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Mrs Portly's Suffolk Pantry

PUBLISHED: 11:04 07 January 2015 | UPDATED: 11:04 07 January 2015

Linda Duffin

Linda Duffin

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Linda Duffin's New Year quest for something healthy that actually tastes good leads her to local venison

Mrs Portly - Venison on the plateMrs Portly - Venison on the plate

You always know it’s New Year by the number of fliers for gyms and slimming clubs that flop through your letterbox. I confess they make my heart sink.

I’ve tried, I really have. I even went on a fitness holiday once. But the food was so good I weighed in heavier at the end of the week than I did at the start. The fitness instructor tried to tell me it was because muscle weighs more than fat, but we both knew the truth.

The trouble is, dieting is dull, slimming recipes are often deeply uninspiring, and the idea of starving myself twice a week on the 5:2 diet really doesn’t appeal. I’m not that keen on healthy exercise either, these days. I walk the Golden Kitchen Triangle on a regular basis – from fridge to stove to sink. That seems ample. My alter ego isn’t called Mrs Portly for nothing.

But my wardrobe is full of clothes I no longer fit into. At this rate I won’t even fit into the wardrobe.

Mrs Portly - venison cookedMrs Portly - venison cooked

I want something healthy to offset the Christmas stodge, but still zinging with flavour. I want something quicker to cook than a blinking turkey. And I’d like to buy local.

Venison is low in fat, high in appetite-sating protein and packed full of B vitamins. Loin steaks cook in minutes. Mine came from the Wild Meat Company at Blaxhall near Woodbridge (http://www.wildmeat.co.uk). Pomegranates, though imported, are a good source of vitamins A, C and E, iron and antioxidants.

That’s the healthy, quick and (mostly) local bits taken care of. Now for the flavour . . .

Seared venison loin with pomegranate sauce (serves 2)

Pomegranate molasses is a fabulous Ingredient, simultaneously sweet, sour and fruity and helps make a piquant sauce to drizzle over the venison. The sauce is more of an accent than a pour-it-all-over-and-mop-it-up-with-bread thing, so a juicy salad is good on the side. Please see below for suggestions.

Ingredients

2 venison loin steaks, about 100g each

1 tbsp olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper

50ml clear beef or chicken stock

50ml 100% pomegranate juice

2tbsp pomegranate molasses

2 tspn honey (+ more, to taste)

Seeds from one fresh pomegranate, to serve

Method

Rub venison steaks with oil and season well. Put to one side to come up to room temperature.

Extract seeds from the pomegranates. The easiest way to do this is to cut them into quarters, place in a big bowl of water and ease seeds out with your fingers. Most of the annoying white pith will float to the surface.

Drain seeds and set aside in a covered bowl. Mix pomegranate molasses and juice, honey and chicken stock in a small plan and place over a medium-high heat. Reduce rapidly, stirring, until sauce is glossy and syrupy. It should take 10-15 minutes. Taste and add more honey if necessary and set aside.

Heat a griddle pan until smoking and add the venison steaks. Cook for about two minutes on the first side, then flip over and cook for a minute and a half more for rare to medium. Remove steaks from pan and allow to rest for at least five minutes. Gently reheat sauce, carve venison into thick slices and drizzle the sauce over. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and serve with a bitter radicchio salad mixed with orange segments and a citrus vinaigrette, or with peppery rocket and watercress. Saffron rice makes a welcome addition if, like my husband, you have no need to count calories.

Linda Duffin is a Suffolk-based food writer who likes to cook and eat seasonally and locally. She blogs as her alter ego Mrs Portly at http://mrsportlyskitchen.wordpress.com.

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