Last Thursday, I began spotting a flurry of announcements - in London newspapers, on local flyers, on some bright signs dotted around the area - stating that this Sunday would be the first farmer's market in my area of London, Walthamstow. For anyone who knows Walthamstow, it is an area whose main claims to fame are an art deco dog track and Europe's longest daily street market (where my favorite stall is The Banana Man, who specializes in selling bags of bananas for £1). The start of the farmer's market was well timed for the British Food Fortnight, and I went armed with bags and backpacks, unsure of what I would find but prepared to bring it all back.
The market opened at 10am, and when I got there at 11.30 most of the goods were sold out. I was left to pick over the remaining bits (and quickly - you could almost smell the competition), and over at the game stall I spotted a nice shoulder of venison among not much else. That venison was mine, and after a quick chat with the seller about his recommendations for cooking it, we were off to look for juniper berries. Which was a long search, because though it may have a farmer's market now, Walthamstow still isn't a juniper berry type of place.
We compromised with dried sour cherries, and the menu was set: roasted venison with a cherry and red wine gravy, parsnip mash, roasted onions and green beans. A quick consult of Hugh Fernely-Whittingstall helped guide us in our venison cooking (cooked briefly and at a high heat, like you would a lamb leg), and after little more than an hour, we were ready to enjoy our rather Britishly reared, locally bought, farmer's market meal.
Shoulder of Venison with Cherry and Red Wine (an approximate recipe)
- Shoulder of venison (bone in or out), 2-5 kilos, depending
- 4 cloves of garlic, each clove sliced into about 3 large chunks
- 3-4 onions
- 1 1/2 Tbs dried cherries or cranberries
- 1 wine glass of wine
- olive oil
- Pre-heat the oven to 200 C.
- Pour the red wine over the dried fruit, and allow to soak for at least an hour.
- Prepare the venison by cutting into the meat and inserting the slices of garlic in it.
- Rub a fair amount of olive oil all over the skin and meat.
- Skin the onions, and cut into quarters.
- Place the venison in a roasting tray with the onions at the bottom, and cover with foil. Roast for about an hour - meat is happy to be served pink in the middle.
- When meat is done, set it aside to rest for around 10 minutes.
- Pour out juices from the pan into a small pot, and add the red wine and soaking fruit, a bit of flour, and salt and pepper to taste.
- Stir the gravy until it's nicely thickened. Remove the dried fruit, roughly chop, and serve on the side.