From a very young age, one of Neven's favourite pastimes was to shadow his mother in the kitchen, watching her cook; his pastime soon became ...
8 garlic cloves (unpeeled)
4 tblsp olive oil
900 g floury potatoes (cut into 2.5cm (1in) cubes)
75 ml ruby red port or red wine
1 tblsp balsamic vinegar
2 tblsp light muscovado sugar
1 tsp chopped thyme leaves, plus sprigs to garnish
4 large plums (halved, stoned and quartered)
4 (150g each) venison fillet steaks
50 g unsalted butter
about 2 tbsp milk
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Place the garlic and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a small frying pan and cook over a very low heat for 8-10 minutes until the garlic cloves are completely tender and lightly golden, tossing occasionally. Remove from the heat, scoop out the garlic with a slotted spoon and place on a plate, then set aside to cool.
Place the potatoes in a large saucepan of boiling salted water, cover and simmer for 10-12 minutes or until completely tender.
Meanwhile, pour the port or red wine into a medium saucepan with the balsamic vinegar, sugar and thyme.
Heat gently for a couple of minutes until the sugar has dissolved, stirring occasionally. Tip the plums, bring to a simmer and cook for 5-8 minutes or until the plums are softened but still holding their shape – the time will depend on their ripeness.
Heat a large, heavy-based frying pan until very hot. Rub the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil all over the venison steaks and season with salt and pepper. Add the steaks to the heated pan and cook for 2 minutes, then turn over and cook for another 3 minutes for rare venison. If you prefer your steak cooked medium, increase the cooking time by 1 minute on each side; or for well-done, increase the cooking time by 2 minutes on each side. Remove the steaks from the heat, cover and set aside in a warm place to rest for about 5 minutes.
Drain the potatoes and mash them until they are smooth, then beat in the butter and add enough milk to make a smooth purée. Squeeze the pulp from the cooled garlic cloves into a small bowl and mash it with a fork until smooth and creamy. Stir the mashed garlic into the mashed potatoes. Beat the mash well until the potatoes and garlic are well combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Carve the venison steaks into slices and arrange on four warmed serving plates with a pile of roasted garlic mash. Spoon the stewed plums over the venison, garnish with the thyme sprigs and serve immediately.