I lost another 2lbs this week on my quest for a slimmer me. That makes 15lbs so far this year, and I am starting to feel the benefits already. It was sooo cold last week but I picked the pretties bunch of snowdrops from the garden that kept me company on my dest as I worked. Sadly it's the end of the game season and so just before the snow came down I made Valentine Warner’s Venison stew from his new book The Good Table. . It was utterly delicious. (as recommended too by London Unattached ) … and such a struggle to keep to just one serving !
I met Valentine Warner a few weeks ago at Mark Hix’s restaurant on a lunch to promote British game. Certainly the meal was delicious and I found Val a much more charming person than on TV. He was fun, knowledgeable and far wittier than I had expected.
To be honest I haven’t always been that keen on Valentine’s TV shows or the accompanying books. He’s been one of those writers I could take or leave. Not that they weren’t good books but I think that in the beginning I thought he was almost too young for his own style, his humour seemed to be almost too large for life. It rankled me. Even now as I write this I am flicking through his What to Eat Now and What to Eat Now More Please books they still don’t do it for me.
That said, I have been taken totally by surprise with his latest book The Good Table that Val kindly gave to me after lunch. I was expecting to flick through, smile politely and assign it to the keep this for reference shelf; however, to my surprise it is one of the best recipe books I’ve come across in a long time. Perhaps it is because it not accompanying a TV show or maybe he has grown into himself .. whichever .. it really is a great read. The Good Table is honest, with real humour and personality, written in a more informal, delicious and more relaxed style that made me what to take the book to bed… and then get up to cook. The photos are sharp. You can see what you are making. The layout is easy on the eye, its been designed to cook from, and thankfully there is space to breath as the designers haven’t felt the need to cram every inch.
Recipes include as Toad in the Hole or Paella, classic dishes such as Beef Suet Pudding or a Brandy Snap with Berries, or recipes from far-flung shores such as Lapland Fish Soup and a Spanish dish of Chorizo in Cider. Inspired I popped off to my local game merchant Anthony Garret in Flore and then made the Venison curry from page 79. So if you have previously loved Valentines work .. this is his best book yet by far.. and if you are not so keen .. take another look .. he’s more of vintage wine kind of a chap .. and he’s really on top form in this fabulous book that has made it onto the kitchen bookshelf .. to join the books I cook from every day.
Extract from The Good Table and Venison Curry Recipe
a large handful of shaved dried coconut or 3 tablespoons unsweetened desiccated coconut
40g ghee or butter
2 small red onions, finely chopped
1 cinnamon stick (about 4cm long)
6 black peppercorns
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 large thumb-sized piece of root ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 teaspoon flaked sea salt
4 cloves 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
2½ teaspoons hot chile powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper ¼ star anise ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon garam masala
3 tablespoons tomato purée
500g venison fillet (be it red, fallow, sika, roe or muntjac), cut into medium cubes
300ml coconut water or water juice of
shredded coriander leaves, to garnish rice,
paratha or naan bread, to serve
On a trip to Sri Lanka, I stopped for lunch at a lean-to with a couple of grubby plastic chairs and tables set before it. Behind a small gas stove were a scrawny man and his wife. I asked what I could have and the vendor immediately did a bizarre impression of some creature, which I took time to realise was a deer. I gave him a nod and a thumbs up. A little dish arrived with small pieces of the tenderest meat bathed in a sharp, rich red gravy covered with toasted shavings of coconut. It was delicious and unbelievably hot, by which I mean it tore off the lid of my head. As I chased the last smear across the plate with a kind of sour pancake, the police arrived on the scene and immediately started poking around the couple's field kitchen. One of the officers came up to me and, in English, asked: 'What it is are you having?' 'Lunch', I replied. 'No' he said pointing at the plate, and so I told him, as I had been, that it was 'of the forest', very good too, and he was welcome to join me for lunch. It turned out that cheffy was also a poacher and I had just unwittingly enjoyed a very small and unfortunately endangered miniature deer. Cook and wife were taken away with a coolbox full of, no doubt, evidence and the policeman demanded I settle the bill with him. I felt a certain sympathy for the cook, as obviously hand-to-mouth applied to not just his job but his whole life, yet as a poacher, surely, it was a bit silly to reveal the true nature of his incriminating ingredients. The meat was tender because it was cooked very briefly rather than the tenderness that results from a long, slow cook. Therefore, it is essential that you do not overcook the meat. Venison has next to no fat and fillet will seize up suddenly and go past the point of no return. Ghee is Indian clarified butter and is widely available from shops and supermarkets. Coconut water is not the same as the coconut milk found in a can but the water that is in the centre of a fresh coconut. In a dry frying pan, gently toast the coconut until you notice the first signs of it colouring. Allow to cool. Melt the ghee or butter in a wok or pan (the lighter and thinner the metal, the better, as it is closer to using Indian cookware such as a balti). Throw in the onions and cook fairly briskly with the cinnamon and peppercorns until softened and deep golden, taking care not to burn them. Using a pestle and mortar, or blender, crush the garlic, ginger, salt and all the remaining spices into a fine paste and combine with the tomato purée. Add the curry paste to the onions and fry for 2-3 minutes, stirring often. Do not let it burn. Add the meat and briskly sauté for a couple of minutes. Add the coconut water or water and lime juice and bring to a rapid simmer for 4 minutes, or until you have a thickish gravy. Remove from the heat and scatter with the coconut and coriander. Serve with rice, paratha or naan bread.
I am delighted to be able to offer one of Valentines Books as a giveaway All you need to do is tell me who you would cook for.
Please see competition Rules before entering. This giveaway is open to all readers over 18 with a UK mainland address. The winner will be chosen using an online randomiser and announced on this page on 2nd March 2012 You need to have a profile the allow mw to get back in touch however please do not include your email in the actual comment as well.
This competition on behalf of Octopus Publishing and they will be responsible for organizing the prize with the winner. Their decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.
There is one main way to enter and there are 5 more chances to win .. . and you must leave a separate comment for each bonus entry otherwise they will not be counted.
For a chance to win please comment below and tell me who you would cook for if you won this book
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