Venison ‘tonnato’ & Spring lunch at home

Spring lunch at home-2

Sundays at home are my favourite. Especially in Spring when the garden is looking a bit green and nice, the flies aren’t yet out in force and it’s not too hot to sit outside. So last Sunday we took advantage of all of the above, and and called up a few friends to join us for a very casual lunch. The table was set/styled, very nicely I think, by Miss Alice and the menu was simple, seasonal and best of all, starred our Mandagery Creek Venison.

Spring lunch at home Spring lunch at home-3

Vitello Tonnato is one of North-western Italy’s most iconic dishes and in the three years I lived in Piedmont, working for Slow Food, oh so many years ago, it became one of my all-time favourite things to eat. The sauce itself is traditionally served over lightly poached and thinly sliced veal, but is also great over sweet, slow-roasted onion halves, fresh tomato slices and slow-roasted red capsicums. Last weekend for the first time I tried making Vitello Tonnato with our venison, and it was SO GOOD. I’m using capitals because I can’t curb my excitement about this rad new way to cook and serve venison. Sad I know.

Please do try this one out, it’s especially good for long lazy lunches on hot days because the whole lot can be completely made in advance and just sit in the fridge ready when you need it. We had ours with a warm fennel gratin (recipe below), a few greens and asparagus tart. And because I’m too lazy to wash up on days off, dessert was a big slab of nougat cut into chunks and passed around.

Venison tonnato

To prepare the meat;

olive oil
1 kg venison knuckle or if you prefer, veal girello (nut)
1 brown onion, roughly chopped
1 carrot, roughly chopped
1 celery stalk, roughly chopped
2 bay leaves
1 handful flat leaf parsley, roughly c hopped
1 sprig rosemary
2 cups dry white wine
1 clove
2 tbsp juniper berries
1 litre chicken stock
1 lemon

For the tuna sauce

5 hard-boiled eggs
500g really nice quality tuna (in oil)
1/4 cup baby capers, drained
Juice one lemon
1 cup extra virgin olive oil

To garnish

Extra baby capers
1 lemon, quartered
1 handful watercress or rocket leaves
Shaved parmesan cheese

Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in a frying pan and brown the venison on all sides until golden then transfer to a plate. Add a splash more oil then add the onion, carrot, celery, bay, parsley and rosemary to the pan. Cook the vegetables for five minutes or until well browned. Transfer to a large saucepan with the venison too. Pour the wine into the still hot frying pan and cook for a few minutes, scraping all the ‘bits’ from the bottom of the pan and letting the wine reduce a bit. Now tip this mixture into the saucepan as well and add the clove, juniper berries and stock. Season well and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove the meat to a plate, cover with foil and leave to rest. Once the venison is out of the saucepan, increase heat and let the stock boil until reduced by half. Strain away the vegetables, add the lemon juice and reserve the stock.

For the sauce, place the eggs and tuna in a blender and puree. Add the capers and lemon juice and blitz for a minute. Now slowly add the oil with the blender on slow, it should thicken up to a lovely smooth sauce. Finally, add enough of the stock until the consistency of runny mayonnaise. Season and add lemon juice to taste. Now, to assemble, slice the venison as thinly as possible and arrange on a platter. Top with a generous amount of the tonnato sauce and garnish with the extra capers, lemon quarters, watercress and cheese. Serve straight away or cover with plastic wrap and keep in the fridge until needed. This recipe is adapted from this one by Guy Grossi. Serves 8.

Spring lunch at home-6

Fennel Gratin

A super tasty, simple side-dish which I love serving with our venison as it creates a beautiful sauce upon which to serve the meat.

4 fennel bulbs, trimmed and very finely sliced (I use a mandolin)
1 cup cream
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup parmesan, finely grated
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped

Preheat oven to 180C. Mix together the fennel, cream, parmesan and garlic and season to taste. Transfer mixture to a baking dish and cook for 40 minutes or until the fennel is nice and tender. This also is beautiful served at room temperature. Serves 8 as a side dish.

Spring lunch at home-7Spring lunch at home-8Spring lunch at home-18

The nougat recipe I use comes from SBS’s fantastic food website and is winner (as is the helpful video on the same page). I just added a little rosewater, dried cranberries and white chocolate to the recipe and sprinnkled some rose petals on the top of the white

Spring lunch at home-11

After lunch we lolled about on the grass drinking rose and eating nougat while one member of the group scaled a very big pine tree trying to recover a remote control plane that went rogue.

Spring lunch at home-14Spring lunch at home-12

Spring lunch at home-16



  1. Brian Masters says

    You dont like anchovies?I have always made this dish with anchovies,and when I put it on a platter it I crisscross anchovy fillets on the top layer of sauce and put a baby caper in the diamonds.It looks very retro and reminiscent of Lorenza de Medici’s style of food but I think if you do a classic — make it classical! I like parmesan on carpaccio but I dont put it on vitello tonnato Never thought to,really but then it would not suit the formal style of presentation with lemon wedges all around the platter edge.Anyway I am enjoying discovering your blog and now I am really keen to do the tonnato with your venison.Can I get it through Michael Borg in Orange? We are hoping for a decent truffle season this year with the decent summer rain but you never know till you have a look in May and see some cracking in the ground.Thanks Sophie .

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *