Smoked venison with walnut pesto

Serves 4

Venison has a strong, powerful flavour and smoking it gives it a cured taste: even eaten cold it still has impact. Walnut pesto is a bit different; the walnuts give more crunch and a different flavour to the usual pine nuts.

4 (120g-150g/4oz-5oz) portions of venison (loin or sirloin)
2tbsp olive oil
1tsp lapsang souchong tea
1tbsp demerara sugar
1tbsp white or brown rice
A splash of vegetable oil
25g/1oz unsalted butter

For the pesto

100g/31/2oz walnuts, toasted
25g/1oz Parmesan cheese
4tbsp olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 bunch parsley, finely chopped

To smoke the venison, rub each piece all over with olive oil. Mix the tea, sugar and rice together and place in a foil-lined pan or tray. Place a small wire rack over the top of the tea mix and place the venison on the rack. Cover the entire rack and pan in tin foil and place on a moderately high heat. When the smoke begins to seep out underneath the tin foil, remove the pan from the heat and allow to sit for five minutes.

For the pesto, place all ingredients into a blender and pulse until combined (but not pureéd). Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

To cook the venison, heat a large, heavy-bottomed frying pan with a good splash of vegetable oil. Season the venison all over then place into the smoking oil. Sear all over, then add the unsalted butter. Let the butter foam from the heat and spoon it over the venison pieces. Remove and allow to rest for a couple of minutes before carving and serving with a smear of the pesto.

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