Tag Archives: Venison

Alimentum – Cambridge

“I haven’t been to many Michelin star restaurants in my life, but I think I need to start going to some more if this is what happens!”

It was a celebration, The Flame and I had notched up twenty-seven years of wedlock. A weekend in Cambridge seemed like a plan. I bagged a late spot at Alimentum, one of Cambridge’s Michelin starred restaurants. Its headed up by Mark Poynton, a celebrated chef who recently did a special stint in Manchester’s Iberica. I missed that one.

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We normally like to eat early, say seven, seven thirty but we could only get an eight thirty slot. A couple of ‘liveners’ in some of this beautiful city’s famous pubs and we set off with a gentle stroll to Hills Road. A touch to The Flame’s annoyance I hadn’t thought it fully through. It was a good half hour from the centre. Perhaps a taxi would have been a better idea!

Unlike much of the ancient city, Alimentum is set at the base of a modern tower block close to the railway station. We ventured in, fairly ravenous from an early lunch. We were warmly met, coats dispensed and placed at our table. Our table was set in front of a large envelope shaped window with a glorious view of the brigade preparing the nights food. I was totally thrilled.

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View from the table

The room is elegance personified, red is the featured hue giving a wonderful warmth to the modern room. Ivories were being tinkled. Just needed a pair of slippers to complete the relaxation process!

We settled on an aperitif of sherry to start before perusing the stark, black on white menu. A thing of graphical beauty. We decided to forego the seven course taster (£80 each) on account of the time and stick to the three course a la carte (£70 each). The choices are simply described using single words to highlight the main elements. No lyrical waxing here!

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Amouse bouche first, lancashire cheese bon bons (I think) and some incredible black cuttlefish things set in a box of architectural gravel. Seconds of aural pleasure. For the first course The Flame went for Mackerel (scorched, bolognese, celeriac and cuttlefish tagliatelle). It was a mere morsel really, set in a huge copper coloured bowl, it was thoroughly loved though.

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The starts, bon bons, bread, veloute

I went for Eel (smoked, duck liver, apple, dandelion, truffle). The eel came set in cubes dotted about the plate around the liver of duck. The accompanying globules and shreds of flavour completing the stunning effect.  A veloute of mushroom washed it down.

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Mackerel, Eel

Our second course was halibut and venison. The flames Halibut (pumpkin, oxtail, savoy cabbage) was crushed in pumpkin seeds and pistachio. A croquette of ox tail complete with smears of green completed the picture. My saddle of Venison (prune, chestnut, blue cheese, girolles) was set on a glossy glaze of chestnut and prune. A cigar of ‘wonderfulness’ encased the blue cheese. Utterly tremendous dish. I was genuinely upset when the last morsel went in. A mouth cleansing dollop of ‘gin and tonic’ prepared us for the dessert.

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Venison, Halibut

I simply went Lemon (curd, white chocolate, fennel) whilst The Flame went for cheese. The lemon and chocolate was dolloped with precision, the fennel slice, perhaps arranged to represent the many university buildings in the town? Added a savoury touch. The cheese board was a classic and was beautifully described and presented. The Flame chose well. Smoked, blue, soft, hard and creamy, all English and superb.

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Cheese, gin and tonic, Lemon

Coffee, brandy and petit fours were delivered to round off. The bill with tip added came in at just over £200. A snip for this quality. It is sadly quite rare that we eat like this, so I can’t compare to many. The French (reviewed here) probably shades it and Ormer (reviewed here) are pretty much the only other dining experiences of this ilk. Alimentum delivered a superb evening, fully befitting the occasion. Go if you can….

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Alimentum
152-154 Hills Road
Cambridge
CB2 8PB
T  01223 413000
http://www.restaurantalimentum.co.uk

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Raised Game Pies – Gordon Ramsay

“Add game to your repertoire and you will open up a whole new world of delicious recipes”

The ingredients (without the eggs, sage & a few other bits)
The ingredients (without the eggs, sage & a few other bits)

I copied this recipe from a Sunday Times magazine years ago. The recipe was by one time golden boy Gordon Ramsay. He’s seems to have had a bit of a rough time of it lately but I reckon he’s still got it. I’ve made these pies a few times and they never fail. As he says in the opening spiel above, mastering game really does open up the flavour stakes. As he also says water crust pastry is easy to make and work with and mastering these pies will ensure you never have a supermarket pork pie ever again!

Ingredients

makes 4

250g mixture of game, such as loin of venison, partridge, pheasant or guinea fowl breasts (I got a tray of mixed game from my local butcher Red Bank Farm)
60g smoked bacon, chopped
200g sausage meat
2 eggs, beaten
1-2 tsp each freshly chopped parsley and sage
Grated zest of half a lemon
5 juniper berries, finely ground
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

for the water crust pastry
250g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
½ tsp fine sea salt
1 egg
50g unsalted butter
50g lard
85ml water

Begin by making the pastry. Sift the flour and salt into a mixing bowl and make a well in the middle. Crack the egg into the middle and sprinkle over some of the flour to cover. Put the butter, lard and water in a small pan over a gentle heat. Once the butter and lard have melted, increase the heat and bring to the boil.

Mixing everything up!
Mixing everything up!

Pour the boiling water and fat around the edge of the bowl and quickly stir in using a palette knife. Knead the dough lightly until smooth, then wrap in clingfilm. Rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Trim the game meat of any fat or sinew, then cut into 1cm cubes. Mix with the bacon, sausage meat, one of the beaten eggs, herbs, lemon zest and crushed juniper berries, and season with salt and pepper. Divide into 4 portions and roll into balls.

Reserve one third of the pastry for making the pie lids, wrapped in clingfilm in the fridge. Roll the remaining pastry out on a lightly floured work surface to a 2-3mm thickness. Cut out 4 circles, 14cm in diameter, using a saucer as a template., (I use a cereal bowl) Place a ball of stuffing in the middle of each pastry disc. Press the stuffing gently to flatten at the base slightly.

Making the pies. They might look a mess but they taste awesome!
Making the pies. They might look a mess but they taste awesome!

Roll the reserved pastry to the same thickness as before and cut out 4 lids, 7cm in diameter (I use a cup)  Place a lid over the top of the stuffing. Wet the rim of the larger pastry disc, then mould it up and around the filling to meet the lid. Curl the edge of the lid up to meet the top inside edge of the pie case and press together to seal. Repeat with the others, then chill for about 30 minutes until the pastry feels firm.

A final brush with egg wash.
A final brush with egg wash.

Preheat the oven to 190C/Gas 5. Make a neat steam hole in the centre of each pie lid with a skewer. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove the pies from the oven and reduce the temperature to 170C/Gas 3. Brush the pies evenly with the remaining beaten egg, then bake for a further 20-30 minutes until the pastry is cooked and the centre of the pie is piping hot. Allow the pies to cool on a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature with piccalilli.