You guys know I love our little weekly trips to the farmer’s market – and once more, I have a “Here’s Why” for you~ Amongst many other delicious little things, colorful produce, artisan producst and funky veggies and fruit you’ve never seen before, you might also discover the odd PRODUCE GUY, caps intended, of the mad-scientist variety. With his own greenhouse and parapenalia just waiting to either scare you and your tastebuds away or jump-start you and your winter-hibernating tastebuds into a madcap tapdance at a moments notice.
Like in this particular case. My recipe-archives is the prime witness to this: Hubby and I are Berry’holics. And our go-to produce guy – he always makes me think of a quote from Gilmore Girls :”He grows stuff and then scares people with it” – has been fanning that particular fire for several years by now. So, there we were, on a bitingly cold January morning, heading towards the stall of the Hunter’s Association with our Boar Bourginion with Quinces and Chestnuts in mind for the weekend, when the aforementioned produce guy called over that he had something to blow our minds with, fresh out of his wife’s winter-proofed experimental herb garden. We detour’ed and were presented with… a handful of blueberries. Of course, he was right – he blew our minds with these insanely aromatic blueberries (the kind of aromatic you would anything but kill for even at the height of blueberry season). We adjusted our post-snow-hike dinner plans on the fly, keeping our venison-plans in general but taking the recently aquired blueberries into account. So, here’s our spring-meets-winter(crazy) dinner after today’s Foodie Lesson: Get to know your Produce Guy. If he know’s what you’re doing with his greens, he might just be the spark that sets off your proverbial rocket when it comes to unexpected sources of inspiration. On a regular basis.
The Black Salsify & Blueberry Salad
500g Black Salsify, peeled and diagonally sliced into bite-sized bits – don’t forget those CSI gloves~
50g Almond Shaves, lightly toasted
2 Tbsp Poppy Seeds, lightly toasted
½ unwaxed Orange, Juice and Zest
1 Tbsp Ginger, finely grated
2 Shallots, finely diced
2 Tbsp White Balsamic Vinegar
1 Tbsp Dijonnaise
Alt: ½ Tbsp Dijon Mustard, ½ Tbsp Mayonnaise
1 ½ Tsp Herbed Dijon Mustard
1 Tbsp Maple Syrup
30ml Venison Stock
30ml Grapeseed Oil
Salt, Hot Chilli Flakes and freshly cracked Black Pepper to taste
½ Bunch of Chives, very finely chopped
4-5 Lovage Leaves, very finely chopped
Opt: 2 Handfuls of Lamb’s Lettuce for more volume
1) Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil and blanch the salsify bites for 2-3 mins, then drain off the water, rinse them with cold water and place them in a colander or large sieve to steam/drip off.
2) Place the spices in a large mixing bowl and add the herbs, oil, stock, syrup, mayo/dijonnaise, mustard, vinegar, shallots, orange zest and juice, ginger and poppy seeds.
3) Whisk the lot until everything’s well combined, then set the bowl aside.
4) Once the salsify pieces have dried off a bit, add them to the bowl and gently fold them into the dressing until every last bit of salsify is glossed over.
5) Add the blueberries on top – and the lettuce leaves if you’ve decided to go down that road – but don’t fold them into the mix quite yet.
6) Cover everything with clingfilm and stash the bowl in a cool spot or even the fridge until you’re ready to plate up.
7) Just in case you’re thinking of cutting some corners… frozen black salsify: yes. Tinned/Brine preserved black salsify: no. 9 ½ batches out of 10 are so salt-watery no amount of dressing will stick or have any effect on the “preserve of questionable quality/expiration date” taste.
The Venison Steaks
1 Tsp Black Peppercorns
1 Tsp Allspice Berries
1 Tsp Coriander Seeds
1 Tsp Almond Flour
1 Pinch of Hot Chili Flakes
1 Generous Pinch of Salt
1 Bay Leaf
1 Clove of Garlic, bashed
1 Sprig of Thyme
½ Unwaxed Orange, juice and zest
6-8 “Disks” of Venison Fillet – They’re usually so small that calling them steaks seems unreasonable to me… Aim for 150-180g per person
1 Tbsp Ghee
2 Tbsp Brown Butter
3 Juniperberries, lightly bashed – if you’re not as traumatized by juniperberries as I am, feel free to add them to the toasted/ground pile of spices above instead of merely using them to aromatize the ghee before throwing them out. Far away. Before they can hurt anyone. And triple checking the pan for runaway bits of them.
2 Slices of fresh Ginger, 2-3mm each
1 Tbsp Honey
100ml Red Port
100ml Red Wine
100ml Venison or Mushroom Stock
1) Add all of the seeds and spices to a small pan siting on medium heat and allow them to heat until soft popping sounds and the intensifying aromas reach you.
2) Tip them into a pestle and mortar set and gently grind them up into a coarse powder.
3) Fold the almond flour, salt and chili flakes into the spice blend and tip the lot out onto a plate.
4) Add the ghee, bay leaf, garlic and ginger slices, thyme sprig and juniperberries to a large, heavy-based pan and turn the heat up to medium-high.
5) Give it about 3-4 mins until the garlic starts to take on color around the edges, then turn the steaks over in the spice-flour mix until they’re evenly covered.
6) Once all of them are nicely powdered, gently slide them into the pan.
7) Fry them for 3-4 mins per side – depending on their thickness – then transfer them out onto a warmed plate and cover them with a sheet of tinfoil.
8) Keep in mid that a) venison is very, very lean, so it cooks through quickly and b) it’s really best at medium core temperature – again, because it’s so lean, well-done means bone-dry and stringy. If you’re unsure about the timing, designate one piece as a test-piece and slice into it with a very sharp knife – the pressure test can fail you here since it always feels a bit softer than beef/lamb at the same core temperature.
9) Anyways, once the meat is out, deglaze the pan with the wines and stock.
10) Add the orange peel.
11) Allow the liquids to reduce by ½- 2/3, then take out the swimmers before stirring in the brown butter and honey.
12) Have a taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
Assembling the Dish
1) Grab your salad bowl and give the lot a gentle mix.
2) Divvy the salad onto your plates.
3) Release the steaks from the tinfoil covers and nestle them next to the salad piles.
4) Drizzle them with the sauce and ring the dinner bell~