Venison to spring a surprise at food festival

THE head brewer at Suffolk pubs and brewing company Greene King has been given an advance tasting of a wild venison feast which will be presented at a major new regional food event being held in Bury St Edmunds next month.

The Real Food and Beer Festival at Greene King, which the company is hosting on Saturday and Sunday, May 15 and 16, will feature a range of food and drink producers from around the East of England, with an emphasis on beer as an accompaniment to food.

Head brewer John Bexon met with Mark Burrage from Bluebell Woods Wild Venison, based in Somerleyton, near Lowestoft, to sample venison cooked in one of Greene King’s premium ales, Suffolk Springer.

“Our wild venison is a natural, healthy meat that is great for you and your heart,” said Mr Burrage, a qualified gamekeeper. “Venison was the meat of choice in medieval times, and is truly a banquet fit for a king.”

“Beer was a part of the staple diet of Britons for centuries”, added Mr Bexon, “and it has only been in recent decades that it’s been knocked off the dining table by wine.

“But actually real ale is brewed with wholesome local ingredients and is much better suited to most of our English dishes than French wine.”

For the venison feast, locally-caught muntjac from Attleborough and roe deer from Diss were fried off in Suffolk Springer.

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Mr Burrage catches the venison via his deer management service, and will be doing butchery demon-strations at next month’s event, as well as a venison spitroast. “People are more and more interested in where their food comes from,” he said. “We offer a variety of different cuts of meat so that there is something for everyone’s style and cooking taste,

“The secret to cooking venison is a really hot pan, and to let the meat go for only a minute or so,” he added. “No oil, no butter, just pan-fry it in the beer and caramelise it off.”

Mr Bexon’s verdict on the dish was that that it “tasted great”.

He added: “Suffolk Springer is a blend of two dark ales, including 5X, an ale that has matured in oak tuns for two years, which brings out gloriously rich flavours of fruitcake and caramel.

“The roasted malts from the beer came through really well, and complemented the lean venison perfectly.”

Greene King is hosting the Real Food and Beer Festival in the brewery gardens in Bury as part of the 25th Bury Festival.

Around 40 producers of the best food and drink in East Anglia will be attending the event, with others including Aspall Cyder, The English Whisky Company, the Suffolk Food Hall, Kelly Turkeys, The Cake Shop, Paddy & Scotts and Powter’s Newmarket Sausages.