#404 Lamb (or Mutton) to Eat as Venison

All the way back in November, I was asked to cater for a dinner party; a very special one because it had the most interesting brief. A seven-course dinner was required where each course represented a different time in history.

For the Georgian course, I went straight to my favourite book from that time period The Experienced Housekeeper by Elizabeth Raffald (1769). Flicking through the pages, I happened upon a recipe To dress a Leg of Mutton to eat like Venison. It required you to ‘[g]et the largest and fattest leg of mutton you can get cut out like a haunch of venison as soon as it is killed, whilst it is still warm.’ It then goes on to tell you to ‘remove the bloody vein’ and then marinade the thing in wine, dry it, and to roast it in pastry. I was intrigued, but it was obviously unachievable. Looking in other books, I found many versions of it, sometimes roasted, sometimes braised, but always marinated in red wine (and often in the blood of the beast too!). I knew the recipe looked familiar, and it finally dawned on me that a recipe for it appeared in good old English Food by good old Jane Grigson.

There’s a 4 day marinating time for this recipe, so plan ahead if you fancy making it – and I really suggest you do; see my review of the recipe below.

Start off by making the marinade: dice up 5 ounces each of onion, carrot and celery, chop 3 cloves of garlicand brown them in a couple of tablespoons of oil, such as sunflower or rapeseed. Take your time over this and get them good and brown; the veg won’t be in the final dish, but its flavour will be. Let it cool.



Now mix the cooled, browned vegetables with the following:

1 bay leaf
2 good sprigs of thyme
4 sprigs of parsley
2 sprigs of rosemary
8 crushed juniper berries
8 crushed coriander seeds
10 crushed black peppercorns
3 tsp salt
1 (UK) pint red or dry white wine, or dry cider

¼ (UK) pint of red or white wine vinegar(and, though not on the ingredients list, cider vinegar, if going down the cider route)


Now tackle the meat. Use a full leg of lamb or mutton, I went for the latter. It was huge, so I increased all the above values by a half. All you need to do it score the fat into a diamond pattern, like you would do for a ham. Find a large, deep dish or pot and place the lamb inside and pour over the marinade. Make sure the whole leg gets the marinade on it, so turn it over a few times. Keep the leg somewhere cool – a fridge, or a nice cool cellar or pantry – and cover it with foil. Turn it twice a day for four days.

When the four days is up, get a new set of vegetables ready. Slice 2 onions, 2 carrots, 2 leeks and chop 2 sticks of celery. Also chop up 8 ounces of unsmoked (‘green’) streaky bacon. Brown all of these in a couple of ounces of butter


Spread the vegetables over the base of a deep roasting tin, place the leg on top and strain the marinade over it. Top up the marinade liquid with veal stock so that it comes up two-thirds of the way up the tin. You don’t actually need to use veal stock; chicken stock or water would do, I am sure. However, if you want to make your own, look here for my recipe for it from the other blog). Cover with more foil.



You have two choices now: either bring the whole thing slowly to boil and simmer gently for 2 hours on the hob, or bring to simmer and pop it in a cool oven instead, 150⁰C will do it. If you are using mutton, you need to cook the leg for another hour or even 90 minutes. Turn the joint over after one hour and in the final thirty minutes, ladle out 2 pints of the cooking liquid and boil it down hard to make a concentrated, richly flavoured stock.

When the cooking time is up, remove the leg and put it into another roasting tin and turn the oven up to 220⁰C. Roast for a good 20 minutes and baste well with the concentrated stock to achieve a nice glaze.



Jane suggests serving with gravy made with the pan juices and reduce stock and the usual lamb/mutton accoutrements. See here for a post all about that. I actually served it with a ‘Lenten Pie’, from Raffald’s book. At some point I will blog each course on the other blog.

Jane points out that you do this recipe with a leg or pork and magically transform it into wild boar.

#404 Lamb (or Mutton) to Eat as Venison. Oh my goodness, this may simply be the single most delicious thing I have ever cooked! First of all, it tasted exactly like venison; beautifully gamey, but with the moist succulence you would expect from lamb or mutton. It was transformed! There must be some kind of witchcraft afoot. I was amazed, and luckily so were my diners! I cannot recommend this more highly, absolutely bloody brilliant. 10/10.

#365 Roast Venison with Norwegian Goat’s Cheese Sauce

Venison is, of course, the king of all game, though being a wild animal, you do get a lot of variation in the tenderness of meat; it can be wonderfully tender or tough as old boots. A good roasting joint for venison is haunch as it is a more tender cut. To tenderise further it is advised to marinade any joint for at least 24 hours.
Colonel Smith Grasping the Hind Legs of a Stag,
Unknown Artist c.1650
It may be the king of game, but many recoil in horror at the thought of eating deer, perhaps it is a little too noble; even when farmed meat was heavily rationed during World War II, many people still would not eat or buy it, even though game wasn’t rationed at all! Well it is important to know that we would still have to cull many hundreds every year as they decimate forests by eating away the bark from trees. Deer (fortunately for us, unfortunately for them) have to be managed; now what a waste it would be if they were just all incinerated! A similar thing goes on in some African countries where elephant conservation has been a little too effective.
I have eaten venison many times, but I had never roasted it myself, so I was very glad that Jane walks you through the whole process; she, in turn, taking advice from a lady called Anne Willan who wrote a book called The Complete Guide to Cookery.
That said, there seems to be a major typo or two in this recipe and I can’t work out for sure what it is supposed to say; apparently this serves up to 2, yet a 5 pound joint is required. Now I like my food, but even 5 pounds – or indeed 2 ½ pounds – of meat in a sitting is bit too much. Look closer and, according to the recipe, the metric equivalent of 5 pounds is ½ a kilo, which is approximately one pound. How many does it serve? Up to 2? 12? 20? what!? If anyone has an earlier reprint or edition, have a quick look and see what it says and then leave me a little comment. I thank you in advance.
I made this for Christmas dinner #2 in Manchester, and I took the recipe to mean 5 pounds and not half a kilogram. I managed to get a second dinner the next day as well as several rounds of venison sandwiches and 5 pies for the freezer – that beats turkey leftovers any day.
Well it is up to you to decide how many this serves, but reckon it’s about 10 people as venison is a rich meat (as is the sauce).
The first thing to do is marinade your five pounds of venison, the amount of time depends on the size of your joint and if your deer was truly wild or ‘farmed’. If truly wild and/or large, a cooked marinade is required, if small or farmed – and therefore already quite tender – an uncooked marinade. The joint can sit in the uncooked marinade for around 24 hours, and in the cooked marinade up to 3 days. For me, time was an issue so it went for the uncooked marinade.
To make the uncooked marinade slice up a carrot, two onions and a stick of celeryand place in a bowl or tub along with a bottle of red wine – ‘respectable and decent rather than glorious’ – four fluid ounces of red wine vinegar, a bouquet garni, a dozen of both peppercorns(lightly crushed) and allspice berries, and finally four fluid ounces of olive oil.
For the cooked marinade, stew the veg in half the olive oil and then add the rest of the ingredients mentioned above and then simmer for 20 minutes before stirring in the rest of the oil. Allow to cool.
After the meat has marinated in its marinade sufficiently, it’s time to roast it. First, preheat the oven to 220⁰C (425⁰F) then remove the meat from the marinade and pat it dry; the meat should feel wonderfully tender and it should have picked up a wonderful purple hue from its soaking in all that red wine. Don’t throw away the marinade.
Calculate the cooking time: you need to allow 10 to 15 minutes per pound for rare meat or 18 minutes per pound for pink medium meat. I won’t give you the time for well-done – you don’t deserve to eat this beast you are going to cremate it! Spread the joint liberally with butter; the lean meat needs all the help it can get to prevent it drying out. Indeed, I went a bit further by wrapping the buttered joint in caul fat. Place the meat on a rack over a roasting tin and pop it in the oven.
After 15 minutes, pour 8 fluid ounces of the marinade and 4 fluid ounces of beefor game stock into the roasting tin and turn down the heat to 180⁰C (350⁰F) for the remainder of the roasting time. Baste it regularly and add extra marinade or stock should the pan become dry. You can, if you fancy, spread 2 generous tablespoons of soured cream over the joint when the heat is turned down.
If you want to be precise about your cooking you can test the temperature with a thermometer: you want a temperature of 51⁰C (125⁰F) for rare and a temperature of 60⁰C for medium-cooked meat. When ready, keep the meat warm, covered in foil to rest for at least 30 minutes whilst you get on the making the cheese sauce.
When I first saw this recipe I thought that Lady Grigson had gone a little too far by including a Norwegian cheese in one of her recipes; however after tasting the cheese in question – gjetost – I was instantly converted. In short, to make it, goat’s cheese goes through a similar process that sweetened condensed milk goes through when it is boiled to produce caramel. The resulting cheese is a rich brown cheese that is a sweet as it is sharp. I got hold of some at Cheese Hamlet, Didsbury, Manchester, but you can get it on the internet very easily.
Carefully skim the roasting juices of their fat and pour them into a pan along with 8 fluid ounces of beef or game stock, boil and reduce to a good concentrated state, add more of the reserved marinade so that you really concentrate flavour – “it should be really strong” says Jane. Stir in 8 fluid ounces of crème fraîche or 4 fluid ounces each of double and soured cream and then season with the gjetost cheese and rowan jelly or peppered redcurrant jelly (or indeed normal redcurrant jelly well-seasoned with black pepper). Cut a little under an ounce of the cheese into thin slices and melt into the sauce, then the jelly. Taste and add more of either if you like and season with salt and pepper. You are left with a brown, sticky, richly-flavoured sauce.
Put the joint on a serving dish and cover it with some sauce before carving it. Serve the rest of the sauce in a separate jug or sauceboat.
#365 Roast Venison with Norwegian Goat’s Cheese Sauce. This was a most delicious recipe – the haunch of venison was beautifully tender with just the right amount of gaminess; you can see that the marinade had really done its work. I was worried that the strong, thick, dark brown sauce would over-power things, but it went so, so well. Now large joints of venison are not exactly what you are likely to be roasting for Sunday dinner, but if you do happen upon one and buy it, then this is the one recipe to try! 9.5/10.