Venison with Supercharged Gin and Dried Limes

Venison is excellent in slow-cooked casseroles but they're often very rich and heavy. There's nothing wrong with that on cold, dark evenings in winter, but sometimes I'd welcome something a little less hefty. This dish uses a classic venison casserole approach but gives a lighter, fruitier result without losing the characteristic flavour of the meat. I admit that this is an odd combination of ingredients but I've never been very good at the authenticity malarkey.

I find gin very useful in cooking, especially with game or as part of a cure for fish. Not long ago I was using some gin as part of a marinade and it occurred to me that I could have a special bottle in the cupboard that would have “marinade” flavours built in. So I made a supercharged, marinade gin as follows.

Take a half bottle of gin (a decent supermarket London dry gin will do) and add a few extra juniper berries, a few pink peppercorns and 2 reasonably large sprigs of rosemary to the bottle. Reseal it, give it a shake and leave it to infuse for 3 or 4 days in a cool cupboard. Filter the gin, put it into a clean bottle and label it in case of mistaken gin and tonic use. (I have come across a number of gin and rosemary cocktails in the last couple of years but, to be honest, I'm not sure that I'd recommend many of them).

I've also used a little homemade raspberry vinegar in this marinade but if you don't have any you could use balsamic or wine vinegar with maybe just a touch of raspberry liqueur, if you have any, for that fruity accent.
Venison with Supercharged Gin and Dried Limes

Personally I reckon that this will be enough for 4 people alongside one or two little, mezze-style dishes or salads but, if you're hungry, then it might only serve 2 or 3.

400 g diced, lean venison

For the marinade:
   3 tbsp supercharged gin (or ordinary gin plus some chopped rosemary)
   1 tbsp raspberry vinegar 
   A few turns of black pepper

For the casserole:
   1 onion, chopped
   4 carrots, in smallish chunks
   2 dried limes, pricked with the point of a knife
   300 ml white wine
   2 tbsp pomegranate molasses
   2 tbsp honey

Combine the marinade ingredients, mix with the venison in a non-reactive bowl, cover and leave in the fridge for several hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 160⁰C. Drain the venison, reserving the marinade, and pat the meat dry with paper towels. Fry the onion and the carrot gently in a little olive oil until the onion begins to soften. Place the onion and carrots into a casserole dish.

Brown the venison in batches, using a little extra olive oil as needed, and add the meat to the casserole dish. Deglaze the pan with the reserved marinade and reduce it by about a third. Pour the reduced marinade into the casserole dish and tuck in the dried limes. Add the white wine to the frying pan and reduce by about a third. Pour into the casserole. Stir the pomegranate molasses and the honey into the casserole.

Cover the casserole contents with a cartouche (that's a posh name for a layer of damp greaseproof paper) and place in the oven for 1½ - 2 hours. During this time check the casserole now and then and, if it seems to be drying out, add a little water.

Fish out and discard the limes and check that the flavour is how you like it. Hopefully there will be a good balance of sweet and sour but make any necessary adjustments by adding a little lemon juice or some extra honey or pomegranate molasses if you think it needs it. Serve the venison with couscous and some harissa on the side.

If anyone asks where on earth this unorthodox dish comes from, mutter something about Hyperborea. 


  1. This sounds very interesting. Am sure the gin marinade could be used for other dishes.

    1. You could use the gin marinade in quite a few different dishes and it's my first choice for many game dishes. It's very good as a marinade for the meat in a game pie.

  2. Phil, what a great idea! I've never thought of using gin in my cooking, but why not, it's quite herbal in flavor and would lend itself well to many things. Wow! I always learn something here.

    1. I can remember using gin in cooking quite a lot around 30 years ago (I think it was briefly fashionable) but then I largely forgot about it until the great gin revival of the last 5 years or so. There are now so many gins around with such a wide variety of flavours (quince is a particular favourite) that it seems a shame not to make use of them.


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