Seriously serendipitous stroke of luck! How else could one describe my assignment from Crail Food Festival to review the Seriously Good Venison company, coming as it did in the very week I attended a venison cookery masterclass?!
Venison is remarkably healthy for you. It is very low in fat, leaner even than skinless chicken and has less than half the cholesterol. It is also a good source of Omega 3, iron, protein, vitamins, potassium and zinc.
The Seriously Good Venison company is run by Vikki Banks and you can read all about her and her company in last year’s article by Crail Food Festival blogger Karen. You can order Seriously Good Venison online for home delivery, or to collect at farmer’s markets in Perth, Edinburgh and throughout Fife. I caught up with Vikki at the Edinburgh Farmers’ Market to find out what she’s been up to over the past year and, of course, to buy some of her tasty produce now that I know all about cooking venison!
I first asked Vikki where the deer herd are living now, as she had been planning to move them closer to where she lives. They have indeed been moved and are settled nicely into their new home near Cupar in Fife. They have also had their year round grass-fed diet improved with the addition of grain during the winter months. This allows the deer to increase their size, whilst still retaining the same quality of meat that comes from being free-range, grass-fed and additive-free.
The other big development is that the Seriously Good butchery has expanded in Perth and now offers a specialist bespoke butchery service for organic beef, lamb, pork and wild boar. All the carcasses are carefully and expertly matured and butchered, providing complete traceability from their original farm. Vikki has been so delighted by the quality of the lamb that she has introduced Seriously Good Lamb into her own brand, and this is now available by mail order. Plans are afoot to introduce further products into the company’s portfolio but Vikki is wisely taking this slowly so she can be sure of guaranteeing the same Seriously Good quality she is proud of.
I had advance-ordered a couple of cuts of venison and a pile of bones for stock – to collect at the farmer’s market. Whilst chatting to Vikki I noticed she sells her own venison stock too, so I picked her brains on how she makes it. She roasts the bones, then simply simmers them in water overnight. I love that it is so pure with no additives muddying the flavour. I have now made this stock and it is fabulous, like a rich vibrant beef stock with extra flavour. So, for just a couple of quid, you can get about 2kg of Seriously Good Venison bones and make lots of your own stock…
…or you can buy one of Vicky’s pre-made concentrated venison stock pots for about the same price. I also just had to buy one of her cute little venison supper pies to try. It seems a little expensive at £1.55 for one mini raised pie but it is well worth it, as it is chock full of meat and is rich and delicious.
So, what to do with Vikki’s Seriously Good Venison once you get it home? First, a little word of warning if you have never cooked venison before. Raw venison has a slightly gamey smell which, if you are not used to, can make you think it is off – do not worry, all is well!
My first recipe comes from the venison masterclass I recently attended and is published here by kind permission of Craig Wood, chef proprietor of The Wee Restaurant in North Queensferry, Fife.
RECIPE – Carpaccio of Venison
This is a brilliant recipe for the summer, as it only takes a few minutes cooking and then marinates in the fridge for a couple of days.
(Recipe © Craig Wood)
Ingredients (serves 4)
venison loin, trimmed of all fat and sinew (I used a 315g Seriously Good Venison fillet, as this is what Vikki recommended)
½ bunch of fresh coriander
3 red chillies, deseeded (I used orange and yellow chillies, as this is what I had)
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
50ml olive oil (I used cold-pressed rape-seed oil, as I like to use local produce as much as possible)
Generously season the venison with salt & pepper. Quickly sear all over in a very hot frying pan with a little oil. Leave to cool.
Blitz coriander, chillies, garlic & oil together
Coat the venison in the chilli paste and roll up in cling film
Marinate in the fridge for a couple of days
Slice wafer thin & serve (I also drizzled on the remaining marinade)
The venison fillet is so soft it almost melts in the mouth. The flavour is amazing as the meat is quite rare, with the fresh marinade giving a lovely vibrancy and chilli heat. I served it with a simple but pretty plate of the first of the season’s locally grown tomatoes.
Venison is one of the few game products that is available all year-round, so I also wanted to give you a winter recipe. I used a Seriously Good Venison shank for this, as I wanted the extra flavour from the bone marrow, but it would also be good using trimmed venison haunch, which is a little cheaper.
RECIPE – Seriously Good Venison Stew
This recipe is really easy, requiring only about 15 minutes prep. It is a great recipe for cheaper cuts in colder months, as it slow-cooks in the oven for hours warming the kitchen and filling it full of wonderful aromas.
Ingredients (serves 4)
1 carton Seriously Good concentrated venison stock
700g Seriously Good Venison shank
freshly ground sea salt & black pepper
2 tbsp oil
2 large onions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
400g chopped tomatoes (tinned is fine)
250ml red wine
1 tsp juniper berries
1) Preheat oven to 200ºC. Mix the concentrated venison stock with boiling water to give 400ml stock.
2) Season the venison with salt & pepper. Heat the oil in a frying pan until very hot and sear the venison all over. Take care searing the side where the flesh is thinner, closest to the bone, as this can burn easily. Place in a casserole dish.
3) Turn the heat down to low-medium and fry the onions for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the stock and scrape pan to de-glaze it. Add the tomatoes, red wine and juniper berries. Bring to the boil and then pour over the venison shank in the casserole dish. Add a lid.
4) Cook in the pre-heated oven for 20 minutes, then turn the heat down to 150ºC. Cook for a further 3-4 hours until tender, turning the shank every 30 minutes. The meat may fall off the bone after a couple of hours – this is fine but do leave the bone in until the end of cooking as it will add extra flavour.
5) Remove the bone and juniper berries, season to taste and serve.
The venison is soft and falling apart, rich with a slightly gamey flavour. To use Vikki’s favourite word when talking about slow-cooked Seriously Good Venison, it is “unctuous” in the best possible sense! It is so tasty that all I served it with was plain boiled potatoes and steamed Savoy cabbage. Delicious!
There are more venison recipes on the Seriously Good Venison website. Many of these were written by former owner and award-winning cookery writer Nicola Fletcher, who will be appearing at the Crail Food Festival, demonstrating in the Cookery Theatre.
Seriously Good Venison will also be featuring at Crail’s Lunch at the Harbour, on Sunday 15th June, where they will be serving venison, beef and lamb burgers.