Game on

Venison loin with spätzle and red cabbage

So Le Cordon Bleu have grouped Austria in with Germany. The cardinal sin.

There are 4 Germans on the team. No Austrians. I try to wind them up given my adopted nationality and limited knowledge of all things Austrian. Have you seen the movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding? Gus Portokalos, the father, steadfastly claims everything was invented by Greeks. I follow suit and argue that everything was invented by the Austrians.

This was one of those days when you turn up to the demo and you’re greeted by a huge slab of meat smiling at you. Today it was a whole loin of venison. It’s great watching chef do some butchering. I wish they’d incorporate butchering primary cuts into the curriculum for students.

Primary cut of venison loin

Butchering the venison loin

First things first. Venison bones in the oven to brown. Red cabbage was cut chiffonade to ensure it cooked in the 2 hours. Into the pan with a Braeburn apple, orange zest and juice, brown sugar, red currant jelly, cider vinegar and water. Like cooking rice with the absorption method, it’s important to get the proportion of water correct. That way when the water has evaporated the cabbage is perfectly cooked and ready to serve.

A jus was built slowly from the bones, with caramelised mirepoix, juniper berries, black peppercorns, a Bouquet Garni, red wine and brown veal stock. To be reduced later to the old coating consistency.

Spätzle are small, irregular pasta-like dumpling things made by dropping a thick, elastic batter through a Spätzle hopper or Spätzlehobel into hot water. The batter is simply flour, egg, milk, salt and in this case nutmeg. Chef said the term Spätzle means Little Sparrow. Swabian origin apparently—a southern region of Germany that’s west of Bavaria, bordering Switzerland. The little batter-bombs sank then almost immediately resurfaced and floated indicating they were done. They were drained and refreshed in ice water and laid out to dry.

Pieces of venison loin

I trimmed the venison, removing any silver skin, and portioned into steaks. These were fried in oil to get colour. Then copious butter and sprigs of thyme joined in. Baste. Baste. Baste. It felt very cheffy to stand there for 10 minutes, throwing foaming butter over the steaks with a large spoon, turning them every minute to ensure an even cook all around, and testing them with a prod or a squeeze to feel if they’re at medium-rare. When basting for that long it’s critical to maintain the foam and nuttiness of the beurre noisette, and avoid the butter solids burning. This is done by adding a teaspoon of cold water now and again. FTW. Rest. Carve. Rest again.

Time to finish the Spätzle. Rather than just pass the Spätzle through melted butter they were to be crisped in beurre noisette. I looked at my Germans friends. They looked at me. Agog. We were united in our WTF. Parsley was then added.

Plate up. Cabbage in a ring. Spätzle around. Sauce over cabbage. Carved venison on top. Good to go.

In demo, Chef also prepared Apple Strudel. The aim was make the biggest one yet. This meant getting peeps involved to help stretch the dough and roll it. Hilarious. Like one of those out-of-control challenges involving food on the Generation Game with Larry Grayson.

I can’t help it. The end result does not look appetising. Does it? I think it’s the cylindrical shape and the odd curve. Reminds me of —blank—. Grin. That said, the pastry was really, really nice. All it needed was a hug of custard. It was getting late on a Friday and we failed to devour Nessy’s limb. Chef said what’s left would go into the bin so 4 portions came home with me. They went into the freezer for Roberta. Now I have the perfect excuse to make too much custard. Oops. Oh well. Nom. Mmmm.

Apple Strudel