Give it a Bit of Welly – A view from the other side
So this week we’ve left the bubble that is Cambridge and moved into an equally self contained place, Oxford.
Guest Post from an Oxford Student
This year our beautiful fourteenth century hall has been replaced by a tent on the front lawn and so I have taken to cooking for myself. Having done the basic student stuff I moved on to do a twelve hour pork belly a fortnight ago which (though it ended up being more like nine and a half hours) was a resounding success. Unfortunately, my friends are the ambitious sort and so I need to keep on throwing more complex and impressive things at them to maintain the illusion of culinary competence. This week it was time to have a go at Venison Wellington. The benefit of this is that it’s basically the same as I did a fortnight ago but with a different centrepiece: the veg and Yorkshire pudding is now well practiced.
The covered market in Oxford is the only place to buy meat. It’s almost always cheaper than Tescos, invariably better quality and you get a chat and a smile with the person behind the counter rather than a computer to whose sole task, selling you stuff, it seems completely ill suited. The butchers I tend to go to is Meat Master whose owner, Matthew, seems keen on rowdy youths like me experiencing interesting meat. This time round he offered me camel and kangaroo. I think I’ll sample them at a later date and report back.
He got hold of a kilo of venison loin off the bone for me at only £22. There was another piece he said might be a bit nicer for £28, but I was working to a budget of £5 a head. That slab of meat procured, I had a quick nip round Tescos picking up carrots, parsnips, spuds, broccoli, mushrooms, pate, Parma ham, chestnuts and a large onion. I must confess at this point that I also bought puff pastry. I’ve made it before and it just wasn’t worth the effort. It all came to about £12.
I scurried back down holywell street and into the kitchen of a college owned house where some friends of mine live.
Having rubbed the meat with olive oil, I browned it on each side in a frying pan on a medium flame and set it aside.
I turned the oven on to 200oC. That bit I could do.
Next I chopped up a packet mushrooms and onion into manageable sizes and blended them a little without any liquid so that the would be very finely chopped rather than a paste. These were thrown into the frying pan with a bit more oil until the onion was soft. To this I added the remains of a decanter of port I had kicking around (as one does) until it was reduced.
While it was simmering away, aided by the odd prod of a wooden spoon here and there, I laid out about two feet of cling film and laid out the Parma ham so that rind overlapped the meat of the slice beneath it. Onto this I spread the mushroom, onion and port mix.
Returning to the now cooled venison slab, I covered its top side with the pack of pork liver pâté and rolled this, pâté side down onto the middle of the mushroom and onion.
I have the hand eye coordination of a stupid slug so the next bit proved trickier for me than for a person of normal intellectual abilities. I had to lift the cling film on either side of the venison and wrap it around the meat. Simple as it sounds, it’s just quite fiddly once you factor in the effects of gravity upon Parma ham.
However, that done, I got on with rolling out pastry into a large enough rectangle that that could form the outside layer around the Parma ham. Being a student kitchen, this was done with a mug rather than a rolling pin. Normal people should use a rolling pin. I imagine it takes much less time. The meat parcel was duly unwrapped from its Clingfilm and rolled into the centre of the pastry. This was then wrapped around it, sealing the edges with a dab of egg wash. I spread the remainder of the egg wash over the top and sides of the pastry.
Next came peeling and slicing of veg. I tried to get it so that they were all roughly the same chip shape and size. I let them simmer in a pan for five minutes before draining and dousing them liberally with olive oil. For a bit of interest, I sprinkled with dried mixed herbs. Before being shoved in the oven for an hour and a quarter alongside the Wellington. One of the friends who ate has a real aversion to bloody meat or I would have put it in for only about an hour.
The chestnuts didn’t work out quite as well as I would have hoped and I’m not really sure what the trick with them is. I cut a cross in the skin of each and baked them at 200oC for an hour. Any clues on how to do them better much appreciated.
The Yorkshire Pudding is just pancake mix in an ovenproof bowl but that worked out nicely. The gravy was easy enough, just onions, red wine, beef stock cube,
It seemed to go down well. I would have preferred the meat a bit bloodier and I’m not really sure what wasn’t right about the chestnuts, but my friends ate it all and enjoyed it. One of their number had a Chateau Fonplégade 2003 tucked away somewhere and that seemed to go nicely with it.
Suggestions for the next time I cook…?
· Put a large frying pan on medium heat. Rub venison in olive oil and seal on all sides.
· Heat butter in the pan and wait till it’s foaming. Fry the onions in the pan till they’re soft. Throw in blended mushrooms for six minutes then add the port. Leave to cool once it’s reduced.
· Lay out clingfilm on a table and overlap proscuitto. Spread the cooled mushroom and onion mix over it.
· Cover the venison with påté and lay it in the centre of the ham and mushroom. Lift the sides of the clingfilm around the meat so that it is wrapped in the layer of mushroom and ham.
· Roll out the pastry so that it’s large enough to wrap around the meat.
· Gingerly remove the cling film and place the venison package in the centre of the pastry and brush the venison parcel with egg wash. Wrap the pastry around the meat.
· Cook at 200OC
· Peel and slice vegetables
· Simmer for 5 minutes
· Put in a roasting tin and lightly cover with olive oil.
· Sprinkle with salt and mixed herbs.
· Roast for 30-35 minutes. Turn over half way through.