Venison has come a long way

Angela Day veneson kebabs. Picture: Steve Lawrence

Venison is much healthier than most other meat as it is low in fat and cholesterol.

Yet people stay clear because they have been told or remember it being a tough, dry meat with a strong gamey taste. Well, venison has come a long way and is now not only more accessible to consumers but tastier and a lot more tender.

A book I found very helpful and informative in my quest to find out how to cook different cuts is Karoo Venison by Albe Neetling, Annatjie Reynolds and Lynne Minnaar.

These three women live in Graaff Reinet and have had lots of experience cooking with game. The book is unfortunately out of print at the moment but is due to be back on the shelves next month.

From the book I learned that there is a big difference between game culled by registered, professional shooting teams, properly bled, hygienically treated in special mobile veld abattoirs and cooled over 24 hours to just above 0°C and game left to lie in the sun for hours before being cut up and most likely frozen immediately. Animals that have been culled while being chased are almost inedible.

Cooking the different cuts correctly will go a long way towards ensuring the success of your dish. Here are a few pointers:

* Neck, shank, rib and shoulder: These cuts should be marinated and are best suited to long, slow methods of cooking such as stews or casseroles. These cuts are also very dry and will benefit from being larded with spek (pork fat) or bacon.

* Sirloin, fillets and chops: These prime cuts can be meltingly tender if cooked properly. They should be cooked to medium rare, as the longer you cook them, the dryer they become. They need no marinating.

* Legs: These can be roasted, covered, at 160°C for 2-4 hours until tender. As this meat is lean, it is best to lard it with spek. (A recipe in Karoo Venison calls for marinade to be injected into the leg with a syringe to keep it moist during cooking.) A deboned leg will benefit from being marinated for up to three days before roasting and is also best cooked medium rare.

* Mince: Venison mince is very lean and is best combined with lamb or pork mince to make it more moist. It is suitable for making bobotie, pies, samoosas or any dish using mince.

* Overseas, venison refers to deer meat, but in southern Africa, it refers to the meat of antelopes.


Serves 6-8

2kg neck of venison

125ml flour

5ml paprika

5ml salt

a good grinding of black pepper

40-50ml oil

250g thick cut bacon rashers, chopped

2 onions, chopped

15ml chopped garlic

2 carrots, sliced

2 stalks of celery, chopped

500ml red wine

1 litre beef stock

15ml juniper berries, bruised

15ml ground coriander

salt and pepper

1 roll of frozen puff pastry, defrosted

beaten egg for glazing

Put the meat into a plastic bag with the flour, paprika, salt and pepper. Shake to coat the meat.

Heat some oil in a saucepan and brown the pieces of meat a few at a time. Remove and set aside.

Add the bacon to the pan and cook until brown and crispy. Remove and add to the meat.

Add the onions to the pan and cook for a minute. Add the garlic, carrots and celery and cook for 6-8 minutes. Add the wine, stock, juniper berries and coriander. Season, cover and simmer for 3-4 hours until meat falls off the bone.

Remove from the heat and cool the mixture. Remove the bones and shred the meat.

Strain the cooking liquid through a colander to separate out all the vegetables and bones. If the sauce is still very runny then simmer in a saucepan to thicken.

Combine the sauce and the shredded meat. Spoon this mixture into one large or a few smaller ovenproof dishes and cool completely.

Unroll the pastry and cut to fit the size of your serving dish. Cover the meat with the pastry and decorate with pieces of pastry if desired. Brush with beaten egg.

Bake at 200°C for 30-40 minutes until golden brown.


Serves 4-6


5ml ground cumin

5ml ground coriander

10ml curry powder

5ml turmeric

5ml salt

10ml chopped ginger

10ml chopped garlic

1 stalk of lemongrass, finely sliced

30ml soy sauce

20ml sugar

200ml coconut cream

125ml chopped coriander

750g venison steaks, cubed

Satay sauce

15 ml oil

½ onion finely chopped

10 ml chopped garlic

5 ml Thai green curry paste

200ml coconut cream

15ml sugar

5ml salt

60ml ground roasted peanuts

30-40ml peanut butter

15ml soy sauce

15ml lime or lemon juice

Combine all the ingredients for the marinade and mix well. Add the cubed meat and leave to marinate overnight.

Remove the meat from the marinade and thread them onto skewers. Cook over hot coals or on a griddle pan until medium rare, basting with the marinade occasionally.

Serve with the satay sauce.

SATAY SAUCE: Heat oil and fry the onion and garlic until soft. Add green curry paste and mix well. Add the rest of ingredients and cook for a minute or two to thicken.

Add more ground peanuts if the mixture is too thin.


Serves 4-6

1.2kg venison roast

30ml olive oil

45ml spice rub of your choice

salt and pepper

2-3 sprigs of rosemary

250g streaky bacon

Port sauce

250ml port

125ml beef stock

45ml butter, softened

15ml flour

salt and pepper

Rub the roast with olive oil, spice and seasoning. Place in an oven tray on top of a few sprigs of rosemary. Arrange the bacon over the meat.

Roast at 200°C for 1-1½ hours until medium rare. During cooking, occasionally baste the meat with the pan juices.

Remove the bacon for the last 30 minutes of cooking to allow the meat to brown.

When the meat is cooked, remove and rest, covered, for 10 minutes before carving. Served sliced with the pieces of bacon.

PORT GRAVY: Put the port and beef stock in a saucepan and simmer until reduced by a third.

Mix together the butter and flour and gradually whisk this into the port until thickened.

Season well and serve with meat.


Serves 4-6

1.5kg deboned shoulder of venison

Buttermilk marinade

2 onions, chopped

2 carrots, chopped

10ml chopped garlic

4 juniper berries, bruised

15ml chopped rosemary

10ml ground black pepper

2 litres of buttermilk


30ml olive oil

1 red onion chopped

10ml chopped garlic

250ml couscous

250ml chicken stock

10ml harissa paste

125g dried apricots, chopped

60g dried cranberries

salt and pepper

60ml of chopped coriander


30ml olive oil

250g streaky bacon

250ml red wine

250ml beef stock

Combine all the ingredients for the marinade, and marinate the meat in it for 1-2 days. Remove from the marinade and wipe it clean.

Flatten the meat with a rolling pin to give you a nice size.

Put the stuffing inside and fold over to enclose. Secure with string.

Place in a roasting pan. Brush with olive oil and arrange the bacon strips over the top. Pour the wine and stock into the pan. Cover pan tightly with foil or a lid and roast at 160°C for 2-3 hours, basting frequently until the meat is tender.

Strain the meat juices from the pan into a saucepan and thicken with the combined butter and flour. Serve the meat sliced with the gravy.

STUFFING: Heat the oil in a saucepan and fry the onion and garlic until soft. Stir in the couscous and stir until well coated. Remove from the heat and pour over the hot stock. Cover and set a side for 5 minutes.

Fluff up with a fork and stir through the harissa paste. Add the apricots, cranberries, seasoning and coriander.


Serves 4-6

30-40ml olive oil

500g venison steak, cut into strips

2 red onions, sliced

10ml chopped garlic

50g butter

500g portabellini mushrooms, sliced

250g crème fraiche

10ml Dijon mustard

45ml tomato paste

salt and pepper

45ml chopped parsley

Heat the oil and fry the meat in batches over a high heat until just cooked. Remove and set aside.

Add the onions and garlic to the pan and fry until soft. Remove and add to the meat.

Add the butter to the pan and add the mushrooms. Fry until mushrooms are soft. Return the meat and onions to the pan.

Combine the crème fraiche (a thick, slightly fermented cream), mustard and tomato paste and add to the pan. Mix well and heat through.

Season to taste and serve on mashed potatoes sprinkled with parsley. – The Star


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