Venison is versatile. A few years back I drove up the West Coast of the USA and stopped at a café where they served spicy venison meatballs in taco shells. Mexican meals were just hitting New Zealand so this was a real eye-opener.
Later I worked at a trade fair in Dallas next to the New Zealand venison stand. I was introducing Southern Americans to the tangy taste of tamarillos. The venison and tam people decided to get together and I made a Texas-style salsa to top the slivered meat. Wow, did that excite the ‘good ole boy’ palates!
Venison lends itself to bold flavours. It’s great in chillies, curries, marinated in barbecue sauce or roasted with handfuls of herbs such as rosemary and thyme. Pomegranates, cranberries, red plums as well as tamarillos marry well with venison as do mustards, horseradish and Worcestershire sauce.
Venison tastes great and is ideal for busy cooks. It can be prepared in much the same way as beef — stir-fried, grilled, pan-fried, roasted, braised or casseroled — but it generally requires less cooking. Cook it either hot and fast or low and slow. Grilled pieces and roasts should still be pink in the centre. Overcooking is a ‘no-no’ — it becomes tough and dry.
Farm-raised venison gets the ‘thumbs up’ from health professionals. It has very little fat marbled through the tissue, is rich in iron and vitamins and low in cholesterol. Farm-raised venison is reared to a high standard to produce tender, succulent meat.
Served with Roasted Cinnamon Tamarillos. I used a 400g Silver Fern Farms Venison Roast. Get the recipe
Replace the snow peas with blanched asparagus or a cup of thinly sliced kale, if preferred. Get the recipe
The secret to this great-tasting casserole is toasting the spices. Get the recipe
Roasted cinnamon tamarillos
These can be cooked ahead and reheated, if preferred. Serves 4
4 tamarillos, with stalks if possible
25g butter, melted
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch chilli powder
- With the tip of a sharp knife, make a cross in the pointed end of each tamarillo. Place in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Stand for 2-3 minutes then drain and cover in cold water. Drain and peel.
- Preheat the oven to 180C. Slice each tam in half lengthwise, leaving the stalk end intact. Place in a small roasting pan. Drizzle with the butter. Sprinkle with the combined brown sugar, cinnamon and chilli powder. Roast for 20 minutes or until cooked. Serve with the venison.
Spicy venison meatballs
Top with chopped pitted black olives and fresh basil. Serves 4
500g venison mince
1 large shallot, diced
1 Tbsp each: chopped rosemary leaves, wholegrain mustard
1 egg, lightly beaten
3 Tbsp each: Worcestershire sauce, fresh breadcrumbs
Flaky sea salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
1-2 Tbsp rice bran oil
525g jar seriously good tomato pasta sauce
½ cup good red wine
- Combine the venison with the shallot, rosemary, mustard, egg, Worcestershire sauce, breadcrumbs, salt and pepper. Mix well. Form into meatballs about 3cm in diameter. Roll each one in your palms until the mixture sticks together well.
- Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan. Brown the meatballs in the oil in batches. Return them to the pan and add the pasta sauce and wine. Simmer for about 25 minutes, until cooked.
- Great served on rice, noodles or in lettuce filled taco shells.