Head from the Middle East to the Far East with the newest book from famed chef Yotam Ottolenghi. Penned along with chef Ramael Scully of London hot spot Nopi, this collection of inventive recipes hits every sweet spot along the flavor trail. Fans of venison will recognize the time-tested pairing with blackberries, and the sweet-tart and creamy finish of the date labneh provides the Middle Eastern twist we’ve come to love and anticipate. Source some fresh deer meat and get this impressive entrée on the table as soon as possible.
- A generous cup Greek yogurt
- 1 1/2 tablespoons date syrup
- 1 1/2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
- coarse sea salt
- 3/4 cup red wine
- 2/3 cup port
- 2/3 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup superfine sugar
- 1 cup blackberries (fresh or frozen)
- 2 tablespoons juniper berries
- 3 tablespoons coarse sea salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cracked black pepper
- 2 tablespoons cacao nibs
- 2 tablespoons skinless peanuts, roasted and finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons stem ginger in syrup, finely diced
- 2 medium venison fillets (2 1/4 pound), fat trimmed, then each fillet cut in half widthwise, so that you have 2 bigger top fillets and 2 thinner tail fillets
- 3 tablespoons sunflower oil
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 5 thyme sprigs
- 5 rosemary sprigs
- 4 cloves garlic, lightly crushed
- 15 fresh blackberries, halved lengthwise
- 1 tablespoon baby basil leaves or regular basil leaves, shredded
For the labneh
Place the yogurt, date syrup, and pomegranate molasses in a medium bowl with 1/8 teaspoon of salt. Whisk until smooth, then transfer to a muslin-lined sieve. Draw together the edges of the muslin and tie together so that you have a ball of yogurt.
Keep it in the sieve, placed over a jug to collect the liquid that drains out. Store in the fridge overnight and remove it 1 hour before serving.
For the blackberry sauce
Put the red wine, port, red wine vinegar, and sugar into a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then simmer over medium-high heat for 18 to 20 minutes, stirring from time to time, until the sauce is glossy and thick and there is about 3/4 cup left in the pan. Add the blackberries, return to a boil, and cook over high heat, stirring gently, for 2 minutes if starting with frozen and 6 minutes if starting with fresh. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside in the fridge to chill. If you make this in advance, you may need to add 2 tablespoons of water to the sauce to thin it down. The consistency should be that of a pourable jam.
For the juniper salt
Place the juniper berries and salt in a spice grinder and grind to a fine, sandy texture. Stir in the black pepper. Set aside.
For the venison and crumble
Preheat the oven to 360°F/180°C (320°F/160°C convection).
Spread the cacao nibs out on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl, add the peanuts and stem ginger, and mix well.
Increase the oven temperature to 465°F/240°C (425°F/220°C convection).
Pat the fillets dry with a clean kitchen towel, then place on a tray and season with all but 1 teaspoon of the juniper salt. Place two ovenproof frying pans over high heat with 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil in each pan. When hot, add the larger top fillets to one pan and the smaller tail fillets to the other. Sear the larger fillets for 2 to 3 minutes, until a dark brown crust forms, then turn the fillets over. Cook for another 2 minutes, then add half the butter to the side of the pan, along with half the thyme, rosemary, and garlic. The smaller fillets in the second pan are cooked in just the same way, with the remaining butter and herbs, but for a minute less. Let the butter foam and smell nutty, then cook both sets of fillets for another minute, basting the venison throughout.
Transfer the two pans to the oven and roast for 3 minutes. Return to the stovetop and continue to baste for a final minute with the foaming butter. Transfer the fillets to a small tray and pour over the burnt butter, herbs, and garlic. Set aside for 6 to 8 minutes, uncovered, before slicing 1/3 inch thick and sprinkling the remaining teaspoon of juniper salt evenly over the meat.
To serve, spread the labneh out in the middle of each plate and scatter 1 teaspoon of the peanut crumble over each one. Lay the venison slices on top and spoon over the blackberry sauce. Sprinkle over the remaining crumble and serve at once, with the basil leaves and fresh berries dotted alongside.