Monday, May 27, 2013

Mains: Venison with Chocolate Sauce, Glazed carrots, Rosti

Okay, so I’m in need of catching up,  clearly. And I could give you all the reasons why I’ve not posted in a age but really, we know you’re just here for the food so we’ll press on.

Venison with chocolate sauce and beetroot puree. Glazed carrots.

So this main isn’t a Heston dish, but is a “on theme” dish from my Heston-inspired Old Fashioned Lolly Shop dinner. Though the carrots are a Heston recipe.

To recap we had:
Pre dinner drink
  • Mini Brandy Alexander. (Okay largely because they are my favourite cocktail.. but they are kind of spiced-chocolate flavour, so suitably on-theme!)
  • Roast venison with chocolate sauce and beetroot puree
  • Glazed Carrots
  • Potato Rosti
Lolly Shop Tasting Plate:
  • Strawberry sherbet and liquorice
  • Musk Lolly Ice-cream
  • Vanilla-Malteser Ice-cream balls
  • Apple Pie Caramels
  • Rosewater Marshmallows
  • Hot Chocolate


Mains: Roast venison with chocolate sauce and beetroot puree

This dish was excellent.  I’ve not cooked venison in an age and it’s really not a common meat here in Australia – there is only one venison farm in the state. (Any Americans I am sure are reading this with disbelief). So it’s a “special occasion” or restaurant food for most. That said, I really quite like it – I’m a fan of game meat in general. So what all this preamble means is the finding a recipe was easier said than done.

Thankfully SBS (our multicultural TV station) had an excellent recipe online.

So this has the following steps:

  1. Make the puree
  2. Prep and roast the venison
  3. Make the chocolate sauce
  4. Serve and make it look pretty.

Make the Puree

This is too easy. Peel your potato and beetroot.
Boil until very soft
Puree in your food processor until they look awesomely red and ruby like.
Mix in some cream, add a little salt & set aside for plating.

Roasting venison
I had a loin. It was awesome. (I am so lucky to be friends with an ex-chef with food contacts!)
You take the oven proof pan and brown the meat in a mix of oil and butter.
Into a hot oven while you prep the veg.
Then out and resting, while you make the chocolate sauce.

Chocolate sauce

This surprises those who’ve not had it before, as they are expecting a sweet sauce, which it isn’t really. Slightly sweet, but not milk-chocolate sweet. What it is though, is delicious.

So, you melt the chocolate.
Then deglaze your pans with your dessert wine/etc. The recipe calls for Banyuls or Mederia. I used sherry. (I couldn't justify yet another bottle of booze for a single meal).
Reduce the liquid by half,  then add it to the melted chocolate and mix well. Excuse the poor pic - I was concentrating!
Get ready to plate up!

I also made some potato rosti (using this recipe) earlier (making individual serves) and then reheated them before serving. These worked a treat.


So I was pretty happy with how it all turned out. The venison was more rare than some of the guests preferred, but I just adjusted who got the end piece. (I thought it was perfect.)
The chocolate sauce went very well and the beetroot puree gave a different flavour and richness that beautifully contrasted with the venison.
As for those carrots (which I’ve done before (here & here ) and the asparagus…

I would not be able to eat like this always, but the butter-cooked varieties make the lighted steamed versions I normally served taste so bland in comparison! Definitely a dinner party staple I’d say.


Things I learned:

  • Make more carrots and potatoes than I really need. People love those glazed carrots.
  • Venison doesn't need to be a scary dish.
  • Chocolate sauce with venison remains one of my favourite dishes - it's nice to know I can cook it!

Guest verdict

Guests enjoy it all, and complained about their not being more leftovers for second helpings, particularly for the carrots and potato. It’s not often the veg gets such a favourable response. A few guests would have been very happy to have a full second plate’s worth, but had to make do with venison, chocolate sauce and puree!

Next post: Starting onto the tasting plate for dessert – Heston recipes and Heston inspired.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Pre-dinner drinks and entree: Brandy Alexanders and Not Sea Bass and Vanilla Butter (Part 1 of 3)

Now, I can with great joy note I have received the remaining photos from my dinner party – Old Fashioned Lolly Shop. My thanks to Ms J.S. for the excellent photos!.
This makes me happy, since we did have quite the rollicking good time and now I have photographic evidence to that effect.

In the interests of getting on with it, let’s take a look at what happened.

So, many months ago I dreamed (literally) of a dinner party. Inspired by Heston – a Sweet Lolly Shop themed dinner. This dinner party was my attempt to capture that into reality. Unfortunately, without the amazing set design my imagination dreamed up!

Pre-dinner drinks: Miniature Brandy Alexanders

Brandy Alexanders are my hands down favourite cocktail. Creamy, a touch chocolaty with a delightful scent.
Simple to prepare..
  1. Equal parts of brandy, crème de cacao and pouring cream.
  2. Shake over ice in a cocktails shaker.
  3. Serve in shot glasses and dust with grated nutmeg.
Cute, chocolaty and tasty!
(no pic, sorry...)

Entrée: Heston’s vanilla butter and sea bass red fish.

As it turns out, getting sea bass in Australia is pretty much impossible. Impractical at least. So, I dutifully went to the good quality fish place and asked for advice. The nearest thing identified to sea bass was Red fish. Yes, it’s actually called that.

(admission: I don’t cook fish often, and thus know very little about choosing fish. I might have been completely misled, but we work with the information we have.)

This is actually a very simple recipe. Or rather pair of recipes.

Vanilla butter

Having learned a thing or two about Heston’s quantities, I looked up how much butter I would actually need for the 8 serves I was making. Then scaled accordingly. This was an excellent plan, and one I recommend. Unless you can think of using a lot of frozen vanilla butter in your future. Perhaps your freezer is larger than mine, but I just don’t have the space.

Anyway this is dead easy.
Take vanilla pods. Cut them open and scrape out the seeds. Decide that throwing them out is a big waste and stick them in a zip-lock bag for the next time you make ice cream.
Let the butter soften a bit.
Mix the vanilla seeds through the butter.
Shape the butter into a log shape on your wax paper, roll it up and finesse the log shape a bit.
Put the log in the freezer.
When ready to serve, slice into the number of serves you planned. Ta da!

Sea bass Red fish

This bit is really kind of straight forward. Take a hot pan, cover the bottom with oil. Put the fish in it. (I also cooked some asparagus in butter on the side. This is also a Heston recipe, but really. There's not much more to it than that. Oh, and salt and pepper).

When you fish is cooked, put the asparagus on the plate....

Add some fish and a disk of butter...
Get photographed looking dorky serving... (Note my Lolly Shop owner 1950s polka dot dress!)
 Serve and let the melty butter become sauce-like!

Things I learned.

  • I need two pans (and probably a larger stove top) if I am going to cook fish for eight people again.
  • I'm glad I wore my apron, as the hot spitting oil from the fish was a bit ... energetic. I think it may have scared the guests a bit.
  • The 10g of butter per person was just right, don't bother making more vanilla butter than you need.


This was nice. Not.. "amazing, oh-my-god" but tasty and very good bang-for-effort. Makes a good starter. The vanilla was nicely savoury and interesting as your brain tried to figure out if it should be tasting sweet, but wasn't. The red fish was a bit.. average. Not bad, but really I thought it just tasted like white fish. I don't know if sea bass is more flavoursome?? It made a good backdrop to the vanilla butter and was suitably white and soft with nice mouth-feel. Of course, it could be my novice fish-cooking skills (at anything except salmon anyway) that stopped it being amazing.

The asparagus was very nice cooked in butter. I wish I could do it all the time, but wow so unhealthy! But delicious as a special occasion and worked very well with the buttered fish.

Taster opinions

Generally people liked the dish, with positive comments. Most people enjoyed the vanilla butter after the initial surprise. It made a suitable entrée and start to my Lolly Shop theme!
Next time - Mains - Roast venison with chocolate sauce and beetroot puree, glazed carrots and potato rosti