venison en croute

happy new year everyone, i hope 2012 is full of good things for you!

david and i celebrated 2012’s arrival with a group of friends, over a meal which we created together. i was responsible for the main course and given we were not actually hosting the evening, i needed something which i could prepare in advance, as much as possible, and that would be easy to carry on public transport (c45 minutes on train/tube). it also needed to feel indulgent and taste wonderful.

i decided that venison en croute would be a worthy and interesting option, and having made beef en croute previously (several years ago, also for a new year’s eve meal) it was familiar enough that i could feel confident about the prep and travel aspects of the dish.

mushroom duxelles is a traditional part of beef en croute but i had two diners who don’t like mushrooms, which was my tricky starting point. i ended up making a haggis-based stuffing. haggis was crumbled and fried with a little butter; at the same time i slowly fried onions, until they caramelised, with a small amount of porcini, fresh thyme and chopped rosemary. this was mixed with the haggis along with the zest and juice of an orange. i also wilted some spinach, to add colour, as a second stuffing.

once we arrived at our hosts’ home the assembly job began. i rolled out the all-butter puff pastry (i used 500g for two croutes, each of which had a 500g piece of venison tenderloin in it, which served 3) and put a layer of the haggis stuffing on it, topped this with the seared venison loin and finished with more haggis stuffing and a layer of spinach. the pastry was then wrapped over it, brushed with beaten egg and this was cooked at 200c for 30 minutes. the croutes rested for 10 minutes while i finished the barley with pumpkin and cavolo nero side dish. red wine and shallot gravy and pear puree (this worked so well with the venison) were the final components of our meal.

the combination of flavours worked really well and i was really pleased with it. and if you’re interested in the rest of the meal, we had peat-smoked lobster tail on homemade blinis with champagne to kick things off, followed by fennel with feta, dill, salted caramel and pistachios as a starter. the venison was followed by a cheese board and then a passion fruit and berry pavlova. plus more champagne to toast the midnight bells!