Article

Single minded: venison faggot, lentils and purple sprouting broccoli

Categories: Expert guidance

Too often, Ed Smith argues, recipes focus on feeding a crowd or cooking as a couple and overlook the joy that can be had in shopping and cooking for one. In a monthly series, he looks to redress this imbalance by taking the best of the Market’s offering and using it to come up with a recipe for one, that leaves minimal leftovers. This time: venison faggot braised in red wine with lentils, purple sprouting broccoli and tarragon vinaigrette

Picture the scene: a group of friends gather in an enviably appointed kitchen and together prepare a meal. A couple of people peel and chop vegetables for the roasting tin; another two make fresh pasta (you know, just like that); someone else opens some dips, plates Cantabrian anchovies, and cuts up a few crudités, laughing while they casually pass those things around as the others cook; and a sixth person brings the party together, opening and pouring bottles of wine, maybe making a G&T or two.

Lovely. Great. But also, a bit glossy, a bit ‘made for TV’, a bit unlikely to happen so smoothly at my house, pal.

I wonder whether this kind of scene—played out in adverts, TV shows, cookbooks—makes us feel as though we’ve got to have beautiful friends over for cooking to be a leisure activity worthy of our downtime; and by extension, that we can’t have the same kind of fun on our own.

Cooking solo
It’s the opposite for me. I prefer cooking solo (and for myself) to cooking communally. Let’s quietly pass over the fact I’m not very good at releasing control and sharing jobs and concentrate more on the fact that I (and maybe you?) enjoy whiling away an hour or so, pottering over a chopping board and stove with a podcast or playlist on, and a large glass of wine nearby. Sure, it’s good when things are quick and easy. But it’s generally better—both for the end result and for switching off—when there are a few different stages and some of them take a bit of time.

When it’s just me, I like a base I can chop things for and then watch put-putter away on the stove while I absent-mindedly stir. I like a centrepiece that needs (just) a little care, perhaps one that I can share some of my wine with (not too much), and then can sit without further faff when everything gets pulled together. I like a side that, because it’s just me without other distractions, I can devote a little time to at the end, so that it’s cooked and dressed to perfection.

Indeed, I had those three elements in mind on my most recent wander round the Market. I sorted the side dish first. Partly because the sides are often my starting point, but also because as I walked into the Market via Stoney Street, I couldn’t fail to see a box at Ted’s Veg rammed with purple sprouting broccoli (at its finest right now). I took what I needed for one portion (as I’ve mentioned before, one of the benefits of shopping at a produce market free of pre-weighed packages), plus a bunch of tarragon at the same time.

Put-puttering base
I was then caught by how Shellseekers’ venison and fish counters seem to have swapped from right to left, and that the venison one was particularly tempting, not least the house-made faggots wrapped in caul fat. They were plump and cheap and I needed only one. Though I regret not buying a few more for the freezer.

Finally, the put-puttering base element. I’d hoped Le Marche du Quartier would have puy lentils and though they weren’t on the shelves this time (in stock again soon), I was set on this pulse and fortunately found green ones at Spice Mountain. So all was well.

I say finally, but the actual final thing was the ingredient that would bring everything together—as liquid for braising the faggot, splashed into the lentils, and for the glass that’d be in my hand (or near it) while cooking—so to Borough Wines, where we spoke about wanting something full and spicy enough to stand up to braised venison and a heady tarragon dressing, but mostly something very drinkable, just for me.

Read Ed’s recipe for venison faggot braised in red wine with lentils, purple sprouting broccoli and tarragon vinaigrette