Though now one of the most popular and populous deer in England, Muntjac originated in Asia, where it is still prevalent today. It is small and tender, with a fine texture and grain to the meat. The taste is gamey but without too much “iron”: definitely very accessible and a great entry point if you are a newcomer to venison. The best way to cook it is hot and fast to colour the meat whilst keeping it rare within. The recipe today is for the butterflied saddle, though it could equally be used for the venison fillets that are available from LMDC. This is a dry rub that will season the meat and without overpowering it. It makes a perfect weekend roast as it is relatively quick and simple (minutes under the grill rather than hours in the oven). Given there will be no gravy with this, I would recommend serving with some creamed winter vegetables and chestnuts: simply roast as normal in a hot oven then add some double cream, crushed garlic and mustard to the roasting tray about 10-15 mins from the end for all the ingredients to meld. You can cook these in the main oven whilst you grill the muntjac in the top oven. Or for something healthier if you are embracing a more acetic New Year, serve with some shredded root vegetables, dressed with some salt, red wine vinegar, mustard, yoghurt and rapeseed oil.
Remember to only probe the meat once it has rested. When meat has been exposed to high heat, it will continue to cook as the heat radiates from the outside inwards, so even when it is out of the oven, the core temperature will increase for a while afterwards. Probing before it has relaxed will also result in a loss of juice from the meat as the proteins will still be “tight”. Carve the meat thickly to appreciate its tenderness; that carnality is lost if you carved very thinly. The honey is lovely with the woody herbs and round off any “pokiness” they bring to the party. Enjoy!
1½ tbsp Salt
2 tbsp Muscovado sugar
1 tsp Juniper
1 tsp Fresh thyme, chopped
1 tsp Black peppercorns
1 tsp Smoked paprika
1 tsp Garlic powder
1 tsp Onion powder or seeds
1 tsp Fennel seeds
1 Muntjac saddle butterflied
4 tbsp Virgin rapeseed oil, melted butter or neutral oil
2 tbsp Honey
1 tbsp Sherry or cider vinegar
- Grind the first ingredients to a coarse powder in a pestle & mortar.
- Rub the muntjac all over with the oil or butter, then season all over with the rub.
- Leave for 2-4 hours to marinade and temper at room temperature.
- Preheat the grill to high and place the meat in a grill tray, lined in tin foil. Colour until deep golden, with the meat close to the grill, approx 5-8 mins on each side, depending on the strength of the grill.
- Remove from the grill and place on a warm rack over another tray and cover loosely with tin foil. Leave to rest for 10 mins then probe the temperature. It should be 53-56C for medium rare.
- If it needs any longer, then place in a low-medium oven until it reached this.
- Warm the honey and vinegar then brush all over.
- Carve into thick slices and serve with the creamed root vegetables.