’Tis the season of entertaining outside, and I would be the first to admit the self-inflicted pressure that comes with entertaining friends and family in the backyard this time of year. To have the perfectly-cooked centrepiece of meat, effortlessly sliced and presented on a platter, blaring with soft pink and red tones of luscious juiciness sends the message ‘I know what I’m doing in the kitchen!’. Which, let’s be honest, is what we’re all striving for this time of year. 2020’s been rough enough – we don’t need a dark grey piece of meat as a centrepiece on Christmas day ruining it for everyone. Enter the most forgiving, delicious (and bonus) nutritious meat you can possibly cook and serve this summer – New Zealand farm-raised Venison.
Trust me, if you can cook a nice piece of steak you can cook a tender piece of farm-raised venison.
Now I say farmed, because while wild venison has its merit on the table, it’s the beautifully crafted and reared venison of our New Zealand farmers that grants our attention. Unfortunately, you can’t ask a wild venison where it came from, what it ate, how old it is. But with farmed venison, the consistency, age requirements, and guarantee of it being raised in the best conditions is key to its top-quality flavour, with none of that gamey, livery taste some of you may have memories of. There is something so delicious and tender about farm-raised venison. And we do it so very well here in New Zealand, it truly is something worth celebrating.
Not only is it easy to cook, it’s also super adaptable to all flavours and cuisines. I remember cooking venison at culinary school, and we were told it needed to be marinated for days with big robust flavours like red wine and juniper to cut through its gamey richness. But raised venison doesn’t need much at all. Salt, pepper and a flame-grilled barbecue is enough to get the tastebuds going.
But another bonus to venison is its nutritional benefits. I call it the meat for women, but I’m sure men get as much from it as us. It’s high in zinc, vitamin B12, niacin and one of the best dietary sources of iron we can eat. It is also low in fat; in fact most cuts contain less than 2 per cent fat.
Swapping it out in your Bolognese, or as I’ve done in all of these recipes, you truly have a different feeling of full after eating venison – it’s a happy full where your stomach isn’t doing somersaults of digestion. BONUS, it also has this magical ability to make your body absorb other sources of iron better when eaten together, so you get more out of your vegetables and cereals.
Since the 1970s New Zealand deer farmers and their rolling green hills have been leading the herd when it comes to farming venison. I take my hat off to you guys, you’re truly doing New Zealand proud.
Not sure where to get venison from? Most supermarkets have a range of cuts, otherwise give James at the Merchant of Venison a call and say I sent you! Happy cooking.
Recipes, words, styling & images Samantha Parish
Roast Venison with Horseradish Cream and Salsa Verde Potatoes
Prep 1 hour cooking 25 mins
1.2 kg boneless venison Denver
¼ cup salt flakes
finely grated zest and juice of 2 lemons
½ bunch thyme, sprigs picked
1 tsp caster sugar
600 g baby potatoes
1 bunch parsley
½ cup (75 g) cornichons, plus 2 tbsp pickling liquid
1/3 cup (80 ml) extra virgin olive oil
crispy onions to serve
1 tbsp horseradish cream
1 cup sour cream
1 tbsp finely chopped chives, plus extra to serve
Preheat the oven to 220°C, fan-forced. Grease and line a roasting pan with baking paper and line with a roasting rack. Remove venison leg from the fridge and place on rack. Combine salt, zest, thyme and sugar and rub all over the leg. Stand for 1 hour to lose the chill from the fridge.
Roast leg for 25 minutes or until browned all over and an internal temperature of 52°C for medium-rare. Remove and stand to rest for 20 minutes. If serving warm, drizzle with oil and thinly slice or alternatively drizzle with oil and chill for 2-plus hours or until cold. Thinly slice when ready to serve.
Meanwhile place potatoes in a saucepan of cold salted water, bring to the boil then cook for a further 15 minutes or until fork-tender. Strain and cool. Thickly slice. Chill until required.
To make the salsa verde, place parsley, cornichons, pickling liquid, lemon juice and 2 tbsp oil in a small food processor and whiz until finely chopped. Season to taste.
For the horseradish cream, combine all ingredients and season to taste.
To serve, spread horseradish cream over a serving platter, arrange potatoes on top and drizzle with some of the salsa verde. Arrange meat slices, scatter with crispy onions, chives and serve with remaining salsa verde alongside.
Chorizo & Venison Soft Tacos with Pineapple Salsa
Prep 15 mins
cooking 15 mins
¼ cup (60 ml) olive oil
½ red onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp each smoked paprika, ground cumin and dried oregano
100 g cured chorizo, finely chopped
300 g venison mince
1 x 400 g can black or kidney beans, rinsed and drained
8 small tortillas
½ cup sour cream
½ cup shredded tasty or mozzarella cheese
shredded lettuce and hot sauce to serve
½ pineapple, chopped into 1 cm pieces
½ red onion, finely chopped
1 jalapeño or green chilli, finely chopped
juice and finely grated zest of 1 lime, plus extra wedges to serve
1 bunch coriander, finely chopped, plus extra leaves to serve
For the salsa, heat a large frypan to high heat until almost smoking. Add the pineapple and cook, without stirring, for 3 minutes or until charred slightly. Transfer to a bowl and combine with remaining ingredients. Season to taste and stand to pickle slightly while you prepare the filling.
Add oil to frypan and return to a medium-high heat. Add onion and cook for 3 minutes or until softened. Add garlic, tomato paste and spices. Cook, stirring, for a further 2 minutes or until darkened slightly. Add the chorizo and venison and cook, breaking up with wooden spoon, for 4–5 minutes or until golden and beginning to crisp. Add the beans and cook for 2 minutes or until warmed through. Season to taste and transfer to a bowl.
Preheat oven grill to medium. Place tortillas on two trays. Divide sour cream and cheese between tortillas and use the back of a spoon to schmear slightly. Grill in batches for 1–2 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbling. Top with venison filling, salsa and lettuce and serve immediately, scattered with extra coriander leaves and hot sauce alongside.
Hoisin-Glazed Venison Meatballs
Prep 30 mins
Cooking 10 mins
400 g venison mince
150 g pork mince
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp Chinese five spice
½ tsp each chilli flakes and ground white pepper
1 large egg, lightly whisked
2 garlic cloves, finely grated
2 green onions, finely chopped
¼ cup (60 ml) peanut oil
2 tbsp Shaoxing wine
½ cup (150 g) hoisin sauce
½ iceberg lettuce, leaves separated
toasted sesame seeds, coriander leaves and thinly-sliced red chilli to serve
Place minces, breadcrumbs, soy sauce, spices, egg, garlic and onion in a bowl and combine well with hands. Use a tablespoon to divide mixture and roll between wet hands to form balls. Chill for 20 minutes to firm up.
Heat oil in a frypan over high heat. Add the meatballs and cook, turning frequently, for 4–5 minutes or until browned and cooked through. Add the wine and cook for 1–2 minutes to deglaze the pan. Add the hoisin sauce and stir to coat the meatballs. Remove from the heat and stand to rest for 5 minutes.
Arrange lettuce leaves on a platter and add the meatballs. Scatter with sesame seeds, coriander leaves and chilli. Serve with toothpicks.