I love autumn - every little colourful part of it. Of all the seasonal changes, summer into autumn is the one that really gets me excited. From chunky knits to the first log fire; blackberry and rosehip picking, apples and pears, pumpkins and game season. It's simple impossible not to fall in love with it. And that's something coming from someone who feels the cold in the height of summer!
I love autumn – every little colourful part of it. Of all the seasonal changes, summer into autumn is the one that really gets me excited. From chunky knits to the first log fire; blackberry and rosehip picking, apples and pears, pumpkins and game season. It’s simple impossible not to fall in love with it. And that’s something coming from someone who feels the cold in the height of summer!
If you were to ask me what my favourite bit about autumn is, I’d struggle with an answer for a moment or two and then relent: game season, always game season!
In Ireland, technically there isn’t one defined game season as such as some wild meats and fish are accessible at varying times of the year. But generally, we are talking the period of time from about October to March, or when the spring born young are fully raised or fledged and are making their own way in the wilderness. I have many favourite game foods, but nothing stirs the feral senses quite the way venison does – the meat of Kings: antlers, mishty mountainsides, heather and tartan (it’s the Scots in me – I can’t help it).
Venison farms have been cropping up around Ireland for the last number of years, some for much longer and produce award winning wild and semi-wild game meats (Ballinwillin in Mitchelstown for example). This does mean that Venison is available all year round now, should you wish. But there is something about the annual wait that speaks deeply to me.
We are all suffering from a lack of patience, brought on by greater accessibility to whatever our hearts could possibly desire, including our hearts desire if your into that sort of thing. The slow food movement is part of reintroducing us to the benefits, for taste and health, of eating seasonally, locally and growing or raising our food for longer preferably organically and antibiotic free. I feel there is another blog post / article to come on that, but for now I want to remain firmly fixed on the end point to this blog post: you, dear reader, getting your laughing gear around my chocolate stout pulled venison buns (so to speak).
Whilst everyone else has been eating pulled pork, lamb and beef until I wonder how there are any animals left on our island, I hatched a plan. Surely, you can pull any meat (right, if anyone is reading this with a filthy mind I can only apologise!), including venison. I have cooked with this king of meats for a good few years now and have played with a number of different complementary flavours. But the best of all is chocolate – the darker the better.
Down Kinsale way, Blacks Brewery brews a chocolate stout made using the leftover cocoa bean husks from Clonakilty Chocolate – a Fairtrade bean-to-bar chocolate maker in West Cork headed up by my friend Allison Roberts. Her chocolate, with its lack of overpowering sweetness, the most considered approach to her raw ingredients and its innate nutritional goodness, makes it a particularly good partner for venison.
The venison I have used here is wild, so it will have a naturally stronger flavour – farmed will be less pungent, but tomaytoes/tomatoes, right? The haunch has been in the deep freeze since last game season, carefully wrapped and protected. After slow defrosting in the fridge, I was delighted to see that the meat was perfect: not a spot of frost burn, looking amazing and smelling fresh as a daisy.
Below then is my proposition to you. This is the only pulled-anything you need to be consuming this coming game season, and don’t stimp on the sides either. A sweet brioche bun is vital – you need the sweetness from the bread for the perfect balance. Your slaw should be crispy and if you really can’t find or be bothered to purchase a bottle of the Damson Shrub for the slaw dressing, then get a good quality ACV and add a pinch of sugar to compensate.
As a point of note, I posted this picture up on my Instagram account a couple of weeks ago and asked if anyone could identify what the meat I used was. The closest anyone got to using their imagination was Buffalo. No-one gave venison a thought…
It’s so ridiculously easy to make: it just needs time – quite a bit of time, to get it perfect, but happily you don’t need to tend it!
And what to drink with it? Either a bottle of red with massively obvious notes of chocolate or, of course, crack open a bottle of nicely chilled World’s End Chocolate Vanilla Imperial Stout from Blacks of Kinsale.
Ingredients (will serve many, many delighted people!):
For the pulled venison
For the Slaw & Accompaniments:
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