Venison cooking
made simple

Louis Sykes

Louis Sykes

I’m Louis Sykes. I am a 21-year-old and study journalism in Wales. I grew up working on estates and shooting in Northumberland from the age of ten. Studying at university, I was amazed to find both thriving shooting societies and students who were willing to learn about the important role of country sports in conserving the rural environment. I am keen to take this excellent opportunity working with BASC to further educate others about shooting and the wellbeing of the countryside, drawing from my own experience and information I have picked up from country fairs across Britain.

In the last article on simple game cooking, we looked at feathered game and why it offers great meat to cook with. This is only one of many types of game that you can harvest and cook yourself. 

In this article, Euan Ross Highland Game‘s sales and marketing manager talked to me about the importance of eating venison and its place in your simple game cookbook.

Why cook with venison?

Like most game meats, venison’s great taste is matched by its health benefits. 

As one of the top game processors in the UK, Highland Game knows exactly what makes it so healthy. Euan Ross said: “Wild venison is low in saturated fat and is one of the lowest cholesterol meats. Wild venison contains one per cent fat, which is substantially less than alternative red meats. It’s high in protein, mineral-rich and free from any additives.”

Did you know that a single serving provides a third of the recommended daily allowance of iron, while beef provides less than a quarter? Venison is also high in B vitamins.

The importance of eating venison

Eating venison isn’t just good for you though, it’s also good for the planet. 

Buying and eating game underpins the sustainable management of the UK’s deer population. Euan Ross explained why this is so crucial: “Given natural predators are no longer part of our UK eco-system, not eating venison means that Britain’s population of deer will continue to grow unchecked.”

Exponential growth in deer populations is damaging to other fauna and flora, and simply hunting or culling deer isn’t enough. As Euan Ross pointed out, if the meat doesn’t go to the plate, carcasses could be left to rot: “Rotting food is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, not eating wild venison meat from culled deer would increase emissions, and, more importantly, would see this nutritious food source go to waste.”

Sourcing venison

So eating venison is an all-round good thing, but how and where can you buy it to be sure it is of good quality? “The secret to great tasting venison is ensuring it is properly sourced and prepared. This way you can guarantee it won’t be tough, coarse or strongly-flavoured – ‘gamey’,” said Euan Ross.

The UK has a variety of deer species, each with a unique taste and texture; however, options for buying venison are limited.

“Red and roe deer are native to the UK, but we also have large numbers of sika, fallow, muntjac and Chinese water deer. 

“Due to the nature of our trade, the appetite in retail is predominantly around red deer due to the carcass size, yields, etc. Export markets in Europe on the other hand tend to offer opportunity for the likes of roe deer, due to the meat’s more delicate flavour,” Euan Ross explained.

However, if you do want to try venison, it is available in the UK, even out of season, through many major supermarkets or directly from a game dealer or butcher.

Venison preparation

Unlike feathered game, venison takes a little more know-how and kit to butcher at home. If you do want to learn how to take your own venison from field to plate, you can learn how at a BASC carcass and butchery course.

Once you have your venison, cooking the meat can be as simple or advanced as you like.

Highland Game has a few tips on what dishes you can prepare with venison. Euan Ross shared some with me: “Wild venison is a delicious, flavoursome, and succulent rich meat. Its flavour profile makes it the go-to meat ingredient for casseroles, stir-fry, curries, and pasta dishes including lasagne, ragu and meatballs.”

Now, that you know the importance of eating venison, check out some of Highland Game‘s go-to recipes below.

Home-made monarch burger

(Serves four)

Ingredients

  • 1 medium onion, very finely choppe
  • 500g minced venison
  • 1 small egg, beaten
  • 4tbsp double cream or mayonnaise (optional)
  • 4 burger rolls or buns of your choice
  • guacamole
  • tomato slices
  • red onion slices
  • 4tbsp oil
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

(Use your favourite dips or relishes for added taste!)

Method

  1.    Heat half the oil in a frying pan and add the onions. Cook until soft and golden brown. Take off the heat and allow to cool.
  2.    Mix the venison with the onions, then stir in the egg and cream or mayonnaise (optional).
  3.    Season well with salt and pepper and mix until fully combined.
  4.    Divide into four portions and, using dampened hands, shape into thick patties.
  5.    Heat the oil in a frying pan and cook over a medium heat for about 4 minutes on each side for medium, 2-3 minutes if you like them medium-rare. The burgers  should be nice and crunchy on the outside
  6.   Choose your favourite roll or bun, split and toast lightly on the cut sides.
  7.   Spoon a generous dollop of guacamole onto the base of the bun and cover with sliced tomatoes.
  8.  Top with the cooked burger, a few red onion slices and serve with or without the lid.

 Serve with chips or a pile of mixed vegetable crisps.

Venison and wild mushroom pies

(Serves six)

Ingredients

  •           1kg diced venison
  •            50g mushrooms (ideally a mixture of porcini and trompettes de mort, but  anything will do)
  •           1 onion, finely chopped
  •           3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
  •           1 large carrot, finely chopped
  •            2 celery sticks, finely chopped
  •          125g cubed pancetta or streaky bacon
  •          8 juniper berries, crushed
  •           3 bay leaves
  •           2 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
  •           2 tbsp plain white flour
  •           300ml red wine
  •           2 tbsp rowan or redcurrant jelly
  •           600g ready-rolled puff pastry
  •           1 egg, beaten
  •           6 tbsp olive oil
  •           salt and freshly ground black pepper
  •           6 pie dishes

Method

  1.           Place the mushrooms in a bowl and cover with hot water. Leave to soak for 30 minutes.
  2.           Heat half the oil in a large casserole pot.
  3.           Add the onion, garlic, carrot and celery and cook for 5-10 minutes until softened.
  4.           Stir in the pancetta and fry with the vegetables until it begins to brown.
  5.      Add the juniper, bay leaves and thyme, sprinkle in the flour, mix well, and set aside.
  6.         Heat the remaining olive oil in a large frying pan and fry the venison quickly (in batches) on all sides until crusty and brown. Tip into the casserole dish as you go.
  7.          Deglaze the frying pan with the wine – let it bubble up and scrape up the sediment on the bottom of the pan. Pour over the meat and vegetables.
  8.           Drain the mushrooms and add to the casserole, together with 150ml of the soaking water and the rowan jelly.
  9.          Season well and give the whole pot a good stir. Bring to the boil on top of the stove, then simmer for 1½ hours until tender. Leave overnight to cool.
  10.           Divide the mixture into six pie dishes.
  11.           Shortly before serving, cut out six circles of pastry, a good inch wider than the pie dishes.
  12.       Brush the edges of the pie dishes with beaten egg.
  13.           Sit the pastry on top of the rim and press the pastry over the edge to seal tightly.
  14.           Brush with more beaten egg, then make a couple of slits in the top.
  15.           Set the pies on a couple of baking sheets and chill for 30 minutes or until ready to serve.
  16.            Bake at 220°C/425F/Gas Mark 7 for 20-25 minutes until the pastry has risen and turned crisp and golden brown. Serve hot.

Roast rack of venison with garlic, rosemary and mustard crust

(Serves three)

Ingredients

  • 1 French rack of venison
  • 2tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 3tbsp butter, softened
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 8tbsp fresh white breadcrumbs
  • 6tbsp parsley, finely chopped
  • 3tbsp rosemary, finely chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/400F/Gas Mark 6.
  2. With a very sharp knife, score the outer meaty surface of the venison lightly in a criss-cross manner. This will help to hold the herb crust.
  3. Season the rack of venison generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  4. Mix the mustard, softened butter and garlic to form a paste.
  5. Mix in the breadcrumbs, chopped parsley and rosemary.
  6. Press the herb crust mixture over the scored meaty side of the venison rack and place on a baking tray.
  7. Roast the venison for about 20 minutes for rare or about 25 minutes for medium.
  8. After roasting, remove from the oven and leave to rest in a warm place for 10 minutes before carving between the bones into cutlets.
  9. Serve with new potatoes, baby tomatoes roasted in olive oil and some buttered leeks.



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