It’s Christmas time and the one thing on everybody’s mind is that frenzied feast on Christmas afternoon, but what if you want something different, something more exotic… something like reindeer?
Reindeer meat is highly nutritious, arguably more so than that traditional turkey. Reindeer packs fewer calories and less fat into a 100g portion than a roasted bird does.
Okay, so reindeer flesh contains more cholesterol and less protein than turkey, but who is really watching what they eat over the festive period anyway? It’s a time for indulgence and for eating something different.
First, the controversy
It’s different, and difference causes controversy. In 2010, supermarket chain Lidl tried to sell reindeer meat on its shelves during the Christmas period to try and entice middle class customers to the German brand.
The supermarket encountered fierce resistance as animal rights campaigners and the media criticised their decision. Vegan charity Viva! accused the supermarket chain of “putting Rudolph on the market” (cruelly neglecting all the rest of Santa’s right-hand animals) and of “destroying the magic of Christmas”.
Viva! took issue over the way the animals are farmed, claiming they are often herded by snowmobile and helicopter, which causes them “stress”.
They also claim that 70 percent of reindeer killed for meat are calves.
Lidl defended their decision to stock the meat and the process by which the meat reached them. A spokesman said: “The animals are slaughtered in strict accordance with EU guidelines in an EU certified slaughterhouse”.
The Kernel spoke to Paul Webb from exoticmeats.co.uk this week about the controversy reindeer has previously caused in the UK.
Paul explained how exoticmeats.co.uk source their product. “Our reindeer come from Norway and Finland and the whole process is closely controlled by the government. They tell the indigenous people how many to cull”.
‘If they’re being culled then we might as well eat them.’
It’s necessary for the indigenous people to control the animals numbers to ensure the safety of the farming and timber industries.
Paul told The Kernel: “If they’re being culled then we might as well eat them.”
We also spoke to Paul about Viva’s campaign against Lidl. We told him that they suggested 70 percent of the reindeer killed for meat are calves to which he said: “If they [Viva] have a problem with it, they need to take it up with politicians.”
The Kernel also spoke to Viva! about what they thought of cooking reindeer. In fact, we asked them how they preferred their reindeer steaks – rare or medium rare? The reply? “Are you joking.”
Well, no actually. No we weren’t.
Now, the recipes
Is the prospect of eating a succulent slab of reindeer getting you excited yet? Well, it should be.
Even if you do run the risk of animal rights campaigners chaining themselves to your front porch on Christmas Day, the chance to sample this exotic delicacy is too good to miss.
Initially, we were a little unsure how best to cook the snowy beast. But Paul was on hand to give us a few inside secrets.
“Reindeer is most like beef I suppose,” said Paul. “Grilling or pan-frying is the best way as it allows you to cook the meat evenly.”
“It’s just like any other steak really: best served medium.”
(At The Kernel we prefer our steak a little bloodier, but we’re guessing he means that reindeer is something like a rib eye cut of beef.)
On the other hand, that’s not how world-renowned chef Gordon Ramsay recommends cooking the animal. During a trip to Lapland for his TV show The F Word, Ramsay cooked reindeer stew for a group of herders.
After “not fucking around in the snow”, the chef got down to work: cooking the reindeer loin, bacon, onions and carrots over an open fire.
Stewing isn’t the most festive of activities though, so pan-frying might make a nice alternative on that busy day. There’s no need to do anything different with the veg: roasties, carrots and sprouts will all work just fine.
They only thing you need to add is a sauce.
Gravy is something of an institution when it comes to roasts, but it might not be appropriate for pan-fried reindeer.
Béarnaise sauce is typical with steak and might accentuate those muscular morsels. Much the same as gravy, cranberry sauce might seem like a good idea, but the chances are it will tussle for prominence with the flavour of the flesh.
Here at The Kernel we’ll be dousing our reindeer entreés in delicate peppercorn. Bon appetit!