If you are ever given some venison short loin or back strap from a hunting mate, you can be assured that they rate your friendship very highly. This cut is considered, by most venison connoisseurs, as the best piece of the animal. Lean and tender, be careful not to over cook this delicious cut of wild meat. I like to serve it just slightly under medium. This is a robust dish, with ‘earthy’ flavours that suit the slightly gamey attributes that venison exhibits.

Serves 6.

 

Step 1: Beetroot Feta and Basil Relish

Pre heat your oven to 180 degrees.

Remove any leafy tops off the baby beetroot and discard. Place them in a small oven proof dish, pour over the canola oil and the water. Cover with foil and roast in the oven for an hour or so, until the beetroot are soft through. Remove and cool before peeling the outer skin and chopping to a medium dice.

Add the balsamic vinegar and sugar to a medium sized bowl, then whisk in the avocado oil. Add the diced beetroot, along with the basil and coarsely crumbled feta cheese. Stir to combine, season with salt and pepper and hold at room temperature. 

 

Step 2: Caramelised Fennel Lentils

Take a skillet or sauté pan and place on a medium heat. Once hot, add the canola oil followed by the diced fennel, onion and garlic. Turn the heat down to low, add the ground fennel seeds, and cook for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring every so often until the fennel is soft and golden. Season salt and pepper. Remove and hold.

Take a medium sized saucepan and add the Puy Lentil and chicken stock. Place on the stove top and bring up to a rolling boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook the lentils until they have absorbed all the stock and are just soft to the bite. This should take about 30 minutes. If they are still too hard and there is no stock left, just add a little water and continue to cook until just soft.

Remove the lentils from the heat and strain off any remaining liquid. Place back in the saucepan and stir in the caramelised fennel and the olive oil. Add the chopped leafy parts from the fennel bulbs that you saved. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Keep warm. 

 

Step 3: Cooking and Serving

Pre heat your oven to 180 degrees.

Bring the venison up to room temperature. Cut the venison shortloin into two pieces. One half will be thicker than the other, and will require a slightly longer cooking time. Place the demi-glaze in a small saucepan over low heat and bring up to a slow simmer. Season the two pieces of venison liberally with salt and pepper . Place a skillet on high heat, and also put a roasting dish in the oven to heat up.

Once the skillet is hot add a little oil followed immediately by the two pieces of venison. Cook for a minute or two on both sides until nicely caramelised, then remove from the pan and place the venison in the roasting dish along with a little oil to prevent it from sticking. Finish cooking in the oven for another 5 to 7 minutes. Remove the smaller piece first, leaving the larger one to cook a little longer. Rest the venison in a warm place for 5 minutes.

To serve, spoon out some of the caramelised fennel lentils onto the centre of 6 warm plates. Slice the venison into half centremetre thick slices and arrange three pieces on each plate. Top each with the beetroot, feta and basil relish, and finish with a little pour of demi-glaze on each.

 

Photography by Kieran Scott