One of my ex-chefs and friend Joe is now a butcher at the beautiful produce store 'Source' in Bristol (www.source-food.co.uk). They get in whole animals and break them down for sale and for cooking in the attached cafe. Last time I visited, Joe pointed out a rack of Fallow Deer at the absolutely bargainous price of £10 a kilo. I got an 8 rib rack for just over a fiver - a mistake surely?
It has taken me a while to come up with a worthy recipe for this prime cut of meat. Racks of lamb are far more common and there are a million recipes for using that cut, but I wanted to do something more unusual. Given that the eye of meat at the end of the rib bone is the fillet, I got to thinking about a Wellington as this traditionally uses fillet steak. It is quite tricky to get the pastry cooked and still keep the small eye of the meat pink - I only just caught it in time. Invest in a cheap probe thermometer to ensure you get the cooking degree perfect.
2x 4 rib rack of fallow deer or venison
500g field mushrooms or a mushroom mix including some wild mushrooms
1/2 tsp picked fresh thyme
2 banana shallots, peeled and roughly chopped
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
Butter - 50g
1/2 packet of ready made all butter puff pastry
1 egg, beaten
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Ask your butcher to prep the rack of deer for you. Ask for it to be french trimmed with chine bone removed. When you get the rack home trim any sinew, fat or skin so you are left with a perfectly lean eye of meat and nice clean rib bones.
Next make your mushroom mix. Chuck the shallots and garlic in a food processor and blitz until very finely chopped but not a puree. In a large roomy frying pan, gently fry the shallot mix in the butter until starting to colour. Toss the mushrooms in the food processor and blitz to the same consistency as the shallots. Add to the frying pan with the shallots and turn the heat up to medium. Cook out for 10 to 15 mins until you are left with a dryish paste. add the port and thyme then bubble to nothing. It is important to drive off as much water as possible for two reasons, firstly it intensifies the mushroom flavour, secondly it will stop your pastry going soggy. Season the mushroom mix and set aside to cool.
Now the tricky bit. Roll out half the pastry (1/4 of a packet) to the thickness of a penny. Spread half the cooled mushroom mix in the centre of the pastry in a square shape. Season the rack then poke the rib bones through the pastry in the centre of the square wrapping the pastry around the meat. The aim is to seal the pastry underneath the meat with the ribs sticking straight up. The square of mushroom mix should completely encased the meat once wrapped in pastry (see photo). Trim excess pastry and using the egg wash, seal the pastry underneath - you will need to gently cajole the pastry around the meat. Egg wash the whole thing and then chill in the fridge for at least an hour or until required. Pre-heat your oven to 225c and bake for 12 to 15 mins until the core temperature of the meat registers 60c on a probe thermometer. Half way through the cooking I like to egg wash the Wellington again so it goes really glossy.
Allow to rest for 5 to 10 mins the serve with Jersey new potatoes and seasonal veg. I also made a little sauce from some beef stock and more port reduced to a light syrup.