We are all familiar with the long-standing conventions of using different sauces to partner with different meats. What I find interesting is the regionality that lies behind those. There’s a crossover of the regions where animals were finding their food, what was growing there, and then the flavours and traditions of what goes with what. Our accompaniments are just capitalising on and enhancing the way the region’s natural produce would flavour the meats through the diets of the animals.
Mint sauce with lamb? That stems from the Welsh valleys that were abundant with mint and where their sheep would graze. Florence White’s Good Things in England includes a recipe for prune sauce to go with venison or mutton which I think must be at least partly rooted in sheep and deer enjoying plums that fell from the countryside’s trees.
The wild fruits that grow in areas where sheep herds grazed have also played their part in building flavour affinities. Barberry, blackberry, redcurrant, bilberry or rowan jellies are each terrific with lamb or mutton – and venison.
Blackberry and thyme jelly for venison
I like this partnership of the fruit with the mountain herb most associated with areas where deer would strut their stuff – thyme.
1 large apples – peeled, cored and cut into pieces
a couple of sprigs of thyme
approx 130g sugar
1. Put the blackberries into a large pan and give them a few presses of a potato masher. Add the apple, thyme and 1.5tbsps water. Cook on a high heat for 15-20 mins until the fruit is tender. Strain through a jelly bag or double layer of muslin for a couple of hours.
2. Weigh out 65g of sugar for each 100ml of juice you have. Pour both the juice and sugar into a pan and boil on high for 8 minutes or so until a little of it jellifies when dripped onto a cold saucer. Leave to cool – it will be set enough to use within 15 mins.