It may have taken a revolution to put venison into local supermarket chillers, but its current popularity is heartening, says Rose Prince. Serves four.
You would never have seen venison sausages in a supermarket 20 years ago. Game was a luxury. While grouse will always be expensive, a deer yields lots of cheap cuts. It took a revolution to put venison into supermarket chillers.
My theory is that the BSE/vCJD — known as mad cow disease with a variant that passed into humans — scandal started it. The disease in cattle was a tragedy and expensive to taxpayers, but it did highlight the problems in the meat industry. Meat eaters who shunned intensively farmed meat began seeking out prime cuts with provenance in their local butcher shops, so developed more diverse tastes.
You probably do not need this history lesson, but for me it is interesting how some producers responded. You can buy British-made venison sausages, a cheap source of meat, at £3 for 300g (six sausages) in Morrisons. They are made by Highland Game, a company started in 1997 by the Danish entrepreneur Christian Nissen. At the time Nissen simply wanted to popularise wild venison — the UK was exporting an astonishing 95% of deer meat in those days. He could not have foreseen the explosion of interest in alternative meats as a result of the later food scandals, but he was certainly on to something.
Irrespective of the need for beef alternatives in those years, venison has always had the distinction of being a healthy, natural food. The popularity of venison sausages, their present status as a supermarket standard, is a positive outcome. This recipe is based on one given to me by my aunt, which I used to make with garlicky pork sausages. The warm potato salad is especially comforting in the still-chilly months.
Recipe for venison sausages with warm potato salad and pickled carrot
- Prep time 20 minutes
- Cook time 30 minutes
- 750g salad potatoes, Charlotte, Jersey Royal or other small variety
- 8 venison sausages
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1 tbsp white wine or cider vinegar
- Pinch of sea salt
- Pinch of ground black pepper
- 100g melted butter
- 75ml extra virgin olive oil
- 2 spring onions, green part only, sliced thinly
For the pickles:
- 1 medium-sized carrot
- 1 shallot, sliced
- 150ml rice wine vinegar
- 75g light brown sugar
- 2 green cardamom pods
- 1 star anise
- For the pickle, slice the carrot into thin rounds with a mandolin. Put them in a small saucepan with the shallot, vinegar, sugar and spices. Place over a low heat and bring slowly to the boil. Simmer fast for about 5 minutes or until the liquid becomes syrupy. Remove from the heat and set aside. You can make the pickles well in advance if you wish.
- Put the potatoes on to boil with a little salt. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Brush the venison sausages with oil, put them in a roasting pan and bake for about 20-30 minutes until well browned.
- Meanwhile, make the warm dressing. Beat the mustard with the vinegar, salt and pepper in a small pan. Add the butter and oil, then heat. It is important not to let the mixture boil or it will become greasy and separated. Set aside in a warm place.
- Keep an eye on the potatoes. Ideally, they should be waxy in the centre, so check them after 8 minutes by pricking with a small knife. There should be some resistance in the centre of the potato. Drain, cut each one in half and dress with the mustard sauce. Add the sliced spring onion.
- Cut the sausages in half, then mix in with the warm potato salad. Use a slotted spoon to remove the pickled carrot slices from the vinegar syrup and scatter over the surface. Serve while still warm. A salad made with blanched green kale, sliced apple and toasted walnuts goes well with this dish.