Roast Venison Haunch
1 haunch of venison
Salt and black pepper
6 fresh bay leaves
3 large sprigs thyme or rosemary
1 large piece pork back fat or flare fat (or 10-12 rashers streaky bacon or pancetta)
For the gravy
½ glass red wine
250ml chicken, beef or game stock
Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/gas mark 7. Season the haunch, and lay the bay leaves and thyme or rosemary over the meat. Place the fat or bacon over the herbs, covering the meat, and secure the package with butcher's string - you might find it helpful to use skewers to hold the fat in place while you work. (Alternatively, cover with caul fat, tucking the web of caul underneath the joint to secure it.)
Weigh the joint. Place the joint in a large roasting tray and, if it's under 2kg, roast for 20 minutes, or 30 minutes if it's over 2kg. This 'sizzle' browns the joint beautifully. Turn down the oven to 170C/325F/gas mark 3 and roast for a further 12 minutes per 500g of meat. This should give you medium-rare meat: just pink in the middle. Reduce the cooking time to 10-12 minutes per 500g if you prefer it rarer. If you like using a meat thermometer, take the joint out at around 60C for medium rare, 55C for rare. Remove the meat from the tin, cover with foil and leave in a warm place to rest for 20 minutes.
While the meat is resting, make the gravy. Skim off any fat from the juices in the roasting tin, then put the tin over a low heat, add the wine to deglaze, stirring well and scraping up all the bits of caramelised meat stuck to the bottom of the tin. Add the stock and boil to reduce and concentrate the sauce. When the gravy has reached your required level of intensity, season and stir in a little redcurrant jelly. That hint of sweetness and sharpness is a perfect foil to the richness of the venison.
Carve the rested meat and serve with the strained gravy. I like a creamy celeriac purée alongside, and perhaps some sautéed mushrooms.
The best way to retain moisture is to bard your joint - that is, treat it to a lovely coating of fat, pork fat for preference, because of its excellent flavour. I use a piece of back fat or flare fat (from the belly). You could, however, use nice fatty bacon instead, and this will contribute even more flavour. Tie the fat or bacon over the joint with string, or ask the butcher for a piece of web-like caul fat, which you can use to wrap the whole joint. You can roast a haunch of venison on the bone, but I like the bone-out version because it's so easy to carve. Get your butcher to tunnel-bone the joint for you (removing the leg bones without opening up the meat) and chop up the bones. Use these, lightly roasted, to make a venison stock for the gravy. Serves eight-10.