Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Venison ragù

This dish was inspired by one of the entries to November's "In the Bag" blogging challenge. Phil, over at As Strong as Soup, chose venison for the challenge and made a tasty-looking venison pasta sauce. You can see his recipe here. I adapted it slightly for the ingredients I had in the house (I had already drunk all the gin). It also gave me an excuse to try out my new toy: a mincer attachment for the Kenwood Chef.

I ordered a selection of venison from Riverford Organic back in the autumn (it's only available for a short season) and had some diced venison in the freezer. Once it had defrosted, I pushed it through the medium mincer blade of the Kenwood. It worked a treat, but you have to watch out for sinew that will clog it up. If you don't have a mincer, you could follow Phil's lead and simply chop the meat finely (you could use a food processor for this).

Start by making a boquet garni by tying up some crushed bay leaves, juniper berries and black peppercorns in muslin. Pour about 1/2 bottle of red wine over the minced (or chopped) venison, and tuck in your boquet garni. Leave in the fridge for a few hours, or overnight, then drain over a bowl, reserving the wine and boquet garn.

Heat some oil in a wide pan, and fry 4 rashers of smoked streaky bacon, cut into lardons, until it starts to render its fat. Next add the drained meat and cook over a medium heat until it takes on some colour. Add a medium onion, two sticks of celery, and a large carrot, all finely diced. Give it a good stir, then add 2 crushed garlic cloves and cook for 5-10 minutes more. Pour over the reserved wine, add the boquet garni, a tin of chopped plum tomatoes and 1/2 litre chicken stock. Once it comes up to a simmer, reduce the heat to low and cover the pan.

Let it cook gently for at least 2 hours, stirring occasionally, and adding more chicken stock or water if it looks too dry. I removed the boquet garni about halfway through, as I was worried that the juniper was getting too strong. The flavours will concentrate as the sauce cooks, so it's best to season at the end. I added salt, freshly ground black pepper, and a glug of Worcestershire sauce.

This made a delicious and tender pasta sauce. I served it with spaghetti, but it would also have been great in a lasagne.


I'm not sure it was necessary to marinate the meat before cooking. It makes it difficult to get the meat dry enough to brown when you fry it, and there's plenty of cooking time for the wine and bouquet garni to contribute their flavours to the sauce. I'll skip the marinade next time (but that will have to wait for next year's venison season).

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