Sunday, 11 December 2011


Venison, or rather its living original, deer, has been "in the news" lately as the YouTube film of Fenton the Dog chasing deer in Richmond Park has gone viral. Possibly one of the funniest things on YouTube at the moment, and an example of that particularly English form of schadenfreude, it is also a warning to dog owners, to keep their hounds under control when around deer in the park.

I live not ten minutes walk from Bushy Park, a lovely expanse of open space between Teddington and Hampton Court, and the park has many deer, of different varieties (as well as the famous Bushy Park parakeets, and green and spotted woodpeckers). Autumn is the rutting season and sometimes if I wake in the night, I can hear the deer grunting and bellowing.

Venison is a lovely alternative to beef, and is better for you as it is leaner. It has a rich flavour, but not over-poweringly gamey, and it also makes delicious, rich sausages. Sandy's, the fishmonger in Twickenham, sells wonderful, homemade venison sausages, but you can usually find good ones in Waitrose or M&S. This recipe is a classic Delia (from her Winter Collection book), and is a perennial favourite, particular amongst men, I find (perhaps it's the nod to school dinners or what Granny made that appeals?). It's a proper autumn or winter dish, hearty and heart-warming, especially when served with a mound of fluffy mashed potato, or baked potatoes slathered with butter. It's stupidly easy to make, and can be prepared well in advanced, or even made and then frozen. I can do no better than direct you to Delia's own website for this recipe.  The juniper berries are essential and a classic companion to venison, lending a pleasantly ginny kick. Tonight, I'm going to serve it with baked potatoes and Ottolenghi's Best Mash.

Meanwhile, here's Fenton the Dog (and his angry owner) in action in Richmond Park....

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