A FEW years ago we did a wedding for Tom Chaplin, lead singer in a band called Keane. There were a number of well-known guests, including Denise Van Outen (whom I worked with on The Big Breakfast) and Chris Martin from Coldplay.
As Chris plays for one of the biggest bands in the world I was surprised when he walked in, shook my hand and said, “Hi Steve.”
It turned out he is a foodie and had watched me on TV’s Ready Steady Cook. I was very flattered, as I love Coldplay.
Anyway, one of the dishes on the menu was venison with a bitter chocolate jus. This isn’t a new idea. In Mexico, where turkeys originated, they are traditionally served with spicy chocolate. Modern-day Michelin star chefs often use chocolate (cacao) in savoury dishes. My colleague, Claude Bosi, even uses white chocolate with white asparagus at Hibiscus, his Michelin two-star restaurant in London.
At Hotel Chocolat, which has restaurants for chocoholics in London and Leeds, the executive chef says: “We even smoke meat and fish over burning cocoa-bean shells, fry chips in cocoa butter and make cacao gin.”
Chocolate is very much the ingredient of the moment and not just a gimmick. Coincidentally, venison with chocolate and red currants is on my October menu at The Little Geranium in La Cala.
So back to Chris Martin, who chose my slow-cooked venison with dark chocolate juices and blackcurrants.
“Steve, that dish really tingled my taste buds,” he said.
“Chris, your music tingles my emotions,’ I replied.
As I spoke, he sort of slipped and fell against the wall, cracking the glass in the picture behind him.
“Are you okay?”
“Sure,” Chris answered. “I am sorry; I’ll pay for the damage.”
“The combination of great food with chocolate and wine is playing with my brain,” he added, laughing out loud.
“Chocolate has that effect on the brain,” I said. “Maybe you should rename your band Chocplay!”
“Sounds like a gay band,” Chris joked, then Tom came over and pinched his bottom.
Chris left £20 in reception to pay for the broken picture but I never repaired it.
Instead I added a notice beneath saying ‘glass specially designed by Chris Martin & Gwyneth Paltrow’. It became a talking point! Although I guess I owe Chris 20 quid!
Saddle of venison with chocolate jus & blackcurrants
Ingredients for 4
• 1 loin of venison fillet or 4 x 250g venison steaks (available in some good supermarkets, AlCampo and Corte Ingles)
• 50g dark chocolate
• 1 tablespoon cacao powder
• 500ml red wine stock made from beef stock*
• 50g unsalted butter
• 1 glass of red wine for the sauce1 small punnet of fresh black currants or red currants
• Fresh basil leaves to finish
• Maldon salt and black pepper
* At The Little Geranium we make a venison stock from the bones but you can use regular beef stock from a basic stock and then add the cooking juices of the venison for similar results.
It is important to get the sauce right so make the stock well and add lots of red wine.
Reduce the stock on a high heat and, while reducing, season the venison well with salt and pepper. Seal the venison on all sides for 2 minutes in a hot frying pan, then set aside.
Pour the juices from this pan into your red wine stock and whisk in the butter and red wine.
Now add the chocolate in cubes, continuing to whisk. Taste and add the cacao powder little by little until you have a distinct chocolate flavour but not sweet. Reduce the sauce vigorously
Put the venison back in the pan or pre-heated oven and cook for approximately 15 minutes for a 1kg piece (or four minutes if using 250g steaks). Check that the meat is cooked medium-to-rare and cut into 1cm slices. Season it again well with Maldon salt and pepper.
Serve the venison with a little of the sauce, sprinkled with the blackcurrants and a few leaves of fresh basil.