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Cicoria, brussels sprouts, venison

01 December 2005

Fresh Produce
Italian leafy greens like cicoria, Puntarella and cime di rapa are all plentiful again. Tardivo (or wild trevise) has started again, but the prices are very high.

Curly kale can run short during periods of sustained frost, as the crops cannot be harvested. It is, however, a great winter crop that is able to withstand heavy frosts without keeling over. Brussels sprouts are much more popular again now the festive period is almost upon us.

Pomegranates from Israel are beautiful at present. Cut in half and beat the skin side with a wooden spoon to release the seeds. They are delicious added to salads or for juice.

Source: Chef's Connection, 020 7627 4809, www.chefs-connection.com

Fish
Strong winds last weekend further north affected supplies at the beginning of the week. In Scotland, landings of scallops were short and harvesting at salmon farms was cancelled. This could mean farmers will keep prices up from now until Christmas.

In terms of native fish, there are good supplies of brill, Dover sole, octopus, squid, plaice, skate and pollack. There have even been better landings of hook and line-caught sea bass, so the high prices should have eased slightly.

Source: M&J Seafood, 01296 588221, www.mjseafoods.com

Meat
For wild venison, stalkers are now shooting hinds, which are generally preferred as the size of the cuts is a bit more manageable. Early in the season the stags are targeted, but with the males, as well as producing overly big cuts, the age of the meat is hard to gauge.

Woodcock is beginning to drift through - though fewer shoots are targeting the birds in an attempt to conserve numbers. There is also some widgeon and teal.

Beef remains high in price, but pork is more stable, despite increased demand.

Source: Aubrey Allen, 024 7642 2222, www.aubreyallen.co.uk

Seasonal recipe

Cutlet of venison, haggis tortellini, caraway and lemon-roasted swede

Ingredients (Serves six)
1 saddle of venison

For the pasta dough (enough for 20 portions) 550g "00" flour
4 whole eggs
6 egg yolks
1tsp salt
1tbs olive oil

For the haggis mousse (enough for about 20 portions) 500g haggis
2 chicken suprêmes
Cayenne pepper
Nutmeg
2 eggs
120ml double cream
Malt whisky

For the swede 1 swede
1 lemon
1tsp caraway seeds
50g butter

For the venison sauce (about 12 servings) 50ml oil
375ml red wine
250ml venison stock
250ml chicken stock
500g venison trimmings
Red wine vinegar
1 leek
1 carrot
2 sticks celery
4 shallots
Juniper berries
Thyme
200ml port

Method Cut the saddle of venison so you have six bone racks. Remove fat and sinew, cut into cutlets and clean the bone.

For the pasta dough, blend together flour, salt and olive oil, beat the eggs and slowly knead into the flour, until dough comes together. Wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate.

For the haggis mousse, remove skin and any excess sinew from the suprêmes. Robot Coupe until smooth, pass through a fine drum sieve and chill until required. Simmer the haggis for 2-3 hours. Remove from skin, pour over the whisky and cool. Put the chicken base back into the processor, add cayenne pepper and a good grating of nutmeg, then add the eggs until all comes together. Finally, add the double cream, blend again, season with salt and lemon juice. Mix chicken mousse with haggis.

For the tortellini, roll out the pasta to the lowest setting and cut out 8cm discs. Place one heaped dessert spoon of the haggis mixture into the centre of each disc and make the tortellini.

For the swede, cut into 1cm dice and blanch for three minutes. Drain and steam so any remaining water in the swede evaporates. Foam the butter, add the caraway seeds, lemon zest and finally the swede. Sauté until golden brown. Finish with lemon juice.

For the venison stock, colour venison trimmings in a hot pan, remove excess fat and deglaze with 2tbs red wine vinegar. Add the diced vegetables and cook until softened and lightly coloured. Add a half-bottle of red wine and reduce. Add port and stocks, simmer until reduced by half, pass through muslin cloth and correct seasoning.

In a hot pan, seal off the cutlet and roast for four minutes. Allow to rest. In a pan of boiling water, cook off the tortellini. Put the diced swede in the centre of the plate, venison cutlet on top, with the tortellini to the side. We also serve this with cabbage balls.

Nigel Mendham, head chef, the Samling, Ambleside, Cumbria

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