The most straight forward approach to reindeer is to pretend it's prime fillet of venison or beef and either fry it as steaks or medallions or roast it quickly in one piece. An optional overnight bath in a combination of wine, juniper berries and winter herbs adds a luxurious touch to the dark leanness of the meat and forms the basis of a good red wine sauce.
Alternatively, the authentic Swedish recipe below dispenses with the marinade and involves a good, hot searing followed by ten minutes in a lowish oven and results in rare, juicy meat which can be adapted to all kinds of sauces and garnishes. As it stands it's a sophisticated, restaurant-quality dish with a big wow-factor, but it can easily be simplified for a quieter occasion.
You might, for instance, use red wine instead of port, sprouts instead of cabbage and instead of the potato cake, roasties or indulgent Janssons Temptation. And why not look to the nearer North for a starter of Yorkshire pudding, suffused with some of the sauce?
Note: If Rudolf really is out of bounds, rare-breed farmer and ace winemaker David Hohnen of Margaret River winery McHenry Hohnen makes the excellent suggestion that Scottish-farmed roe or red deer is an excellent alternative, grazing, as he says on much the same 'sub Arctic fodder' that makes reindeer meat taste so wild and aromatic. Either way, you'll find a Californian zinfandel a terrific match.
The source of this recipe is Det Svenska Matåret (The Swedish Food Year),compiled by Sweden's National Chef Team, in collaboration with Tore Wretman, a leading authority on Swedish cuisine. The recipe serves 4.
- 800g outer fillet of reindeer trimmed of any sinew or fat (reserve the trimmings)
- 2 tbsp butter
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 pinch of freshly ground black pepper
For the sauce
- 10 button mushrooms - about 100g
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 tbsp oil
- 25g cubed carrot
- 25g cubed celeriac
- 25g chopped onion
- 25g chopped leek
- 3 tbsp port
- 1 tsp tomato purée
- 500 ml good beef stock
- 1 sprig thyme or a pinch dried thyme
- Salt and pepper
- 1 tsp arrowroot (you may not need it)
- 1 small Savoy cabbage
- 2 large carrots - about 200g
- 1 daikon/large white radish - about
For the potato cake
- 400g potatoes
- 3 tbsp clarified butter
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 pinch pepper
- 200ml gruyere cheese
- Chop the mushrooms roughly and the garlic finely. Brown both in the oil with the reserved sinew and fat from the reindeer, celeriac, carrot, onion and leek.
- Add the port and reduce until nearly completely dry.
- Stir in the tomato puree and the stock. Let it boil and skim off the top
Add the herbs and season.
- Simmer gently until reduced to about 300ml.
- Strain, and if it feels too thin, thicken with the arrowroot, dissolved in a little water. Season again, to taste.
The Potato Cake
- Heat the oven to 175°C/350°F/Gas 4.
- Peel the potatoes and cut into 1mm slices. Turn and coat them in the clarified butter and season them. Butter a round ovenproof dish and lay the potato slices in the dish overlapping each other. Cover each layer with some of the cheese. Finish with a layer of cheese. Bake for 50 minutes.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 150°C/300°F/Gas 2. Loosen the cake by running a palette knife around the circumference and turn it out by inverting a serving plate over the dish and flipping the whole thing upside-down. Cut into slices and keep warm.
- Detach 12 nice looking savoy leaves and blanch them. Cool immediately in iced water to stop the cooking and fix the colour.
- Peel the carrots and daikon and cut into long thin strips, about 1cm wide, to resemble pasta ribbons. Boil in lightly salted water until soft, and drain.
- Heat the butter in an ovenproof pan, and brown the fillet really well on all sides. Season well with salt and pepper.
- Transfer the reindeer fillet to the oven and roast for 10 minutes. Cover it with foil and let it rest.
- In a shallow pan, melt the butter and cook the prepared savoy cabbage, then the carrot and daikon ribbons until just tender-crisp.
- Let the reindeer rest a few minutes before carving on the diagonal into thick medallions.
- Place the reindeer on the savoy cabbage and pour over the sauce. Add a slice of potato cake to each plate and garnish with the vegetable ribbons.