Thursday, 29 January 2015

The game is on!

Though I have more friends with dietary restrictions than I have patience, is The African Cousin (blessed with the looks of Mike Tyson and the physique of Mariah Carey's body guard) always a grateful dinner guest. He. Eats. Everything. And is particularly famous his endless appetite for meat. "Sometime's you've just gotta have some!" he explains, gesturing with his hands and making sounds I can only imagine a bulimic hyena, ravaging a three-legged antelope would emit. And sure enough, I understand. 

A little while back as I was doing the Saturday shop at Hakaniemi Market (my favourite in Helsinki!), I found myself in the throes of even more selective craving: that for game. The idea of tearing into a chunk of meat from, say, a wild boar got me all... well, wild. Couldn't get my hands on any though, so I had to make do with ground venison. Though.. these babies were so good "having to make do" just won't do at all.

Eggs as a binder tend to result in a hard texture (as does frozen mince), so I used cream in mine to give the venison (lean as it is) more richness and moisture with cream. Fresh rosemary and dried cranberries give it a little bit more of a wintry oomph.

Start the prep from the cranberry sauce that you'll need later on for glazing the balls, though, if you want to cook the balls in the sauce (as you would with these Spanish meatballs!), go ahead and double the amount. 

Cranberry sauce:

1 dl red wine (soft, with some berriness)
1 sprig of rosemary
the juice of 1,5 oranges (1,5 dl juice)
220 g frozen cranberries 
4 tbsp brown sugar
50 g butter

Measure red wine into a pot with rosemary. Bring to boil and cook for a couple of minutes. Pour in the orange juice, sugar and cranberries. Simmer over gentle heat for about 20 minutes until the sauce has started to reduce. Drain (don't forget to scoop out the pulp from underneath the sieve). Add butter whisking until the sauce smooth. Check the taste and add more sugar if needed.

Cranberry, rosemary and venison meatballs (makes 20)

1 thick slice of white bread with crust removed (or 1 dl bread crumbs)
1,5-2 dl cream (depending on the amount and dryness of the bread - if using bread crumbs, go for 2 dl) 
1 red onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 tbsp finely chopped (fresh) rosemary
0,75 dl dried, soft cranberries, roughly chopped
500 g ground venison
2 tsp salt
1,5 tsp black pepper
pinch of allspice

Soak the bread (crumbs) in cream until soggy and soft. Sauté onion in a bit of butter/ oil. Combine with bread mixture and pour in cranberries and rosemary. Knead in meat and season. If you have the time, let rest in the fridge for half an hour, but if you don't, go ahead and start rolling away.

Roll into 20 meatballs and cook either in a mixture of oil and butter on a hot pan or in the oven at 200 for 10 minutes. Then good thing about the oven is that all the balls will be ready at the same time. Then pour them into a pan, top with the cranberry sauce making sure all the balls are covered and finish cooking in the sauce. Keep an eye on it to make sure it won't burn as it reduces.

Serve with creamy root veggie hash.

Lately (simply as a token of our solidarity with freedom of speech!) we've been going through French wines. For this dish we tried Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Moulin Teyroud) which is always a classic choice with anything gamey and Le Grande Noir's Cabernet-Syrah.

Though a fine wine (isn't CdP always?) you're better off reverving for something more robust and gamey. Great wine nonetheless - much like that Dom Perignon, this was enough to make us forgive France for Vichy government, crimes of colonial era and Johnny Halliday. 

The juicy berriness of Cabernet-Syrah on the other hand complimented the red berries in the sauce and in the balls and worked with the gentle gameyness of venison, too. Such soft tannins I would even recommend it to someone normally hesitant about reds.




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