Professional cookery students get a masterclass in venison

November 2014

Professional cookery students were given a masterclass in venison by a deer stalker and a visiting head chef.

The session featured a “Do’s and Don’ts” buying guide for new chefs, a demonstration of deer butchery skills and insights into the versatility of cooking with cheaper cuts of venison.

Deer stalker Ian Damms, who promotes young chef development for the Deer Industry of New Zealand, told VRQ Level 3 chefs and degree-level Culinary Arts Management students about the six deer species in the UK – Chinese Water Deer, Muntjac, roe, fallow, sika and red deer.

Damms explained how the different species have different seasons in which they can be shot, as part of deer management plans, and warned about problems with poaching. “If a poacher shoots a red deer, it could be £100 in the pocket for them but as a chef you shouldn’t touch it,” said Damms.

Buying illegally shot venison posed risks to countryside management and consumer health due to contamination, he said.

“If you take in poached venison, potentially anything that animal has touched can be seized by the police,” said Damms. “If the animal has gone in your car or your freezer, they can be seized.”

He said chefs should always:

  • check their supplier has been approved by environmental health officers
  • know the provenance of the carcass
  • verify the entry route for the shot as poor marksmanship can lead to infected meat
  • be wary of bruising on the animal which might indicate it has been inhumanely killed, or run over.

Damms conducted a butchery demonstration using a roe deer which was shot several days earlier at a National Trust estate near Bath. The students were invited to take part and gained first-hand knowledge of dividing the carcass into the main cuts.

New Zealand is the biggest supplier of farmed venison in the world with major markets in Germany, Belgium, Holland, Sweden, Switzerland, China and North America. The UK accounts for 4% of New Zealand’s production and chef Selin Kiazim has helped to promote the brand.

In the UK, venison striploin can cost £30 per kilo but Kiazim, who specialises in Mediterranean/Middle Eastern flavours, spoke to the group about the value to be found in cooking with less expensive cuts of venison. To prove the point, she produced two dishes with lean leg meat from farmed New Zealand deer.

As a simple “cook at home” dish, Kiazim, ex-head chef at Kopapa in Covent Garden, cooked spiced venison with a tomato and sherry vinegar sauce, chilli butter, yoghurt and pitta bread. For a restaurant-style option, she prepared honey-glazed venison, charred cabbage, shallot puree and sweet and sour dates.

The masterclass was arranged by John Penn, assistant dean of the University’s College of Food, as part of UCB’s additional student enrichment programme.

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