Good Food Blog
Seasonal savioursPosted at 2:30PM, 06 January 2011 by Dulcima Mansell - Food writer
I feel sorry for poor January; with its cold weather and short days it is not famed for its foodie delights, and many people are too busy dieting to enjoy the seasonal produce. But there is fantastic British food to be celebrated this month, and for me venison and leeks are top of the list.
Venison has had a bit of a surge in popularity in recent years, casting aside its previous image of medieval banquets or eating Bambi! It is a protein-rich and low-fat alternative to beef, and very tasty. My favourite way to cook venison is to make a ragu of shoulder with wine and tomatoes and serve it on a bed of pappardelle - my current 'go to' menu for having friends round for dinner.
I recently tried cooking venison shanks for the first time, having been lured by a very tempting offer at the butcher's in the market near my office. They cooked up a treat, stewed with some wine, stock and lots of fresh herbs until the meat fell off the bone. Served on a bed of buttery polenta it was bliss, or as Gregg Wallace would say, it was 'as close as you can get to a hug in a bowl'!
If you like your meat less gamey, try roe venison
I'm referring to red deer meat, by the way; roe and fallow deer can also be bought in the UK but are not so easy to get hold of. Red has the traditional strong gamey flavour but if you like your meat less gamey, try roe venison.
Leeks have such a wonderful Britishness about them (or rather Welshness I suppose) and I find myself putting them in everything I can at this time of year. One of the great charms of leeks is that they partner really well with so many foods: poultry, meat or fish, leeks go with the lot and of course they make for a great soup.
Creamy, cheese sauces are my favourite pairing for leeks; I love leeks in macaroni cheese or stuffed savoury pancakes with some bacon. As I write this I am at my in-laws who have a most impressive veg-patch; I may have to 'relieve' them of some of their leeks before heading home! They do not, however, have their own deer park so I think I'll have to pay the butcher another visit and make the most of the British venison season.
What's on the menu for you this month?