We were having four days off due to the November 1 public holiday, for All Saints and All Souls, preceded by Halloween evening, and on the market there were many kinds of pumpkins. It is also the hunting season and I had a roast of deer, or venison. French markets often have venison in season, I also saw a leg of boar with one of the butchers.
In France, there are 1.3 million hunters and every year there are some 30 million animals killed. Mostly pigeon, pheasant, rabbit and duck. However, most of this bounty stays within the hunting groups or villages and gives rise to traditional venison meals. The venison on sale on French markets often also comes from other European countries (Belgium, Poland, England) or beyond (Ukraine). A label on the animal should show its origin. A house-like contour with an F means that it is French, hunted, venison while if the F is in an oblong contour is it “tame’ venison reared in France or elsewhere in the European Community.
All venison has a strong taste and can be tough to eat. Often the meat is marinated to make it more tender. The “doe roast”, or roti de biche in French, is relatively tender and does not need to be marinated. The roast I bought was very neatly tied up with strips of fat along the sides.
I used a “roasting bag” of plastic that prevents roasts from getting dry as it traps steam and taste inside. Without such a bag, it can be done in a dish, with regular basting. I chose pumpkin because of Halloween and added three kinds of carrots. In France there is a revival of “forgotten vegetables” and carrots are available in strange forms and various colours. I used red, yellow and white carrots. The red carrots have a very dominant colouring which gives off to the cooking water. They are best cooked apart or else the other carrots get painted red.
- 1 roti de biche (750 grammes)
- Bottle of red wine (Macon)
- 12 large carrots of various colours
- A big slice of pumpkin
- 20 chestnuts
- Two onions
- Star aniseed
- A bunch of aromatic herbs (bouquet garni)
- Chilli peppers
- Butter/olive oil
- Take the roast out of its wrapping, collect the bloody liquid.
- Put on paper napkins and, if it was in the fridge, allow it to come to room temperature.
- Clean the carrots and cut in uneven parts.
- Take the wiry texture out of the heart of the pumpkin, peel and dice.
- Make a cross-like incision in the bottom of the chestnuts, put them in a heat-proof dish and set in the oven for at least 20 minutes at 175 °C.
- After that time, test if the shells have let loose, if not; continue, if yes; take out and let cool.
- Slice the onion in half and stick cloves in them.
- Put in a pan with a crushed clove of garlic, a piece of peeled ginger, star aniseed, aromatic herbs and chilli peppers.
- Add water and bring to the boil, after 15 minutes, add half a bottle of red wine and continue cooking, and reducing, for another 15 minutes.
- Pour the liquid though a sieve and set aside.
- At this point, you need 45-60 minutes to finish and you can take a break until about an hour before the meal.
- The oven needs to be preheated at 200 °C.
- Put the roast in the plastic bag, add the “mulled-wine” liquid, tie the bag securely (the bag will balloon so do not give it too much volume or it may burst against hot parts of the oven).
- Put the bag in a heat-proof glassware dish and set in the over, reduce heat to 180 °C.
- Put the carrots and pumpkin in several pans of water, add salt and cook. When the chestnuts have cooled down, peel them and remove the flimsy pellicle.
- After about 25/30 minutes if you like the roast pink or 35-40 minutes if you prefer it well done, take the roast out of the oven.
- Open the bag – taking care to avoid getting scorched by the heat – and take out the meat and put on paper napkins to rest.
- Pour the liquid in a pan and reduce at high heat to get a sauce (taste at start but do not add any pepper or salt until the very end because the reduction of the sauce will concentrate the taste).
- Drain the carrots and pumpkin.
- After at least 15 minutes of rest, slice the roast.
- Present surrounded by carrots and pumpkin, add sauce and chestnuts.