Samui Wining & Dining
Dear ,Oh Deer

Don’t be afraid, venison is surprisingly easy to prepare, cook, and eat.


2-3The word ‘venison’ comes from the Latin ‘venari’ which means to hunt. It originally described the meat of any game animal killed by hunting, but nowadays it‘s only used for deer.

      Deer meat has been important in the human diet since prehistoric times. They are ruminant animals belonging to the family Cervidae. They have antlers (rather than horns) and small stomachs. They don’t graze on grass like other antelope, choosing rather young leaves, shoots, lichens, berries, herbs, acorns, mushrooms, wild fruit and agriculture crops, like corn and soya bean.

      There is only one species of deer in which the female also has antlers, namely the reindeer (or caribou). The antlers of deer are the fastest growing living tissue on earth. Unlike horns, antlers are true bone and are composed primarily of calcium and phosphorus. They are shed and grown anew every year. They grow from pedicels located on the frontal bone of the skull, which begin growing at a couple months of age, and provide the base from which the antler will grow. Deer grow their first set of antlers when they are approximately one year old.

      The eyes of deer, being situated on the sides of their head, afford them a 310 degree view. They also have an excellent sense of smell, and can detect predators from a long distance away, clearly something which needs improving or we wouldn't be discussing how to cook them in this article.

     Venison is just as versatile as beef and can be eaten as steaks, roasts, sausages, jerky (dried meat eaten as a snack), and minced meat. Its flavour is very similar to that of beef, but is richer and more 'gamey'. It has a finer texture, and is leaner than beef, although its age has an influence on its tenderness - the younger the animal, the more tender the meat. Older animals need to be aged first before eating. Marinating can help tenderise an older animal - a couple of hours in vinegar at room temperature, or overnight in buttermilk is sure to do the trick. Venison burgers are, in fact, so lean that they often require additional fat or blending with beef, to achieve the taste and texture of a normal burger.

      As with most meats, certain cuts lend themselves to certain methods of cooking or preparation. Here are some tips for choosing the best cut:

       For roasting, choose a whole fillet, saddle, loin, haunch, or shoulder. For grilling, barbecuing, or frying, choose loin steaks (either medallions or filet mignon), shoulder steaks, or haunch steaks like topside or silverside. For braising and pot-roasting, choose the haunch (either on the bone, or boned and rolled), shoulder, or shank (foreleg). For stews and casseroles, choose the shin or a boneless shoulder. Venison liver is also good to eat, with a sweet flavour and a tender texture. It can be gently fried, or eaten in pâtés or terrines.

         Venison has higher iron levels than any other red meat, and even contains omega 3 fats (the healthy fats usually found in oily fish). While most animal meats are high in saturated fat, wild game meats have a low fat content (which makes them a good option for people on a reduced fat diet). Venison has three times less cholesterol than beef, and has just one gram of saturated fat per 113g, compared to beef’s four grams. Because it's lower in fat, it is also lower in calories. The protein levels are the same - using the 113g example above, both venison and beef steak contain about 24 grams of protein. So all in all, venison is definitely the healthier option.

         When buying venison, try and go for wild venison, or at least free range if possible. The strength of flavour and fat content can vary quite substantially between free range and farmed meat.

         As far as cooking venison goes, it's as easy as cooking beef. The only extra consideration is the low fat content, so ensure you use moist-cooking methods (like stews or pot-roasts) or marinate before cooking. If you choose a ‘dry’ method, such as roasting, try to avoid overcooking, or serve with a sauce. Flavours that work very well with venison include juniper, gin, red wine, port, rosemary and redcurrant.

         The internet is full of delicious recipes using venison from rich stews with red wine, to Thai recipes using coconut cream, ginger and galangal. There is also talk of a deer farm in Issan, which sells meat locally as well as exporting it. So really, even though deer aren’t native to Thailand, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to find it here.

         After all, with all its health claims, it’s nice to eat something that is actually good for you.


Colleen Setchell


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