Venison with redcurrant and mint sauce

Is venison posh nosh or a cheapskate’s delight?

A bit of both. Clearly if you have somebody roast an entire stag over an open fire with a scullion turning the spit for hours on end, it’s posh nosh, and you probably have peacocks strolling around the grounds of your castle. But if you’re like me, and a cheapskate…

I own a motorhome, and some while ago spent a few weeks meandering around the UK visiting places I’d always meant to go to. Now cooking in a motorhome takes some imagination, since I’ve got a two burner gas hob, and that’s it. Most motorhomers/caravanners have a tendency to live on a subsistence diet of sausages, eggs, beans, and bacon sandwiches. Some of the more adventurous ones buy those dehydrated meals that astronauts love so much. I was determined not to fall into this culinary trap.

I had fetched up near Huntingdon, a very attractive little town. Oliver Cromwell was born there (his birthplace is now, somewhat sadly, a nursing home), and Bomber Command was based there in WWII. I’d spent most of the day drinking beer and playing three card brag with the couple in the caravan next to my pitch, and I realised I had nothing for supper, so I hied myself into town seeking inspiration.

It was market day, and there was a game stall, and as it was the end of the day, the stallholder was flogging stuff cheap. I bought a pretty substantial venison steak for the princely sum of £1. Now I had to decide what to do with it. I knew I had some onions, some garlic, and some stock cubes, but naff all else, apart from a jar of mint sauce. So I headed for the supermarket. I know this sounds long winded but stay with me.

I headed for the cheapo reduced section. I found a rather sorry looking growing mint plant for 25p, a jar of redcurrant jelly with a torn label for another 25p, a bottle of shiraz with a wonky label so reduced to £2, and a pack of Charlotte potatoes on their sell by date for another 30p. And a small pack of frozen peas; they were full price, so that stung a bit. I also had a miniature of brandy the alcoholic cardsharp next door had given me.

So that’s what I had.

Here’s what you do

Slice the venison across the grain into ½” slices.

Chop the onion into eighths, and separate the layers

Peel and slice two cloves of garlic

Make up some stock; I found that lamb stock worked pretty well, but make it double strength by using half the amount of water. You’ll be reducing it anyway, so it speeds things up

Lightly oil a frying pan, bring it up to nearly on fire, and quickly seer the steak strips on both sides. Chuck in the miniature of brandy (this is optional) and boil off the alcohol. Put the meat/brandy to one side

Add a couple of tablespoons of oil to the pan (careful, it may spit bad temperedly in the remaining hot liquid), add the garlic and onion. Keep things moving till the onion softens. Don’t burn the garlic!

Add the steak strips, and stir things about till it looks more or less cooked. Add the stock and an equal quantity of red wine, and a teaspoonful of redcurrant jelly and another one of shop bought mint sauce. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat to a simmer to reduce the liquid

Boil some water and cook the potatoes. Heave them out with a slotted spoon. Use the same water (nice cheat, this one) to cook the peas, but add a good handful of chopped mint

If you need to, turn up the heat under the meat to boil things down, or cheat and add some cornflour mixed in a drop of the wine

The people next door were having yet another barbecue, and I had plenty of my venison invention, so I shared it with them. They were very grateful, for both the food and the wine. They showed their appreciation by taking me for another fiver at brag. There’s gratitude for you.

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