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FOOD Not all venison is the same

Tasting
deers
GENTLE ENVIRONMENT
Deer at Belmont Organic Venison Farm, run by long-time Westport resident Tomás Tierney.

Not all venison is the same


Food

Redmond Cabot

‘‘A change is as good as a rest’ mum used to say. When fishing with Rob Haughton on Fermoyle, he also used to repeat the mantra ‘Ring the changes’ if our fly selection was not producing results. And so it was I found myself talking with Tomás Tierney at the recent football quarter-final meeting between a winning Westport and Tourmakeady. Tomás, who is manager of the Westport GAA team, told me he has been farming deer and producing venison meat for decades at Belmont Organic Venison Farm in Milltown, between Tuam and Claremorris. Well, I thought, this sounds like something outside the regular run of the mill.
While I asked him more and more about the meat we talked about perceptions. Farmed venison is relatively new to the market, and it challenges our perceptions of a product.
Traditionally, venison was wild, and is really quite different from the farmed product. Wild deer is tougher in meat structure and is hung longer, carrying a more ‘gamey’ taste in its flavours. That is most people’s perception of venison.
However, farmed deer yield a different meat, smoother and sweeter in texture and flavour, from being raised in a gentle environment in lush grasses. Whereas wild venison is strong enough for game pies, farmed venison is more like just cooking and eating beef or lamb.
I decided to put the perception test to the test and left Tomás with a promise of some of his venison. This duly arrived – a roasting piece of three pounds strung up just like the butchers, and a vacuum pack of some steak cuts. Here are the results!
Oven-roasted venison
Roasting meats is about balancing the cooking to match the quality of the meat; too long, and excellent meat is destroyed, too little and maybe some meat just won’t show well on so little cooking.

What you need
  • Single piece venison tied up
  • Two medium onions
  • Olive oil
  • Seasoning

What you do
I like to ‘seal’ my meats before roasting. This just caramelises the outside of the meat, creating a wall of flavour, and seals in the juices inside the meat, to enhance the flavour during cooking.
You can do this two ways. You can seal it in a pan with hot oil by rotating every surface for about 30 seconds over a good heat. Or, if you have a fan-oven, you can start by putting the meat in at about 210 degrees for ten minutes, then reducing the heat. Cook the rest at a gentle 150-160 degrees for about another 30 minutes for a 3lb piece. Place onions split in half, with skins on, around meat on tray when there’s 20 minutes cooking to go. These can be served with meat or added to the gravy.

Verdict
Delicious and a nice, new structure of meat  comes across. I liked mine a lot. The meat was dense, smooth, sweet and a perfect canvas or structure to add your preferred tastes and flavour. I actually over-cooked mine! Can you blooming believe it?! I saw it as soon as I took it out; must’ve been daydreaming. With better cooking, I would have kept that lovely pink middle. This time it was too browned, drier than I like. My fault. Oh well, next time!
Pan-fried venison steaks
A great way to get to know your meat. One man (or woman) and a pan can do an awful lot of getting to know each other in a couple of minutes!

What you need
  • 1 steak per person
  • Olive oil
  • Seasoning

What you to do
Lay your steaks out on a plate in the kitchen for 10-15 minutes before cooking to bring to room temperature. Heat your oil in the pan, heavy bottomed if possible, ideally cast iron – I HATE thin frying pans! Only add your salt and seasoning to the meat just prior to cooking, otherwise it draws out the juiciness.
When ready to cook, lay each steak down in pan. Cook for 45 seconds each side and then remove from heat. You may think this is not enough, but a steak just under half an inch thick will cook in that time. Place steaks then on dish and cover, leave to rest for four minutes. You swill see the meat relax and juices start to run. Use these juices – don’t waste them: pouring them over the meat when is plated. You are now primed to best taste a venison steak.

Verdict
Very easy to cook and produce a nice steak with. Reminded me of beef. Super with spuds, veg, onion and a bit of gravy. Yum!

For more information on Tomas Tierney’s organic venison, visit www.belmontorganicvenison.ie, email info@organicvenison.ie or call 098 29797 or 087 4110003.

Red Cabot
is interested in food, nature and small things. He sells his food at Westport Country Markets in St Anne’s Boxing Club, James’s Street car park, Westport, every Thursday, from 8am to 1pm, and Newport Street Market on Fridays, 11am to 4pm.