I have been getting into game salads recently. You can serve up a lovely warm starter by just cooking some meat and tossing it in some salad leaves, to gently wilt them. I fashioned this warm venison salad with some blue cheese, apple and celery. Kind of like a Waldorf salad. Venison, especially from a young roe deer, has a surprisingly mild flavour compared to other game meats, and is quite versatile, meaning you can easily pair it with many different things.
Instead of a salad dressing, I've added butter, parsley and garlic to the roasting juices from the frying pan I cooked the venison in to create an enriched butter sauce of sorts. In terms of the cut of venison to use, it doesn't matter too much. I used venison haunch (from the hind leg), but you could use any cut you can get your hands on.
Venison, Apple and Blue Cheese Salad Recipe
Heat the oven to 180C. Heat a large heavy-based pan over a medium-high heat, and once it's hot, add a drizzle of vegetable oil. Whilst you're waiting for the pan to come up to temperature, season the venison steak all over with salt and pepper, then add to the pan. Cook the steak, turning periodically until the steak is lightly browned all over, then place in the oven. Depending on the thickness of the steak, it will probably take between 2 and 5 minutes for medium rare. You can judge the doneness by squeezing the steak gently with your finger and thumb – it should be soft, but not jelly-like. It's hard to describe exactly how you'll know when it's done, and there is a kind of intuition that you'll develop with practice. Alternatively, you can use a meat thermometer and cook it until it reaches 62C in the centre. Remove from the pan, and allow to rest on a rack.
You should have some tasty pan residue from cooking the venison. Add the butter to the still-hot pan. Once it's melted, add the parsley and garlic. Cook gently for about 30 seconds, being careful to not let the garlic burn, then set aside whilst you prepare the rest of the salad.
Use a melon baller to scoop out rounds from the apple. Cut the blue cheese into chunks. Add to a bowl with the spinach leaves and celery leaves, and add a little olive oil and vingear. Season lightly with salt and pepper, and toss to combine. When the venison is thoroughly rested (it should be warm, but not hot), cut it into chunky dice and add to the bowl along with a little of the the melted garlic butter from the pan. Toss the salad, then serve. Drizzle a little more of the melted butter over the salad, then serve.