There are, to my mind, many consolations to the turning of the year when autumn follows summer. The weather is often kinder, the desperate need to be somewhere smart: Wimbledon, Henley, Chelsea, is done and there is the promise of dark evenings, log fires and, best of all it is the season for game.
I love almost all game, though I do draw a dotted line under some of the more fishy tasting water fowl.
Most game birds are very much easier to buy these days but I find it much more difficult to get the game of my childhood, well hung and full of complex flavour. Overhanging will lead to game that is sometimes rank but truly wild birds, not those reared just for sport, should be hung to develop both taste and tenderness. Modern health and safety diktats now mean that birds are transported by refrigerated vans to refrigerated stores, plucked and prepared before any of the rot, that adds the unique savour that true games lovers adore, develops.
My dish today uses farmed game, venison, here trimmed loin. This tender, mild meat makes a delicious light meal. I served mine with lightly boiled savoy cabbage and some roasted butternut squash. I could mention that the meat is low in cholesterol should I care about such matters.
Crushing the spices just before use makes for a deeper flavour and it is important too that the fillet is rolled in the spice mix at least a hour before cooking to allow the dry spices to adsorb some of the moisture in the meat thus preventing them burning when you put the meat into a hot pan.
Always allow the meat to rest for 10-15 minutes to allow the venison to relax.
Spiced fillet of venison
1.5 lb piece centre cut fillet of venison
1 tablespoons juniper berries
1 tablespoon dried oregano leaves
1 tablespoon whole black pepper corns
1 tablespoon coarse salt
1 tablespoon rosemary leaves
60ml sloe gin
2 tablespoons redcurrant jelly
Grind the spices together in a pestle and mortar or using a spice grinder. You want a coarse mixture.
Now wash and dry the fillet, brushing the surface with a little olive oil.
Spread the spices ion a piece of greaseproof paper then roll the meat in them, pressing the spices onto the surface of the meat. Leave for at least 1 hour.
About 30 minutes before you want to eat, heat a heavy frying pan and when hot pour in about 3 tablespoons of oil. Cook the fillet on all sides, over a moderate heat until the surface spices are crisp. This will take about 20-25 minutes.
Meanwhile pour the gin and jelly into a small pan, bring the mixture to the boil, stirring to dissolve the jelly then simmer for 2-3 minutes to thicken the glaze.
Remove the meat from the pan, place on a warmed serving dish and brush on the glaze. Allow it to sit for 5 minutes before carving.