Read our latest recipe in Sherborne Times pages 52-53
What to eat now – November
This month never seems to be met with pleasure. I can always recall my grandfather grumbling in his deep Dorset accent as November approached. Possibly because he was born on the 19th day and knew that he was another year older. Or it may have been the fact that he always worked outside with his horses and cattle, so he dreaded being soaked to the skin when the weather was unkind. But, there is always a silver lining and with the short, dark days comes the opportunity to light the fire in hearth. The burning logs make the house warm and cosy, bringing a different, shadowy light that twinkles and constantly changes
Outside we can have a bonfire (just remember to first check for hedgehogs that may have made a home under your pile of garden rubbish). Let’s treat ourselves to baked potatoes that have been wrapped in foil to be cooked in the embers. Top with homemade baked beans and bangers or a stew that has been gently simmering in the AGA for hours.
In the kitchen, game is abundant now that the season is in full swing and there are beautiful squashes for warming soups or try roasting the orange flesh with spices which will add another dimension to risotto or a pie. Now that they have been covered in a ‘picture book’ sprinkling of frost, the Brussels sprouts are sweeter and ready to be picked for their tall stalks. Try finely slicing them in a stir fry with lardons of bacon and some kale. Add a grated eating apple at the last moment and you have a meal in itself.
Seasonal Treats for November
Having recently returned from Turin to represent Dorset at Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre, I was totally over whelmed by the array of fabulous produce available to see, taste and buy. Street vendors roasting chestnuts was something I had always read about in Dickens but in Italy they stood on each corner of the festival. There is something magical about watching chestnuts being cooked and then eating them hot from a brown paper bag. Try this at home, either in an open fire or when you are clearing the garden and have a bonfire. You will be pleased you did!
Seek out your local game dealer or independent butcher to source the very best venison. Ask your supplier what species the deer is and compare the taste. In my opinion, good venison is hard to beat. If you buy primary cuts, learn how to remove the loin of meat from the saddle and don’t forget the fillet. This is can be found on the underside and although small, it is perfect for a stroganoff or to make canapés. Finally make a deep brown, rich stock with the bones.
Cauliflower and Romanesco Broccoli (or Roman Cauliflower)
Cauliflower and Romanesco have both recently enjoyed a resurgence, to be honest they never left our kitchen as I absolutely adore them both. Hold the cheese sauce though and try roasting or making a puree or mash with bay and nutmeg infused cream. Remove the florets with a sharp knife and blitz in a food processor and make cauliflower cous cous, to be stir fried and served as a gluten free alternative for wheat or pasta. This healthy brassicca partners well with spices, scallops and stilton.
(The image of the leeks and Romanesco was taken by me but grown by Len Evans who, like his Father before him, has a regular stall in Sherborne selling produce from his market garden).
Slow cooked Dorset venison with prunes and pecans
Don’t let the prunes dissuade you from this delicious recipe – after all, they ARE dried plums! Prunes add a sticky, sweetness and depth of flavour that turns this family meal to a dinner party treat.
Serves six people
900g Venison Haunch (off the bone and cut into dice, fat & sinew removed)
50g plain flour
225g shallots peeled and trimmed
4 cm fresh ginger peeled and grated
2 cloves crushed garlic
1 cinnamon stick
Generous grinding of black pepper
Half of a whole nutmeg grated
1 tsp coriander seeds ground in a pestle and mortar
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
Half a bottle of good red wine – something that you would drink!
1 tbsp dark soya sauce
450ml homemade venison or beef stock
110g pecans – toasted in a little oil in a hot pan, when you are ready to serve
24 mi-cuit plums or stoned dried prunes soaked in port overnight
Preheat the oven 130 C or Mark 2
Heat a heavy-based pan with a tablespoon of olive oil and knob of butter, once the butter is foaming add the shallots and cook gently but do not brown.
Reduce heat, add crushed garlic and grated ginger. Continue to cook for a few minutes, then place into a casserole with tight fitting lid.
Add a little more oil to the pan and increase the heat. Sprinkle dry spices over the meat, sear in small batches, adding extra oil if necessary. Add to the casserole.
Once all the venison is seared, return pan to a high heat, quickly add the red wine to reduce by half. At the same time scrape residue from pan. Add the stock, bring to boil, and reduce to a simmer.
Over a low heat, melt the remaining butter in a separate pan, add the flour and mix together. Cook for a couple of minutes stirring all of the time. Remove from the heat.
Add third of the hot stock to the butter and flour stirring vigorously to avoid any lumps, add the next third and continue stirring. Repeat with the remaining hot stock then replace the pan on the heat, stirring all the time, bring the sauce to a boil.
Once the sauce has thickened, strain if necessary, add soya sauce, seasoning to taste then pour into casserole. Add cinnamon stick. Replace lid and place in oven. Cook for 2-3 hours or until the meat is tender. Skim off any fat. Check seasoning, add the prunes and replace in the oven for ten minutes.
Sprinkle with toasted pecans to serve, with creamy mash and braised red cabbage.