Venison is one of my favourite meats, with a clean, rich flavour and beautifully tender when cooked either very quickly or very slowly; it’s also packed with nutrients and low in fat. Here, I give it a touch of sweetness with some honey-roast quince in a stunning-looking salad featuring pink leaves, toasted nuts and blue cheese.
When caramelised, quince becomes sweet and chewy, and makes a welcome contrast to the bitter leaves, toasted nuts and salty-sweet cheese.
Prep 20 min
Cook 1hr 15 min
2 medium quince (about 500g), peeled, quartered and cored
Salt and pepper
2 tsp runny honey
1 small handful thyme sprigs
1 large garlic clove
1 tsp juniper berries
1 tsp black peppercorns
4-5 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 x 250g venison haunch steak or fillet
For the salad
75g blue cheese (optional)
1 tbsp sherry vinegar
Heat the oven to 210C (190C fan)/410F/gas 6½. Cut the zest off the orange with a speed peeler or sharp knife, leaving the pith on the fruit. Cut each quince quarter into three or four slices and lay these out on a baking sheet lined with greaseproof paper. Season, drizzle with the honey and scatter over the leaves from five or six thyme branches. Squeeze over the orange juice, add 50ml water, cover with foil (or another tray) and roast for an hour, until the quince is tender and caramelised in places.
Meanwhile, put the orange zest in a mortar with a teaspoon of sea salt, the garlic, juniper, peppercorns and a few teaspoons of picked thyme leaves. Bash to a paste, then work in a tablespoon of olive oil. Rub this all over the venison and leave to marinate at room temperature while the quince is cooking.
To prepare the salad, pull off and discard the outer leaves of the radicchio and tear the rest into wide pieces. Wash with the rocket and dry, then lay out the rocket and radicchio in a large salad bowl or platter. Pop the hazelnuts on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for about five minutes, until pale golden. Once cool, roughly chop.
When the quince is tender, put a saute pan on a high heat. Once it’s smoking hot, add a tablespoon of oil and saute the venison for only 90 seconds to two minutes on each side. Leave to rest in a warm place for five to eight minutes.
Meanwhile, crumble the cheese over the leaves and scatter the chopped nuts on top. Arrange the quince slices on top with any syrup.
Whisk the sherry vinegar with the remaining oil, then dress the leaves and season generously with salt and pepper. (You can drizzle over a little extra honey.) Finally, slice the venison into thin strips and lay these over the salad. Serve at once, with fresh bread, roast potatoes or chips – I do love chips and a salad.
The salad makes a snazzy starter or a seriously good lunch with chips or roast potatoes on the side.