Venison was once known as the “King of Meats” and it’s consumption was restricted to royalty and wealthy landowners. Nowadays you’re more than likely to see venison burgers and sausages on supermarket shelves and it’s ready available to the unwashed masses!

There’s been a surge in popularity of this meat, with sales up by 400%.

It is naturally lean and has levels of iron and Vitamin B slightly higher than beef. It has been classified as a red meat “superfood”, which only adds to its appeal.

At the Baronscourt Estate in Newtownstewart in County Tyrone, ancestral home of the Duke of Abercorn, Japanese Sika deer roam freely and graze on the lush pastures at the foot of the Sperrin Mountains. These deer were introduced to the estate in 1751 initially as part of an enclosed park. Since 1920 they have existed wild on the estate and thrive in the estate’s natural flora and fauna. They feed on succulent myrtle bog, ryegrass and tasty saplings that are all free from additives and growth promoters. The resulting meat is rich, lean and not too gamey. My brother used to shoot red deer and they were duly butchered and shared round the family. The meat was very rich and a lot more rustic than the more sophisticated version from Baronscourt. Their loin of venison recently won the ultimate 3 gold stars at the Great Taste awards. I was lucky enough to be on the judging panel and the meat was presented to us after 5 hours of hard core tasting. It was magnificent, moist and flavoursome and really pepped up our lagging taste buds! Loin is an expensive cut, similar to beef fillet and needs to be pan fried or chargrilled until medium rare and served. Shoulder of Venison is excellent for braising and they also produce burgers and sausages that you can buy at the estate,  along with other cuts,( they advise ringing ahead for details), in Stewart’s butcher in Enniskillen and at Carnbrooke butchers in Dromara.

Because Venison is naturally lean it can be dry when cooked.If you’re serving steaks do them on a barbecue or grill pan and don’t over cook them and baste with butter or oil while cooking. If you like your meat well done, stick to slow cooked shoulder or roasting cuts from the haunch. Venison suits sweet flavours like beetroot, butternut squash, parsnips and sweet potato, along with sticky wine based sauces with gentle spicing. I like to split the sausages, remove the meat and add a shallot and wine reduction, made with boiling a finely chopped shallot with 200ml of wine until the liquid has evaporated. Mix together and use to make sausage rolls. A handful of port soaked dried cranberries adds a lovely sweetness to the dish and it makes a change from the regular, though delicious, sausage roll.

This week’s recipe uses venison shoulder and is braised slowly in local ale. With the evenings drawing in and a chill in the air, this is an ideal dish for this time of year. It would also make a great pie filling. Venison and red cabbage are great together and I’ve included a recipe that adds beetroot to the mix as well. The sweetness from these two vegetables combined with zingy wine and balsamic is a perfect accompaniment to the rich meat. It would work well with roast beef or pork too.

With last year’s horsemeat scandal and our increased concern around food traceability, it makes sense to eat a healthy, local meat who’s origin can be traced back for generations.


Venison braised in ale with braised red cabbage and beetroot

  • 1kg Baronscourt Estate Venison shoulder, cut into chunks
  • 2 tablespoons plain flour seasoned with salt
  • 1 tablespoon tomato puree
  • 2 tablespoons Broighter gold rapeseed oil
  • 4 slices smoked streaky bacon, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 sticks celery, chopped
  • 2 onions, peeled and chopped
  • 1 star anise
  • zest ½ orange
  • 330ml local ale ( Whitewater Hoppelhammer would work really well here)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 450ml beef stock

Toss the venison in the flour.

Heat half the oil in a frying pan and when hot seal off half the venison. Transfer to a casserole dish and repeat with remaining oil and venison.

Add half the ale to the pan, bring to the boil and add to the casserole.

Cook the bacon until crisp and golden and add the vegetables, star anise and orange zest. Cook on a medium heat until soft and then add the tomato puree. Cook for a minute and add the remaining ale, honey and stock. Bring to the boil and pour over the venison in the casserole. Place a lid on and cook in a 180oc oven for 2 hours or until fork tender.

Braised red cabbage and beetroot

  • 500g shredded red cabbage
  • 500g coarsely grated fresh beetroot
  • 2 tablespoons Broighter gold rapeseed oil
  • 2 red onions, finely sliced
  • 2 red eating apples, quartered, cored and sliced
  • 75g brown sugar
  • 300ml red wine
  • 1 vegetables stock cube mixed with 50m boiling water
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar ( Burren balsamics from County Down do a great apple variety that would be perfect here)
  • salt and pepper

Fry the onion in the oil until soft in a large pan.

Add the cabbage and beetroot and mix in the apples.

Sprinkle over the sugar and pour over the wine and stock.

Add the balsamic vinegar and cover with a lid. Simmer for about 45 minutes or until soft. Check seasoning and serve.

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