A food odyssey
March 23, 2010
Last night’s supper was, give or take, three days in the making. Not because of the cooking time of the dish itself, but because I decided to make my own beef stock as the basis for the sauce in the recipe. And, due to various events over the weekend, I didn’t manage to finish it until Monday night.
My plan was to use the two venison fillets I had in the freezer from the previous week’s shop in an adaptation of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s recent recipe in The Guardian for oxtail with star anise.
So, on Saturday, I picked up a lovely bag of beef bones from The Ginger Pig, and started to follow Delia Smith’s classic recipe for beef stock. (I have a couple of Delia’s cookery books, and don’t use them all that often, but when it comes to the basics, like stock, she can’t be beaten.)
The first step was to roast the bones with a few vegetables, before simmering them in water. However, once I’d got the roasted bones out of the oven, I realised I didn’t have time to simmer them for the requisite four hours, as I was meeting friends in town for a drink.
I decided I’d make the stock the following morning, then finish off the dish in time to have a late lunch, before heading down to Greenwich for a friend’s wedding reception on Sunday evening.
Unfortunately, Sunday’s plans were somewhat hindered by a truly stupendous hangover, thanks to someone having the clever idea of going on to a nightclub after a few drinks too many. (Erm, actually, it might have been me who had the idea…)
Anyway, I managed to drag myself out of bed in the early afternoon and set the beef stock on to simmer. The smell was absolutely amazing, and was actually quite comforting as I dozed on the sofa for the rest of the afternoon.
However, by the time the stock was finished, there wasn’t enough time for it to cool (which you need to do so you can scoop the solidified fat off the top), before I had to go to Greenwich. (In any case, I wasn’t really in any condition to cook or even eat a rich dish like venison.)
Day three, and by the time I got home from work, the fat was good and solid on top of the stock, was easily scooped off, and I was finally entering the home straights to finishing the dish.
I had thought that I would follow Hugh’s recipe exactly as it was with the oxtail, and let it braise long and slow in the sauce. But, after reading several online recipes for dishes with venison fillet, I realised it would end up as tough as old boots.
So, instead, I seared the fillets, then removed them to a plate. I made the rest of the sauce and let it simmer without the meat for about an hour. Then, after sieving the bits and bobs out of the liquid, I added the venison, which I’d sliced into thick coins, plus a couple of sliced mushrooms.
I just let it simmer for a few minutes, then served it with noodles. I’m not sure the sauce had quite the depth that it would have had if the meat had been in it the whole time. But it was still very tasty. And I’m definitely going to try it with the oxtail – but hopefully without the hangover.