Last week we were very kindly given a couple of haunches of venison from the local chasse (hunters).Talk about local, they might even have been living in our garden. We see them quite often here but only for a split second before they shyly scarper away. Wild deer are extremely timid creatures.
Venison is such a wonderfully lean and incredibly flavoursome meat, I love it. With haunch number one I removed most of the fabulous meat, cut it into 4 cm cubes and left it to marinade for a couple of nights in red wine, brandy, juniper, bay, thyme and plenty of black pepper, before slowly braising in the marinade with carrots, onions, garlic, celery and lardons. The remaining scrags of meat and bone were braised in more red wine and veggies and greedily enjoyed that evening with a pile of buttery mash. Haunch number two is in the freezer awaiting inspiration.
I often use juniper berries as a flavouring with game. For this dish I use them loose as part of the marinade then tie them in a piece of muslin for the cooking, so as to extract maximum flavour without the risk of accidentally eating one which is not a particularly pleasant experience.
Enough for 4 grown ups, or a family of 4 with a few leftovers:
a kilo of venison shoulder, haunch or leg meat, cut into 4cm cubes
400ml of red wine
3 tablespoons of brandy
10 juniper berries
4 sprigs of thyme
3 bay leaves
a large pinch of sea salt
a teaspoon of roughly ground black pepper
a tablespoon of plain flour
2 tablespoons of olive oil
200g of lardons or streaky bacon
an onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
2 carrots, sliced
2 celery sticks, sliced
400ml of good quality beef stock
a little chopped fresh parsley to serve
Firstly marinade your meat, at least overnight, maybe for two nights if you have the time. Place the venison pieces in a large bowl with the red wine, brandy, juniper berries, thyme (leave the sprigs whole), bay leaves, salt and pepper. Stir everything around a little, cover and place in the fridge to marinade.
When it’s time to braise, drain the meat from the marinade, making sure you retain all the lovely liquor. Set aside the marinade and dry the venison on some kitchen roll. Coat the meat in the tablespoon of plain flour. Tie the juniper berries in a small square of muslin if you have any.
Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a large casserole dish until very hot. Add the meat to the pan and brown on all sides. You may need to do this in a couple of batches. Once browned remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Lower the heat and add the lardons or streaky bacon, diced onion, garlic, carrots and celery to the same pan. Add a dash more olive oil if there wasn’t much left after cooking the meat. Cook on a low heat for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
Reintroduce the venison to the pan, along with marinade liquor, herbs and muslin juniper parcel. Bring to a simmer before pouring in the stock.
Bring back to a simmer and allow to cook on a very gentle heat for two to two and a half hours, until the meat is extremely tender. Have a final taste check and add more salt and pepper to suit. Don’t forget to remove the bay leaves, thyme sprigs and juniper bundle (if used).
Serve with a sprinkling of fresh parsley over the top. Braised venison is particularly great served with my Boulangere Potatoes (made with thyme) and a simple steamed green veggie.
If you liked this, have you tried my Beef in Guinness, Pot Roast Chicken in a Lardon, White Wine & Creme Fraiche Sauce, The Best Chilli on Carne ever, or Coq au Vin recipes?