You never forget your first close encounter with an elk.
Bill Bryson makes a very convincing case for the elk as a creature of great comedic value, an ungainly beastie with oven glove horns, one so dumb it thinks the middle of a busy highway is the safest place to be in times of stress.
I sincerely doubt that Bill has ever been very close to an elk in the wild.
In “A Walk In The Woods” he talks at great length about his fear of being attacked by a bear out on the trail. Talk about taking your eye of the ball.
Elks are way more unpredictable than bears when it comes to attacking humans. Elk attacks greatly outnumber bear attacks, and when they do decide to go for you, their massive, extremely muscular bodies are far more capable of ruining your weekend than any bear, fearsome as they are.
A group of us were once out for a stroll on a country trail one late afternoon, close to midsummer, and disturbed an elk that had been resting in a small bushy area, a mere 30 feet at most from where we were walking.
Luckily for us, it was a very timid adolescent cow, more interested in running away than a row. She fled, galumphing over the countryside, legs seemingly all operating to their own, separate agenda.
My father-in-law often spoke of his meeting with a huge bull early one morning, when it had come down to the lakeside for a drink. Each was as surprised and shocked as the other, and they both agreed to slowly back off, whilst keeping a very watchful eye on their counterpart, before turning around and briskly walking away.
Elk do have 2 redeeming qualities, however – they are ridiculously easy to find and kill, and taste wonderful.
Good, lean meat from a wild animal that lived a free and happy life, pogo-ing around a forest. It doesn’t get a lot better than that, does it…?
Right, time for the recipe. Unless you’re Swedish, or have Swedish relatives, I can guess what you’re thinking right now….
Jam? Jam? With the meat? Are you serious? Jam?
Yes, jam. Trust me. It just works. It’s divine.
Älgfärsbiffar med Lingonsylt - Elk Steakettes with Lingonberry Jam
Note – make the lingonberry jam first, and well in advance, so that it has time to cool down adequately before you make and serve the biffar.
For the Biffar
- 500g minced elk meat
- 2 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- salt and black pepper
- 1 egg, beaten
- coconut oil
- coconut flour
- Place the mince in a large mixing bowl. Add the onion powder, garlic powder, dried thyme, and salt and black pepper to taste. Mix thoroughly by hand. Put in the fridge for an hour or so to let the flavours develop.
- Remove the meat from the fridge, and allow to come up to room temperature. Add the beaten egg, and mix thoroughly by hand.
- Form the biffar. Place some coconut flour in a shallow bowl, breaking up any lumps with a fork. Take an amount of the meat mixture that is slightly larger than a golf ball, but not as big as a tennis ball. Gently squeeze to force out any air pockets, and then flatten out into an even disk shape about as thick as the tip of your little finger. Roll in the coconut flour to coat, shaking off any excess. Set aside. Repeat for the rest of the meat mixture – you should get 9 or 10 biffar.
- Heat about 3 tbsp of coconut oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Fry the biffar in batches, taking care not to crowd the pan. Fry for 3 minutes a side. Serve immediately, with a splash of the lingonberry jam. Traditionally potatoes would also be served, either mashed or boiled. Cauliflower mash or just plain steamed cauliflower would make a perfect Paleo alternative.
For the Lingonberry Jam
- 250g frozen lingonberries
- 2 tbsp honey
- about 4 tablespoons of water
- Place the water and the lingonberries in a small saucepan. Bring up to a boil, and then drop to a very low simmer.
- Add the honey, and stir well. Continue to cook, stirring often, until the lingonberries have broken down, and you have a jam-like consistency. This should take about half an hour or so.
- Remove the saucepan from the heat. Place somewhere cool. Ideally, the jam should be slightly below room temperature when serving.
Elk meat is very low in fat, and so has a tendency to dry out if you’re not careful. In terms of these types of biffar, that can also mean that they are somewhat prone to breaking apart during cooking. This is why I used onion and garlic powders in the mixture, chopped garlic and onion, however fine, might have encouraged the mixture to break up during the frying process.
This is traditionally overcome by adding about 2dl full-fat cream to the mixture, which then of course means that something else has to be added to compensate for the adverse effect the cream will have on the texture. Breadcrumbs are usually used for this.
Seeing as both cream and breadcrumbs are out for Paleo people, I decided to see if I could get away without them. I did, just. The meat itself was not too dry texture-wise, and the biffar held together, but I had the feeling that given even another minute in the pan, that would not have been the case.
Working backwards, almond flour could replace the breadcrumbs, but it’s going to be potentially tricky to find something that can moisten the mixture, but not overpower the delicately gamey flavour of the elk, as for example coconut cream would do. Perhaps another animal fat, a small amount of beef dripping or lard, for example. Using the onion and garlic puréed in a very small amount of almond milk is something I might experiment with, also.
Something else that will also probably find its way into the Mk. II version will be some very finely chopped, minced, or even puréed juniper berries.
It’s also usual to make a quick sauce with the fond left in the pan after frying the biffar. This often makes use of cream and other non-Paleo ingredients, so I’ve skipped it for now. Another work in progress, as you might say.