pan juices, de-glazed of fat
1 small jar of pickled cherries, or a double handful of fresh cherries, stoned
1 small glass red wine
200 ml chicken or game stock
1 tbsp plain flour
Pre-heat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas Mark 5.
Grind the coriander seeds, peppercorns and salt with a mortar and pestle until fine but not completely powdered. Rub the spices over the venison and place the herbs on top of the meat. Wrap the joint in the caul fat, tucking the ends underneath.
Roast for 20 minutes if the joint is under 2 kg, for 30 minutes if it’s over 2 kg. Reduce the oven temperature to 170C/325F/Gas Mark 3 and roast for a further 12 minutes per 500g for medium-rare, 10 minutes per 500g if you prefer it rare.
If you’re using a meat thermometer, you’re looking for an internal temperature of 60C for medium, 55C for rare.
Remove from the oven, cover with foil and rest somewhere warm for 15-20 minutes while you make the sauce.
Spoon off any excess fat then put the pan on the hob on a low heat and stir in the flour. Cook for a minute or two then pour in the red wine. Let it sizzle up, scraping all the meaty bits in the bottom of the pan.
Add the stock and increase the heat, cooking until the sauce has reduced and intensified. Add the cherries and a dash of their pickling liquor and heat through.
Carve the meat, scraping away the herbs, and serve with the sauce and the vegetables of your choice.