Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Muntjac - sink your teeth in while you can!

The muntjac deer is a lovely little creature... when a foal. When its an adult its an ugly git of a beast, about the size of a pit bull but without any of the charm or personality. Its an introduced, invasive species in the UK thats running wild and doing its best to nibble our countryside to the root.

It has, however, one redeeming feature. It is delicious. It is the best venison you can buy. I mean its succulent, sweet, tender and flavoursome. And just for the moment it actually has another selling point - its also cheap. That'll change eventually no doubt when some celebrity chef tells everyone that its either 'pucker' or 'ethical', then no doubt the price will soon be out of the reach of us mere mortals (this has been going on since long before Oliver and Whittingstall - the earliest example I can think of in the UK is Fanny Craddock putting monkfish on everyones plate as fake scampi). 

Here, look at this critter laid out on my kitchen bench. This is about £30 worth.


Okay, whole carcass butchery might seem hard, but I assure you it isn't. And it saves you money if you're doing a bit of the work. Look at the carcass above - take the two back legs off at the hip joint, hack off the feet, and you've got two roasting joints nearly as big as legs of spring lamb but much leener. Cut through at the bottom of the ribcage, through between the backbones, and then cut off the back part above the hips and you've got a small saddle roasting joint - this is great for a slower cooked pot roast, leave it on the bone for more flavour. Working forward along the spine and above the ribs you've got two lovely fillet like cuts - and then the forelegs can either be stewed as they are or you can take it off the bone for stewing meat. Then you've got all the rest - trim off the flappy bits and the meaty bits and put them aside for stewing or mincing. I got two last Saturday, here's what they looked like after butchery:

And after...

So, from top left working around clockwise thats four rear leg joints, a pot of scrappy bits (that went into scrummy venison pasties alongside swede, spuds and carrots), stewing venison, then down to fillet cuts, left to the two saddle joints, and bottom left thats the four front leg joints. Eagle eyed among you will notice only three saddle fillets - thats because the stalker tho brought down that muntjac put the bullet right through the torso, an excellent shot that would have dropped the deer in a heartbeat, but which made a hell of a mess of the other cut. The other carcass was more intact - head shot I think.

The ribcages, after cutting the meat away, went into the stockpot alongside other scraps, making a huge pot of wonderfully intense, gamey stock. 

The best advice for cooking muntjac is treat it like lean beef or venison, but expect more out of it. Its more succulent without being fatty - the legs can be roasted hot and fast and served red, or it can be cooked long and slow with wine and still be moist and tasty. Its the most versatile game meat in the UK.

So get some, and get some now. Its only a matter of time before some poncy telly chef ruins this for us all...


  1. Where did you get hold of Muntjac? I'm in cambridge too, so tips welcome....

  2. I totally agree with your comments about TV chefs! That bloody Jamie Oliver caused lamb shanks to sky rocket in price around around 2000 era.
    I occasionally shoot Muntjac and shot a buck yesterday, hence looking for something different to do with it. Fantastic meat and often souced very cheaply at market auctions for under £30!