post by Steve Farrow (previously published on The Society’s Grapevine, 3rd July 2017)
This year the crop of cherries from my small tree went for a Burton thanks to spring frosts and a variety of feathered fiends.
In particular, our local wood pigeons have had a right old go at the foliage which is now so shredded that it looks like an innocent bystander at the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. So I needed to look elsewhere for our homegrown treasure.
What I found is certainly homegrown – just not at our home.
A friend feels that they will have a glut of blackcurrants this year and by handing over of a bottle of The Society’s delicious Falanghina to sweeten the deal I have managed to secure some of that harvest.
My plan for these gorgeously purple beads is to use their piquant sharpness and fruitiness to make a sauce for strong, dark game, such as a seared slab of venison, or some plump pigeon breasts. The idea of the pigeon breasts came to me as I looked out at our lacerated cherry tree and saw one of the fat flying f-f-fellers proudly posing at the scene of the crime. Gratifyingly it seemed to gulp as it blinked back in the face of my steely glare. I think my gaze is pretty steely, though my missus tells me it’s more Paddington-like. Good enough!
Venison Steaks (or Pigeon Breasts) with Blackcurrant Sauce
Venison Steak with Blackcurrant Sauce
For four people you will need:
- Four venison steaks (100 -150g each and fairly thick cut is best whatever size you use) or similarly sized portions of loin fillet, or eight pigeon breasts if making a main course.
- 100ml of good brown chicken stock or a light beef stock
- 150ml of a ripe red wine
- A small handful of fresh or frozen blackcurrants
- 2 tablespoons of a high-fruit-content blackcurrant jam or conserve (like St. Dalfour)
- A couple of good knobs of very cold butter
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
On the hob, heat a skillet or heavy based frying pan until smoking hot, rub the fillet or breasts with a little olive oil and season well.
Sear the fillets for about four minutes a side until caramelised on the outside but still rare inside, or the pigeon breasts for just a couple of minutes or so per side. You really don’t want to have either meat well-done.
Remove them from the pan and set aside to rest. Pour the red wine into the hot pan and reduce by two thirds, scraping to incorporate any of the caramelised bits.
Pour in the stock and reduce it all by half again.
Spoon in the blackcurrant jam/conserve and stir to incorporate.
Add the fresh or frozen blackcurrants and bubble for a few minutes until hot again.
Pour any juices that have come from the resting meat back into the sauce.
Finally, drop in the cold butter, whisking or stirring quickly over the heat so that it thickens the sauce and adds a gloss.
Put the meat on to warm plates, spoon over the sauce and serve.
The Concha y Toro Corte Ignacio Casablanca Merlot 2014 (Worldwide Wonders plan) is an ideal match with its blackcurranty fruit, structure and ripeness.
Look too to the spicy Saint-Maurice Côtes-du-Rhône Villages, Domaine de l’Echevin 2013 (French Classics), the darkly fruity Biga de Luberri Crianza, Rioja 2014, the brambly Pisano Progreso Tannat 2015 (Lighter Wines or available for £7.95) or the ample, dark-fruited De Morgenzon DMZ Syrah, Stellenbosch 2013 (Discovery or available for £8.50).
My second recipe, pastry parcels golden and puffed from the oven and filled with a creamy mushroom mixture, might not seem that summery but I made these pithiviers recently and they were light but deeply savoury so I thought I’d share them. I use ready rolled all-butter puff pastry for this but by all means make it yourself if you have the time and the inclination.
For two main-course sized pastries you will need:
- 120 g of shitake mushrooms cut into bitesize pieces
- 150g Portobello mushrooms also in bitesize pieces
- 10g dried porcini mushrooms soaked until soft and finely chopped (retain the soaking liquor)
- 1 finely chopped shallot
- 1 clove of garlic crushed or finely chopped
- 4 tablespoons of Mascarpone cheese
- A handful of chopped parsley
- A pinch of dried thyme or a teaspoon of fresh
- A large knob of butter
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- 1 beaten egg
- 1 beaten egg yolk
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 300g of puff pastry
Melt butter in a sauté pan on a medium-high heat. Once it’s sizzling throw in the fresh mushrooms and diced porcini and sauté until the mushrooms are soft and any liquid has evaporated.
Lower the heat and add the chopped shallot and garlic and cook gently for another few minutes until softened. Remove from the heat.
Pour the mushroom mixture into a bowl and add a tablespoonful of the reserved porcini soaking liquor and the Mascarpone cheese while the mushrooms are still warm. Stir until it is well incorporated, making a creamy sauce. Leave it to cool a little.
Add the chopped parsley and stir it through, then taste and season appropriately.
Put the bowl in the fridge for an hour to chill.
Pre-heat the oven to 180°C fan/200°C/gas 6.
On a floured surface roll out the pastry to the thickness of a pound coin, and cut two 14 centimetre discs and two 18cm discs.
Remove the mushroom mixture from the fridge. It should have set quite stiff. Divide the mixture between two teacups or two small pudding moulds and then turn them out on to the centre of each of the 12cm discs. You should have a border around each pile to brush with beaten egg.
Place the larger (15cm) discs over each mound of mushrooms, cupping your hands and using the edge of them to push down on the egg-washed edges to seal, squeezing any air out as you go.
Trim neatly round the parcels and use the tines of a fork to press down the edges to make a pattern.
Put the parcels back in the fridge for half an hour to chill, then remove and using the point of a blunt knife make a spiral pattern from the centre of the domes to the patterned edge without cutting through. Poke a small hole in the top so that steam can escape while they bake.
Brush each pithivier with the beaten egg yolk and chill again for half an hour.
Bake the pithiviers on a baking sheet for 25-30 minutes or until puffed and deeply golden-brown.
Use leftover puff pastry to make cheese straws, and if all this messing about with pastry discs is just a pain in the pithivier by all means make turnovers or pasties instead!
Delicious with the Terra Rossa, Vina Laguna 2015 (Discovery or available for £7.50), Salice Salentino Riserva, Vallone 2013 (Discovery or available for £7.95), Finca Antigua Crianza Tempranillo 2013 (Wine Rack Essentials or available for £8.50), Domaine Montangeron, Fleurie 2015 (French Classics or available for £10.50), or Three Terraces Marlborough Pinot Noir 2015 (Worldwide Wonders or available for £12.50). Indeed, there is hardly a red in any of the Wine Without Fuss selections that won’t work with this dish!
If you fancy a white, try it with the soft, fruity Côtes-du-Rhône Secret de Famille Blanc, Paul Jaboulet Aîné 2015 (Worldwide Wonders or available for £8.50) or the full-bodied Móri Ezerjó, Kamocsay 2015 (Discovery) from Hungary.