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Venison Dressed in Collops

This excellent early eighteenth century recipe is one of the best ways of roasting venison. Lean 'collops' - thin steaks - are cut from a haunch and larded with strips of salt bacon fat. They are then sandwiched together with an unctuous forcemeat of suet and herbs spread between each collop. The forcemeat and lardons give up their fat during the roasting process, ensuring that the venison, a meat which very easily dries out, is moist, succulent and delicately flavoured with the herbs.

Parsley, spinage, thyme, rosemary and other sweet herbs are minced with beef suet, salt, cloves and nutmeg. This lubricating forcemeat is bound with raw egg yolk. Before larding, the collops are hacked or 'scotched' with the back of a knife blade.

The venison collops are larded neatly with short strips of salt bacon fat.

Each individual collop is then anointed with the suet, herb and egg mixture.

The collops are stacked on top of each other to create an effect rather similar to a Levantine doner kebab or giros. They are then tied together.

The spit is' put down' to the fire and 'the jack set a going'. A dish is put in the dripping pan to catch the gravy. Some claret is put into the dish and throughout the roasting process the collops are basted with the wine. This intensely flavoured gravy forms the basis of the sweet and sour gallentine sauce, which is thickened with bread crumbs.

Full joints of venison, such as the saddle and the haunch of roebuck above, were frequently larded to keep the meat moist, a technique dating back to at least the sixteenth century. These illustrations (and that of the larding method above them) are from Urbain Dubois' The Household Cookery Book (London: 1871). Dubois wrote this work in London during the Franco-Prussian war. It was aimed at the English middle-classes and provides one of the most useful insights into nineteenth century kitchen procedures ever published.

Alexis Soyer, another celebrated French cook who worked in Victorian London, also recommended a method of roasting venison which is very effective. A spitted haunch is wrapped in buttered paper and then in a layer of paste. This in turn is wrapped in another sheet of paper and then roasted. This dish is in fact a venison pasty baked in front of the fire. However, the method was known to both French and English cooks well before Soyer. Vincent La Chappelle, Elizabeth Raffald and other early writers outline similar methods. The recipe opposite is from Mary Smith's The Complete Housekeeper (1772).

A haunch of roebuck is spitted and wrapped in buttered brown paper.

Roasting meat in a wrapping of paper is an effective way of keeping dry meats like venison nice and moist.

John Nott, cook to the Duke of Bolton in the early eighteenth century, included this very special way of roasting venison in his The Cooks and Confectioners Dictionary of 1723

Three alternating rows of short lardons are drawn through each collop with a larding pin.

The collops are all tied together with string and carefully put on a spit, preferably with a holdfast, as in the illustration above. Nott's recipe is given below:
Venison Dressed in Collops

Cut Part of a Haunch of Venison into collops, then hack it with the Back of a Knife, lard it with small Lardons; then mince Thyme, Rosemary, Parsley, Spinage and other sweet Herbs small with Beef-suet-, Season them with Salt, Cloves and Nutmeg beaten, and mingle them well together with the Yolks of half a dozen Eggs, Spread these upon your Collops, tye them together, spit them and roast them: set a Dish under them to receive the Gravy, put to it some Claret; when the Collops are near roasted enough, The dish over a Chafing-dish of Coals, put in grated Bread, Vinegar, Sugar and beaten Cinnamon; stir them together, add a Ladleful of drawn Butter, dish your Venison: and pour the Sauce over them.

From John Nott The Cook's and Confectioner's Dictionary (London: 1723).

The collops are served with a sweet and sour bread sauce delicately flavoured with cinnamon. This unctuous ointment is a descendant of medieval vinegar and spice sauces, such as the following galantyne from The Forme of Cury.

Take crustes of Brede and grynde hem smale, do þerto powdour of galyngale, of canel, of gyngyner and salt it, tempre it with vynegur and drawe it up þurgh a straynour & messe it forth.

Robert May in The Accomplisht Cook (London: 1660) gives a number of recipes for sauces for red deer, including a gallendine, almost identical to Nott's recipe:

Sauces for red Deer

1. The gravy and sweet herbs chopped small and boil’d together, or the gravy only.
2. The juyce of oranges or lemons, and gravy.
3. A Gallendine sauce made with strained bread - vinegar, claret wine, cinnamon, ginger, and sugar - strain it, and being finely beaten with the spices boil it up with a few whole cloves and a sprig of rosemary.
4. White bread boil’d in water pretty thick without spices and put to it some butter, vinegar, and sugar.

To roast a Haunch of Venison

Pare off the shank of your venison, spit it, rub it over with the yolk of an egg, butter a sheet of paper and lay over it, roll a thin sheet of common paste and lay on the paper, then lay another sheet of paper upon the paste, tie it tight the paste from falling off; lay it down to roast, and keep it a good distance from the fire, and baste it well. If it is a large one, it will take four hours to roast it; if a small one, three hours will do. When it is done, take off the paste and paper, dust on some flour, and baste it with butter: when it is of a nice light brown, dish it up with some brown gravy under it, and currant jelly sauce in a boat. - Serve it up hot to remove fish, or for the foot of the table.

From Mary Smith, The Complete House-keeper, and Professed Cook Newcastle 1772

A large sheet of pastry made with bread flour and hot water is wrapped carefully round the haunch. The edges are wetted and sealed. If this is done well, the pastry will not crack and the venison will cook in its own gravy. Another sheet of paper is tied round the paste to stop it falling off. The paper is basted with fat to stop it burning. When the venison is almost cooked, the paper and paste wrapping are removed and the haunch finished in the traditional English manner with a fine butter and flour froth. It is not possible to find words to explain how tender and delicious the resulting meat tastes. Served with a currant jelly sauce, this is one of the greatest of all English roasts. However, it really does need to be roasted in front of the fire.

The frothed haunch ready for the table. Although a large haunch of red deer takes about three hours, this small haunch of roebuck was cooked to perfection in an hour and twenty minutes. Crisp on the outside and pink in the centre, it is so succulant it melts in the mouth like a savoury Turkish Delight.
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