Easter Banquet featuring Venison in Elderberry and Hawthorn

To those of you who imagine that a forager’s fare is stark or unexciting, then think again. A fortuitous gift of venison (I love living in the country) turned Easter Sunday into a culinary delight! In this case, rustling up lunch at short notice, I also ‘foraged’ in the garden to combine some veg with plants found in the ditches and woodland.

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A Foragers Traditional Sunday Lunch Menu

Venison Medallions in Elderberry and Hawthorn Gin Sauce

Sorrel and Wild Garlic Mash

Steamed Ground Elder

Wild Spring Salad with Elderberry Vinegar

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Ingredients:
1 loin of Roe deer contributed by your neighbour’s brother now that the shooting season is open
A pan of potatoes dug up from last year’s potato patch that survived the blight
A handful of early tangy Sorrel leaves
A handful of Wild Garlic from any river bank
A pan full of Ground Elder (it shrinks when steamed)
1/4 litre of last year’s pasteurised Elderberry juice
A good glug of my Vintage Hawthorn Berry Gin

Spices:
Dried seaweed, salt and pepper, ground hogweed seed and possibly some other mysterious things foraged from the dark and wild recesses of the kitchen cupboard

For the salad:
Lambs lettuce, Chickweed, Dandelion leaf, Watercress (taken from the bank not the stream bed), Wild Garlic, Wild Mint, Hairy Bittercress

For the dressing:
Olive oil, Elderberry ‘balsamic’ vinegar

Directions:
Set your potatoes to boil when you start preparing the meat.

Slice the venison loin into 1 cm thick medallions and slowly pan-fry them in olive until just done. Venison is best cooked through and not left too pink or bloody. Toward the end of the cooking add the elderberry juice and a generous amount of the spice mix. When the venison are cooked remove them from the pan with a slotted spoon and keep them gently warm in the oven in a flat baking dish. (I have a neat Le Creuset one that I foraged from an abandoned caravan!) Reduce the elderberry juice by bubbling away until it thickens and just starts to caramelise, and then add a glug of hawthorn gin.

Drain and mash the potatoes being liberal with ground dried seaweed, salt and pepper, butter and milk until it reaches a smooth creamy consistency. Then add finely chopped sorrel leaves, chopped wild garlic and stir in until the mash is well flecked with green.

Lastly roughly chop and steam your ground elder just like spinach. Drain well, squeezing out the water, toss to loosen and season with butter and salt.

Toss your lightly shredded salad ingredients into a big bowl and sprinkle with equal amounts of olive oil and elderberry vinegar.

Make a ‘Easter egg nest’ of the mash and place a few medallions inside, pour over the sauce. Nestle the ground elder around the side and serve the salad in side bowls.

This was so delicious it elicited plenty of mm’s, aah’s and other good food noises and the diners forgot to suspiciously ask what was in it until they’d eaten it all! So enjoyed by Geza, Jim, Norrie and myself that no one took a photo. Sorry!!

Cost in a restaurant? £15 to £20 upwards. My shopping bill? £0 Actual cost? Probably no more than a pint of milk.

Below is a photo of a similar dish, this one featuring fried hogweed.

hogweed-champ-i

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