Grazing is our favourite eating style. Friday and Saturday nights are when we make a special effort to prepare something delicious that we can take our time enjoying whilst catching up and winding down from the week.
We often go for some version of tapas on the Friday night (in celebration of the weekend!) with cured hams, sizzling garlic prawns and a good bottle of red wine. Recently we have mixed things up a bit by replacing the hams for carpaccios (Italian name for a dish of raw meat very thinly sliced) and the prawns for smoked salmon.
A Venison Carpaccio and Smoked Salmon Grazing Platter is one of our current favourite combinations, it goes back to basics and matches excellent quality ingredients with minimal cooking effort to limit energy consumption (both essential at the end of the week!).
Carpaccios are usually thought of as complicated and expensive since they require very good quality beef, but we have recently discovered Venison fillets, which are super lean and offer excellent value and taste, plus the reality is that one fillet goes a long way! As summer seems to have ended here in the UK we added some autumnal colours in the form of roasted beetroot, artichoke hearts and a homemade blackberry jam.
Smoked Salmon is another little luxury ingredient that makes our weekend grazing special. We love it. However, if like us, you are trying to be an responsible consumer – the ‘fish issue’ is a minefield. Last week we were sent some Grants Traditional Scottish Salmon to review, which is farmed in the Shetland Islands (north of Scotland), cured by hand and gently oak smoked. From a taste point of view, it was excellent – not too salty or smoky – but instead very well balanced flavour with a lovely deep colour. If you read a bit about the farmed fish debate you will find claims about how it’s not as healthy as wild fish, how farming practices harm the environment and jeopardise the survival of wild fish as well as opposing arguments about how farming fish is the only way to ensure a traceable supply chain and long term sustainability; and you might end up like us, confused as to what to opt for when casting our purchasing vote. Our conclusion is that as much as we’d like to opt for wild caught salmon, the fact is that the vast majority (some sources stated as much as 85%) sold in the UK is Atlantic salmon farmed in Scotland, so availability is an issue… bottom line it’s a matter of researching the brand you are thinking of purchasing, weighing up the information about it and then making up your mind.
In terms of accompaniment for the meat platters, we vary between a rustic bread and homemade flat olive breads, but recently we tried these Crosta & Mollica Bolli, which are baked Italian crackers with black pepper and have found them to be excellent partners, since they offer a tasty, solid and crunchy base that is not as doughy or dominant in taste as bread.
So here go the recipes:
- 200 gr Venison fillet
- 1 small beetroot cut into small chunks about the size of a mandarin segment
- 1 artichoke heart
- 1-2 tablespoons of a berry jam (we used our foraged blackberry one – [url href=”http://fairtradeliving.com/foraged-blackberry-recipes/” target=”_blank” title=”Recipe here”]recipe here[/url])
- Parmesan shavings
- Fresh herb flowers and basil leaves
- Dried oregano, thyme, salt and pepper
- First lets add some deep flavour. Heat up a frying pan and add a drizzle of oil.
- Grind fresh pepper onto the venison fillet.
- Pop the fillet into the hot pan for 10 seconds, turn over and repeat. Make sure this step is really quick as you only want to add a bit of extra flavour, don’t over cook it!
- Now, let it cool and rest for a few minutes and add some oregano and thyme (fresh or dried).
- Wrap it in cling film and put it into the freezer for 1 hour – We will finish it off later.
- Roast beetroot in the oven with whole peppercorns for 30 minutes at 180 C. Once cooked cut them in half so you get the bright reds and pink colours and pop them onto your serving plate
- Take the artichoke hearts and cut them into a similar size as the beetroot and add them to the plate with the small dollops of blackcurrant jam (about half the size of a pea)
- Back to the venison. Take it out the freezer and with a really sharp knife cut thin slices and lay them onto a sheet of cling film.
- When you have cut it all put another sheet of cling film on top and use a rolling pin to flatten them out and then lovingly lie them onto the plate
- Cut the basil leaves in half and add to the plate with some long shavings of parmesan cheese
- The last step is to bring all the flavours together. You can simply drizzle some olive oil and squeeze a fresh lemon over the top with a good sprinkling of grounded rock salt, or the reality is that you can add all sorts of dressings and herbs to this dish and experimenting will only make it better. Try lime instead of lemon, try different seasonal roasted vegetables, or different mustards.
- 200 gr Smoked Salmon
- 2-3 tbsp. of capers
- 2-3 tbsp. of pearl pickled onions
- 1-2 spring onions
- 1 small tub of cress
- 1 lime
- Russian Tarragon and fresh dill to taste
- Arrange the salmon on a platter and decorate with all the other ingredients.
- Squeeze some lime just before serving.