Farmer’s markets are to me as 1-day sales are to a clotheshorse; much to my wallet’s chagrin, I tend to make impulse purchases. Two weekends ago, my spontaneous buy was a rolled venison joint from the Wild Game Co. at Broadway Market. I had no idea what I was going to do with it, but temptation and T’s encouragement overruled my tentativeness.
So in a rare burst of culinary creativity, I made something up. And it worked! The joint turned into a falling-apart tender pot roast, with rich sweet-and-sour gravy.
Now, I know there are people out there who are wary of eating venison, but I think they’ve just watched Bambi too many times! Venison has an incredible flavour unlike any other meat. In its deep and earthy taste, there’s no getting away from the fact that it’s flesh from a wild animal.
The important thing to remember about venison is that it’s very lean compared to other meats. Imagine a deer scampering around a forest, compared to a cow standing in a field grazing. To compensate, the meat needs long marinating and cooking time to become well and truly tender. This is not weeknight cooking. But if you want to feed friends a fantastic dinner on a Sunday, it’s not a bad way to go.
The recipe was largely inspired by my mother’s brisket. Her method is infinitely simpler (Brisket. Can of Coke. Chili sauce. Onion soup mix. Bake for six hours.) but I think my pot-roast has the same balance of sweet, tangy, and savoury flavours. The fruit, juniper, and caraway go especially well with the gaminess of the venison.
Braised Venison with Red Wine and Forest Fruits
1 1.1kg (2.5 lbs) boneless rolled leg or haunch of venison
1 750ml bottle dry red wine (I used Rioja)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 heaping tablespoons good blackcurrant or blackberry jam
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
6 juniper berries, smashed
2 bay leaves
5-6 sprigs thyme, leaves stripped and stems binned
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 carrot, peeled and diced
2 sticks celery, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
500ml (18 oz) beef stock
1 400g tin/14 oz can chopped/diced tomatoes
70g dried cherries
salt and pepper
The night before, put the venison in a big bowl with the marinade ingredients. Cover with cling film (plastic wrap) and refrigerate overnight.
The next day, preheat your oven to 125C (260F). In a large Dutch oven or casserole, warm the oil over a medium-low flame. Add the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic, and sauté gently until the vegetables soften and start to brown, about 12 minutes.
Add the venison joint, stock, tomatoes, cherries, and what remains of the marinade. Bring to a simmer, then cover and put in the oven for 5.5 hours.
When time is up, remove from the oven and take out the venison. Leave to rest covered in foil, then carve.
Meanwhile, put the casserole on the hob over high heat, and cook down the braising liquid until it’s as saucy as you want. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Serve with starchy and green vegetables. (I had parsnip mashed and blanched purple sprouting broccoli, but it’s your call.)