If time and money were of no consequence then it is not summer sun that I would chase across the globe but instead the soft glow and sharp snap of autumn. Not for me the gamboling lambs and showers of spring, nor the disappointment of successive summers. Winter I like but it can be interminable and bleak; No, it is autumn that most often puts a spring in my step. I adore the golden hues and the scent of wood smoke on the air and I live for the crackle of the first frosts and the accompanying morning mists.
And it is my favourite time in the kitchen too, when at last my favourite cheap cuts of meat and accompanying gnarly roots come to slow simmers filling the house with scented steam rich with herbs and spice. Much as I adore grilling prime cuts over hot coals and wood, they have an aggressive charm, all flames, salt, acrid smoke and pungent marinades. With an autumnal braise there is comfort from a barely blipping pot, a gentle presence that doesn’t demand attention like it’s brash summer cousin.
And if you’re going to braise in October and November, and of course you should, a lot, then one thing that you must braise at least once is venison which is one of those things that we do better than anywhere else in the world. And it’s still not ‘there’ you know and it makes me cross that we don’t really eat it because we don’t, no matter that places like Borough Market actively promote it. Every year we write the same recipes and knock out the same articles about the health benefits and providence and it pops up on tasting menus and the occasional sad burger in ‘gastro’ pub but where are the haunches? The fillets, the T-Bones, The LIVER? Why can I go to my supermarket now and buy a frozen leg of New Zealand Lamb but I can’t buy a haunch of venison. Friar Tuck would turn in his ample grave.
Are we squeamish because of Bambi and The Monarch of the Glen? Or because they are shot with guns and there is blood and skinning involved? I wish it weren’t still overwhelmingly preferable to get our protein from grotesquely bloated abominations, bred behind locked doors and living out their absurdly short lives on concrete and faeces. On a similar theme, my personal mission for the last decade or so has been to get more people eating offal (and drink more Riesling but that’s a fight for another day) so my next demo at Borough Market will be venison offal which is some of the best offal you can get – I’ll be doing deer tongue tacos, a venison offal keema and skewering the sweetest livers, pungent with Sichuan pepper and cumin amongst other things.
If you’re not sure about venison or offal, I promise this will be a great ‘gateway’…. Darren from Shellseekers will be shooting my deer in the days before my demo and the offal will be as fresh and uncontaminated as can be, from a wild animal, majestic in the gloaming and we will cook it together and hopefully it will be something to which you will return again and again.