Venison was the meat of kings in olden England. What better way to honour this delicious protein, than to give it the royal treatment and make it into a classic dish, the wellington. This venison version is a twist on the classic beef wellington, with roast chestnut and cranberries added to give it a richness and depth of flavour that truly complements the venison. The cranberries and chestnut give it a real Christmassy note, though this dish can be enjoyed at any time of year.
Venison Wellington with Roast Chestnut and cranberry duxelles
A spin on classic Beef Wellington, using wild, free range, organic Venison from the Fallow deer
- 1kg (approx) Venison Strip loin (backstrap)
- 300g Prosciutto
- Puff pastry (4 sheets frozen)
- 2 egg yolks
- 6 Potatoes (approx 180g each- 1 1/2 per portion)
- 12 Baby carrots (3 per portion)
- 7 sprigs Rosemary (in total, 3 for the Jus, 4 for the potatoes)
- Nut oil for frying
For the Duxelles
- 500g Portabello mushroom (or a mix of Portabello and Porcini for a stronger mushroom flavour)
- 100g Chestnuts (poached in stock then roasted – start with about 20 good sized chestnuts, weighing about 10g each in the shell)
- 100g Dried Cranberries
- 100ml Brandy
- 250ml well reduced vegetable stock (or 2 unsalted vegetable stock cube, dissolved in 250 mls of water)
- 6 Cloves garlic
- 12 sprigs of thyme, leaves stripped off the stems.
For the Red wine Jus
- 500ml Red Wine (Robust style like Rioja, Merlot or Shiraz)
- 200ml Medium Sherry
- 200ml Water
- 2 Vegetable stock cubes
- 1 Carrot
- 1 Stalk Celery
- 1 Red Onion
- 100g Butter
- 3 Sprigs rosemary
- 1 tbsp Natural Honey
Start with the Duxelles
- First, lay the chestnuts flat side down on the chopping board and cut a cross in the shell on the curved side. Then with a dinner knife (a blunt knife) lever open the edged of the cross a little, to allow the stock to enter the chestnut shell. Poach the chestnuts in vegetable stock for about 20 minutes. Remove from the stock and place the chestnuts on an oven tray, and roast for 20 minutes on a medium heat (approx 180oC). Remove the chestnuts from the oven and allow to cool, then peel the shells from the nuts. Make sure to remove the inner skin also.
- Next, prep the mushrooms. Remove and discard the stalks, then roughly chop the mushrooms into quarters. Pop the mushrooms, cranberries, chestnuts, garlic and thyme leaves into a food processor and pulse to a rough paste. The mushroom mix should still retains some texture, so don’t blitz them into baby food, rather pulse them into the consistency of a very fine dice.
- Melt the butter in a heavy based frying pan, and add the mushroom mix. Cook the mushrooms, in the butter, on a low heat for about 30 to 40 minutes. Halfway through, add the brandy. The aim with cooking the duxelles, is to drive off all the water in the mushroom, so that the duxelles doesn’t make your pastry soggy later.
- Transfer the duxelles into a bowl and allow to cool to room temperature and keep to one side.
Next sear the venison.
- For this recipe I used one entire venison backstrap. To make the finished wellington shorter and fatter, more like the beef version, I cut the backtrack into two portions, each of about 22 cm long. The stacked the venison portions on top of each other, ready to sear.
- If you are confident to be able to maintain this “double-decker” of venison, simply using a pair of tongs to turn, whist searing then continue. If not, use some butchers string to make three trusses around the venison, to hold them together whilst you sear it.
- Get a heavy based frying pan, on a medium-high heat and add the nut oil. When hot enough, sear the venison on all sides, for about 3 to 4 minutes per side. This seals the flavour and moisture in. Don’t forget to sear both ends too.
- If you trussed the meat, cut the strings now. Lay the meat on some cling film and roll into a “sausage” shape, twisting the ends tight, and place in the fridge to cool for about 30 minutes.
Now for the Jus.
- First make a very finely diced mirepoix of the carrot, celery and onion, sweated in a heavy based saucepan with the butter. This should be cooked, for at least 30 minutes, on a low heat, so that the veg softens and turns translucent, without caramelizing and taking on any colour.
- Next, add the stock cubes, honey, rosemary and all the wet ingredient and stir well. Bring the sauce to the point of boiling then reduce to a gentle simmer. Cook the Jus until it has reduced to roughly a quarter of the original volume and the jus coats the back of a spoon.
- Set aside till needed and rewarm before serving. If you make the sauce well in advance, say the day before, then transfer the sauce to a airtight container whilst still warm. Seal the container, and place in the refrigerator once it’s cooled.
Wrap the venison in duxelles and prosciutto.
- Lay a couple of pieces of cling film on your work surface, then lay the prosciutto out in a rectangle shape on the cling film. Make sure the rectangle of prosciutto is longer than the venison, so that it will fold over both ends and wide enough so that the venison can be rolled completely in the prosciutto.
- Take a spoon and start to spread a layer of the duxelles mixture over the prosciutto, to a thickness of about a centimeter, leaving roughly a 2 cm border of bare prosciutto around the outside edge, for overlapping.
- Take the venison out from the fridge, remove the cling film that is around it and place the meat on the nearest edge of the duxelles. Using the cling film that is under the proscuitto, start to roll everything, so that the prosciutto and duxelle complete encases the venison. Keep rolling the clingfilm to tighten the wellington roll, pinching the two open ends of clingfilm, so that they tighten the roll into a sausage shape. Put the finished roll back in the fridge, whilst you prepare the puff pastry sheets.
As Gordon Ramsay once said, “life’s too short to make you own pastry”.
- Finally, to encase everything in puff pastry and cook.
- Lightly flour you work surface and arrange a rectangle of your puff pastry sheets large enough to completely encase your wellington. Brush the overlapping edges of pastry with beaten egg yolk, so the will stick to each other.
- Unwrap the prosciutto covered venison roll from the cling film and place it in the centre of the pasty. Wrap the pastry around the venison, cutting off any excess. Brush and open edges with egg yolk and seal into a neat parcel. Turn it over, so the seam is underneath, and place on a baking tray.
- Brush the pastry all over with beaten egg yolk, then chill for about 15 minutes, to let the pastry rest.
- Preheat the oven to 200oC ( 390oF approx)
- Decorate the pastry by lightly scoring it with the a blunt knife (dinner knife) then re-glaze with beaten egg yolk.
- Bake the wellington for 20 minutes, then reduce the oven heat to 180oC ( 355oF approx) for a further 15 minutes.
- Remove from the Allow the wellington to rest for 10-15 minutes before serving
Serve with baby carrots, poached in vegetable stock and sauteed rosemary potatoes, or a veg combination of your choice.