Venison is a flavoursome, lean meat taken from deer (red, fallow or roe), which has become increasingly popular thanks to the exploits of chefs Alan Murchison and Heston Blumenthal (the latter cooked a Christmas dinner featuring venison and dormouse), as well as an increasing appetite for Northern European food. Table 9 chef Nick Alvis is currently serving venison with celeriac polenta and blackberries, using saddle of wild roe deer from Holland. ‘The saddle is the best part of the deer,’ explains Nick. ‘Roe deer is the perfect size, giving us two nice-sized loins with minimal waste.’ So what’s the attraction of venison? ‘When in season, venison is incomparable to anything else,’ enthuses Nick. ‘Wild roe deer feed from leaves, shoots and berries, so the meat has a unique flavour. When it arrives we hang it for a further seven days, which matures and darkens the meat for a more concentrated flavour. After that we remove the loins from the bone and vacuum-pack the meat in olive oil, rosemary and juniper. We roast the bones and make a stock for the base of our sauce. The real beauty of cooking venison is you don’t have to do much – the flavour is already there and it takes minimal cooking.’
The difficulty, however, is getting the venison here in the first place – Nick has to place an order two weeks before the delivery, which means the total time before it reaches the plate is 21 days. ‘That’s a difficulty we’re prepared for,’ says Nick. ‘The problem is when our suppliers tell us the venison is not on the shipment. I don’t think many chefs use it over here so there’s no back-up!’
Venison goes well with berries and herbs (‘because of the natural connection,’ explains Nick), as well as bitter chocolate (‘it complements the richness of the meat’). As for the venison dish served at Table 9, Nick says it is more to do with consumption, rather than presentation. ‘The meat is complemented by the tartness of the berries and the bitterness of the cocoa pods. The crispy, earthy celeriac polenta finishes it off nicely.’
‘Let venison age before you prepare it, and don’t cook it too much – no more than medium rare. And salt… always add salt!’ says Nick.
Venison, celeriac polenta, blackberries and grue de cacao, Dhs100, available at Table 9, Hilton Dubai Creek, Deira (04 227 1111).